SACRAMENTO, California — George Karl was far from pleased with his own coaching Friday night as he returned to the NBA with the Sacramento Kings.
Still, the result was certainly a familiar one for Karl. The sixth-winningest coach in league history earned victory No. 1,132 to the delight of a boisterous, sellout crowd.
DeMarcus Cousins had 31 points and 15 rebounds, Rudy Gay scored 28 and the Kings beat the Boston Celtics 109-101.
It was Karl's first game in nearly 22 months. A little more than a month after his Denver Nuggets were upset in the opening round of the 2013 playoffs by Golden State, the team fired Karl despite a 57-25 regular-season record that earned him the NBA Coach of the Year award.
With Karl wanting a more up-tempo style, Sacramento looked sloppy for much of the game. The Kings committed 24 turnovers — nine by Cousins — that led to a season-worst 38 points.
"We won a game where we didn't play very well," Karl said. "We've got to get better and I've got to get back in the saddle and coach better, too. Rudy and DeMarcus were very strong for us. Andre (Miller) gave us kind of an assistant coach on the court because I don't know what the heck I'm doing half the time, and he's better at it than probably I am."
Karl's hiring was a popular decision among Kings fans, at least for one evening. When he came out of the tunnel before the game he was met with a standing ovation. A sheepish Karl wore a big smile and waved to the crowd.
"It was overwhelming, probably too much (attention)," said Karl, who clearly appreciated the gesture. "I love this challenge."
The Kings overcame an early 16-point deficit and gave Karl his first victory since a playoff win with Denver against Golden State on April 30, 2013.
Derrick Williams had 11 points for the Kings, who outrebounded Boston 57-40.
Avery Bradley scored 28 points and Tyler Zeller had 22 for Boston. Marcus Smart added 16 points and Brandon Bass had 13 points and 20 rebounds.
Sacramento led by eight early in the fourth quarter, but Boston went ahead briefly by one at the midway point. Gay and Cousins combined for 13 points in a 14-4 run to help the Kings seal it.
Despite the pregame enthusiasm, the first quarter was not a pretty one early for the Kings. They trailed 16-2 in the opening 4 minutes and Cousins was given his seventh technical for arguing a non-call.
Even with the temperamental Cousins on the bench, the Kings roared back, scoring the final 17 points of the period to lead 28-27.
"That team was going to play with a renewed enthusiasm and we did our best to squelch it for 6 or 7 minutes," Boston coach Brad Stevens said. "But you knew that they were going to make a run and when they did you were going to have to manage it. We didn't manage it well."
Karl signed a four-year contact last week and succeeded Tyrone Corbin, who had a 7-21 record after taking over when Michael Malone was fired in mid-December.
Coaching his sixth NBA team in 25 seasons, Karl has an uphill climb. He took over a team that had lost 13 of 15 games and won just nine times since opening the season with a promising 9-5 record.
"I think this win was good for us, but it was even better for our fans," Gay said. "We're going to be here and this is our guy."
Boston played short-handed, without leading scorer and rebounder Jared Sullinger and newcomers Isaiah Thomas, Luigi Datome and Jonas Jerebko, who were acquired Thursday in trades.
Thomas, Datome and Jerebko will likely play Sunday, but Sullinger is out for the foreseeable future with a stress reaction in his left foot.
Celtics: Despite a 20-31 record, Boston emerged from the All-Star break just 1 1/2 games out of the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot. ... Boston dressed 11 players.
Kings: Karl's last game with Denver was May 2, 2013. ... David Stockton was signed to a 10-day contract due to an injury to G Darren Collison (strained right hip flexor). Stockton is the son of Utah Jazz Hall of Fame guard John Stockton, the NBA's career leader in assists and steals. ... Picked up in a trade Thursday with Washington, Miller was effective off the bench with eight points, four assists and four rebounds in 23 minutes.
The Celtics visit the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday.
The Kings play Saturday at the Los Angeles Clippers.