Following a tough loss to the New York Knicks, Brad Stevens' Celtics team were looking to bounce back as they played host to the returning Evan Turner and his Portland Trail Blazers teammates on Saturday night. Boston came into the game without Avery Bradley, who continues to nurse an achilles injury.
After a well-fought contest, Portland left the TD Garden with the 127-123 win. CJ McCollum (35 pts, 3 ast) and Damian Lillard (28 pts, 7 ast) led the way for the Blazers, while Isaiah Thomas (41 pts, 6 ast) spearheaded Boston's offense.
Boston got off to a strong start, regularly feeding the ball into Al Horford, who tried to force the issue inside, thus creating space for his teammates. As well as offering 9 points and 4 rebounds, Horford also found a way to help the team on the defensive end, disrupting shots against a physical Portland frontcourt. Kelly Olynyk worked in unison with Marcus Smart, in order to add an offensive punch from the bench. The Celtics' main offensive threat of the first period came in the form of Jae Crowder, who contributed 11 points and an assist within the first 8 minutes, making 3 of his 4 shots from 3-point range:
Nothing but the bottom of the net for Jae Crowder on the pull-up trey 👌 pic.twitter.com/V5LGjBJbqW— Boston Celtics (@celtics) January 21, 2017
Isaiah Thomas became more aggressive in the second frame, driving the lane in trademark fashion and drawing contact from the Portland defenders:
IT with a sweet drive and finish through Portland's defense! pic.twitter.com/T31drWVoIo— Boston Celtics (@celtics) January 21, 2017
Towards the end of the half, IT's competitiveness began to manifest itself off the ball. Thomas and Blazers forward Myers Leonard became engaged in a heated conversation after a foul.
Thomas was one of 4 players to score in double figures in the first half, as Boston took a 65-56 lead into the break. Crowder impressed with 13 points, Smart shot efficiently and Horford continued to fill the stat sheet. Defensively, Boston struggled to maintain McCollum, who scored 26 points and 2 rebounds before heading to the locker room.
Much to the dismay of an animated Coach Stevens, the Blazers went on a 22-5 run to completely change the momentum of the game. A familiar problem reared it's ugly head once again for Boston, as they allowed Portland's big men to dominate the glass and lead their charge:
No quit Noah pic.twitter.com/US2XrAi8lt— Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) January 21, 2017
26 points in the paint for the Blazers already. Celtics getting shredded, again.— Jay King (@ByJayKing) January 21, 2017
The Celtics' second unit fought back however, led by Terry Rozier, who injected some urgency into the proceedings:
Terry Rozier goes the distance of the court then finishes in traffic! pic.twitter.com/1ViiRlvtIf— Boston Celtics (@celtics) January 21, 2017
Heading into the final period, Boston trailed the Blazers, 88-86.
As the game remained close in the fourth, Rozier stepped up again to make some big shots for Boston, before returning to the bench.
Interestingly, former Celtics fan-favorite Turner was assigned the difficult job of guarding 'The King in the Fourth' on a couple of occasions. Although Turner did an impressive job to limit him early in the quarter, Thomas then began to demonstrate his unique scoring abilities with some key baskets to keep the game within reach.
With 10 seconds remaining, Rozier returned to take a huge shot for Boston, draining a 3-pointer to level the game at 133-133:
Terry Rozier sinks a 3-pointer to tie the game with 8.4 seconds remaining! pic.twitter.com/DyjDkKHmkc— Boston Celtics (@celtics) January 22, 2017
In the final play of regulation, Portland ran an isolation play for Damian Lillard, who missed a jumper at the buzzer, due to some solid defense from Smart.
A spirited effort from the Celtics kept the overtime period competitive right up until the end. With just over a minute to go, Smart made two consecutive hustle plays that led to a crucial 3-point shot from IT:
Marcus Smart grabs the offensive board and hits IT in rhythm for 3! pic.twitter.com/jUY9mOysxl— Boston Celtics (@celtics) January 22, 2017
Behind the composed play of their elite backcourt pairing, Portland then regained the lead and held it until the final buzzer, overcoming Boston 127-123. The Celtics now aim to get back to winning ways, as they travel to Washington to face the Wizards on Tuesday night.
Follow Josh Coyne on Twitter at @poundcoyne
Image Credit - Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports
Josh Coyne 1/21/2017 09:05:00 PM Tweet Edit