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The Boston Celtics beat the Portland Trail Blazers 97-96 in a dramatic fourth quarter finish. The game went down to the wire, as both teams hit big shot after big shot down the stretch. In the end, Al Horford hit the biggest of them all at the buzzer.

Happy Super Bowl Sunday all. Hopefully the Patriots follow suit and come away with another W tonight.
For the third game in a row, the Celtics played without the majority of their guards
So, for the third game in a row, Terry Rozier got the start at the point guard spot. The role suits him. In his first ever career start versus the New York Knicks, he finished with a triple-double stat line: 17 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. In his second start against the Atlanta Hawks, he dropped 31 points to go along with seven rebounds. He didn't finish with quite as impressive numbers as his first two starts, but he came up clutch at the end of today's game, and hit some crucial shots.

The first play of the game was a dazzler. Jayson Tatum came rushing around a screen, got the inbound, then stopped short and pump faked simultaneously. The defender went airborne, and Jayson hit the open jumper. Beautiful.
Brad Stevens continued experimenting with lineups because of the team's thin roster. A ton of rookies got minutes in tonight's matchup. Of course, Jayson Tatum and Daniel Theis were given floor time, but so was Semi Ojeleye (5 minutes), Adbel Nabder (3 minutes), everyones favorite Guerschon Yabusele (3 minutes), and Kadeem Allen (21 seconds). This trend would stay consistent throughout the game.

The Celtics' offense wasn't rolling in the quarter, and the team finished with a field goal percentage of 27%. Jusuf Nurkic played well for the Blazers. He scored ten points, and was a factor in Portland's first quarter rebound advantage: sixteen for the Blazers to the Celtics' eleven.

It was only as close as it was at the quarter's end because of a couple Jayson Tatum three pointers. He led all Celtics at the end of the quarter with 8 points on 3-of-5 shooting.

Celtics ended the first down six.

Brad began the second quarter with a lineup of youngsters.

It didn't go so well at first. At one point early in the second quarter, the teams field goal percentage was below at 25%. There were a lot of missed midrange jumpers. A lot of good looks, but the ball just wasn't dropping.

But then midway through the quarter, something happened. Three pointers started raining from the rafters. First Nader hit. Then Rozier. Then Nader again. And then the main-event himself, the Dancing Bear, Yabu drained the jumper.
Then he hit us with a bow-and-arrow dab as he ran down the floor. Jaylen Brown loved it.

The Cs were down eleven at one point, and brought it back to within just a couple.

2018 NBA All-Star Al Horford showed off his point-center abilities one again. Just watch him here, showing Nurkic who's boss. The big man literally took this ball up from the inbound. Like point guards do. Flash Horford.

Just before this slam, he made a block on Nurkic down by the basket. Point guard on offense, center on defense. He really can do it all, and we'll being seeing him put it all on display at the Skills Challenge during All-Star Weekend.

The Celtics, however, would again go down by many. Maurice Harkless got hot at the end of the second, and poured in eleven points on the quarter.

The Cs' leading scorer at the end of the second...still Jayson Tatum with 8 points. The rookie took one shot in the quarter and missed it. Some other rookies did most of the producing, led by Nader, who finished the half with 7 points and 4 rebounds.

The Celtics ended the half down sixteen, 54-38.

The third quarter was a constant battle for the Celtics. They went on an early-quarter run that began with this Aron Baynes slam, and had the lead cut down to just one for a portion of the quarter.

They were close, but they just couldn't grab the lead. The Celtics' bigs did most of the scoring in the quarter, as Al Horford put in nine and Aron Baynes tallied eight in the third. Jaylen would add five points, and Terry finished with four.

Here are some of the prettier plays from the run.

The Celtics outscored the Blazers 31-19 in the third quarter, but still left it down 73-69.

The Celtics brought aggression to the game's final quarter, and ended up conking some heads in the process.

The green squad continued to fight in the fourth, and finally tied up the game, 75-75, just over three minutes into the quarter. Al Horford continued to produce on both ends of the floor, and finished the game with 22 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 assists.

He abused the Al-Farouq Aminu matchup all night. Here's Brad encouraging the strategy.

The Celtics fell back again, and were down by as much as six in the fourth. They again, came back and squared things up with just under four-minutes remaining in the game. The rookie came up clutch, per usual.

After an Aminu miss, Horford took the lead for the Cs.

On the next two defensive stands, Jusuf Nurkic committed two offensive fouls. His fifth and sixth of the night, leading to him finding the pine for the rest of the day. The first was a smart charge taken by Semi Ojeleye. The latter, a moving screen on Terry Rozier.

The Celtics would score on the next drive. Jayson Tatum came off of a screen and hit the elbow jumper. CJ McCollum answered with a three-pointer, bringing the Celtics lead to just two, 90-88.

After a break, Jaylen hit a corner three pointer to increase the margin. Damian Lilliard answered with a deep-range hit of his own.

The game became tied, and the newest starter took things into his own hands with this step-back jumper with a hand in his face.

On the next drive, Damian Lillard drove to the hole and finished while being fouled. He went to the line and hit his and-one free throw to give the Blazers a one point lead with less than ten seconds remaining in the game.

But my man Big Money Al came up huge, and finished his already spectacular night with this beautiful step-back jumper at the buzzer. He's an All-Star for a reason, folks.

Celtics win 97-96.

Numbers to notice:

Jayson Tatum: 17 points on 6-of-14 shooting/ 3-of-5 from three, 2 rebounds, 5 assists
Al Horford: 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting/ 2-of-2 from three, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 blocks
Jaylen Brown: 16 points on 6-of-15 shooting/ 4-of-7 from three, 6 rebounds, 2 assists
Terry Rozier: 11 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists
Semi Ojeleye: 6 points, 6 rebounds
Daniel Theis: 6 points, 8 rebounds
Abdel Nader: 7 points, 5 rebounds
Yabu: 4 points

Al-Farouq Aminu:11 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists
Jusuf Nurkic: 14 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists
CJ McCollum: 22 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists
Damian Lillard: 21 points, 6 rebounds, 9 assists
Maurice Harkless: 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting/ 5-of-5 from three, 8 rebounds
Evan Turner: 0 points on 0-3 shooting

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Photo: Getty Images

Sean Waukewan 2/04/2018 02:47:00 PM Edit
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