The Trail Blazers were one of the hottest teams in the NBA coming into tonight, and that continued to start the game. The backcourt duo of McCollum and Lillard seemingly couldn't miss in the first quarter. McCollum's constant motion was giving Isaiah some trouble. Damian Lillard kept up his post All-Star excellence by torching the Celtics early. He was blowing by everyone Boston put in front of him. He even nailed a shot from the logo, albeit after the whistle had blown.
Thomas and Crowder kept the Celtics in the game with their scoring though. Crowder hit some big threes, and Thomas was attacking the paint as usual. The Celtics responded to the Blazers' shooting explosion by going small for the second half of the quarter. The lineups with Crowder and Jerebko at the four slowed down the Blazers offense a bit, and the Celtics pulled even.
The second quarter saw both teams without their stars, as Thomas and Lillard sat for an extended period. Marcus Smart was a force off the bench for Boston though. He was active on the boards, altering shots and forcing steals. He even added 11 points during the period to top it off. The Celtics fed off of this energy and finished the half with a six-point lead.
Jared Sullinger was an absolute beast to start the third quarter. He hit the Blazers with a bevy of scoring moves inside. His driving hook shots, put-backs, and spinning drives were crucial in the Celtics opening a huge lead over Portland.
The defense did their part too. Bradley was glued to Lillard, and McCollum wasn't getting the open looks he saw earlier in the game.
The Celtics outscored the Blazers 30-11 in transition points for the game, and you could really see it in this quarter. They ran the floor well and burned Portland. Sully made some nice outlet passes, and the team did a nice job finishing at the other end. Coming into this game, Portland was second in the NBA in transition defense efficiency, so that was really impressive.
As a whole, Boston's third quarter was impossibly good. They outscored Portland 30-12 and turned the game into a blowout.
You'd think taking a 20-point lead into the fourth would be a prime opportunity for a letdown for the Celtics, but that was not the case. They stayed aggressive well into the quarter, and actually extended the lead. Isaiah Thomas capped off his 30 point night with a few acrobatic finishes in the quarter. He was fantastic tonight, and the Blazers just could not guard him.
Later in the quarter, Marcus Smart channeled his inner Rajon Rondo with a fake behind-the-back pass leading to a layup.
Once garbage time started we got to see the kids get some playing time. Terry Rozier was aggressive in his minutes. He wasn't really effective, but the confidence is nice for a young player like him. Jordan Mickey added a block, and R.J. Hunter got left hanging for a high-five.
Battle of the Backcourts
Portland's guards came into the game with more hype, but the victory went to the Celtics. Thomas and Bradley outscored Lillard and McCollum 47-37. It was looking rough after the first quarter, but they really turned it around.