In a game featuring two teams playing without All-Star point guards due to injury, the Boston Celtics prevailed 118-106 over the host Portland Trail Blazers—handing the home team its fourth loss over the last five contests in the process.
Boston, without Kemba Walker, shot 49% from three-point land and were led by their other All-Star, Jayson Tatum, who scored a game-high 36 points and connected on a career-high eight three-pointers on the night. Meanwhile, the Blazers’ struggles with Damian Lillard on the sideline continued. CJ McCollum went for a team-high 28 points and again showcased his playmaking ability with 10 assists, but didn’t get enough help until it was too late.
Portland opened the game on a 7-0 run, before Jaylen Brown finally put the Celtics on the board with a three-pointer at the nine-minute mark. The Blazers held a 17-15 lead with five minutes remaining when Enes Kanter checked into the game for Boston to a nice ovation from the Rip City faithful. The C’s took their first lead on a Tatum triple shortly after, freed up on a screen from the big man. They would never relinquish this advantage.
Despite the hot start, the Blazers’ offensive momentum was halted due to a string of turnovers. As the Celtics began to knock down their shots, after starting the game ice cold, they were able to expand on the lead. However, thanks in large part to McCollum—who scored 10 points in the frame—Boston only led 28-24 through the game’s first 12 minutes. The Celtics made seven shots (out of 12 attempts) from distance in the quarter, including three from Marcus Smart.
Boston scored five quick points to kick-off the second, and it looked like they might start to pull away. However, Portland countered with a 7-0 run of their own to get right back in the game. The Celtics remained red-hot from three, and saw their lead slowly expand up to double-digits by the seven-minute mark. Turnovers continued to be an issue for the Blazers over the stretch.
After the Celtics started getting sloppy with the ball, the Blazers were able to take advantage and pull back within three, mostly from the free-throw line. Tatum and Brown then combined for seven unanswered points to put Boston back up ten with two minutes remaining in the period. Portland entered halftime trailing 56-48.
The two teams traded baskets for much of the quarter. The Celtics started to find success in the paint, but continued to knock down their shots from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, Portland began to catch fire from distance, after doing much of their first half damage in the key. Boston eventually started to pull away as the Blazers’ offense cooled, leading by 14 with just under four minutes remaining. They would lead by as many as 18, and took a 85-70 lead into the game’s final stanza.
Tatum was absolutely lights-out—particularly from distance—over the first half of the frame to keep the Celtics ahead comfortably despite an improved Portland offense. The Blazers received scoring contributions from the likes of Hassan Whiteside and Trevor Ariza, and eventually made a run with Tatum out of the game—but were never able to pull within single-digits. Tatum returned, and his step-back three at the three-minute mark put Boston back up 17—proving to be the final nail in the coffin for Portland in a 118-106 Celtics victory.
The Celtics could have, and probably should have won this game by a lot more than they actually did. Fortunately for Portland, they’re in the midst of a tough Western road trip and probably didn’t take the short-handed Blazers too seriously. Unfortunately for Portland, it didn’t seem to matter.
The Blazers defense was simply too porous to give the team any real chance of winning, barring an offensive explosion (which didn’t happen). Taking advantage of Whiteside’s well-documented struggles to defend the perimeter, Boston was able to get a litany of open looks from distance off of ball screens as Portland’s guards tried in vain to play catch-up off of the pick. The post defense wasn’t much better, as Daniel Theis was routinely able to screen the guard up top to create space and then seal-off Whiteside down low in the same play to give the Celtics scorers an open lane to the hoop.
Offensively, nobody for the Blazers was able to get much of anything going outside of the fourth quarter besides McCollum, minus a few sprinklings from Carmelo Anthony. After scoring below 25 points in each of the first three periods, they rallied for 36 in the final frame, only to give up 33 on the other end—eliminating any chance of a comeback.
The Blazers kick-off a three-game road trip against the Indiana Pacers on Thursday night.