These days you never really know what you’re going to get from a Celtics game. With so much youth, the unpredictability of how they’ll produce from game to game is endless. But that same unpredictability might be what has led to the C’s hanging around in games they shouldn’t have.
If you were expecting a defensive struggle you got it in the first half with both teams really unable to impose their will on the other. The Trailblazers showed off some of that defensive versatility while the Celtics matched with their usual defensive intensity. Marcus Morris was the player of the half scoring a quick 14 despite having to get his ankles re-tapped, but outside of that no other Celtic really found a rhythm. Tatum was unable to really get anything going and at times seemed to be frustrated with his inability to get it going. For the second unit, we got some Yabusele minutes and he did not disappoint, cashing in on a three, and showcasing his quick feet with rawness on his way to two quick fouls in his seven minutes of action.
The second quarter was on its way to looking like it would go down with both teams trading bricks before a mini spirt by Damian Lillard inched the Trailblazers up by five to close it out. (47-52).
The second half began like the way we kind of expected the game to go, the Trailblazers found their groove on offense with Lillard showing off some PnR magic with a sweet dish to Nurkic and a three of his own to ignite a Portland 12-4 run. The Blazers were able to mount their lead up to 11 and with each offensive possession the Celtics once stingy defensive started to predictably crack as it stopped getting any return from its offense. With the game looking to get out of hand with Boston down 71-59 and Portland smelling blood, Stevens went full mad scientist and unleashed a Larkin/Ojeleye/ Morris/Yabusele/Monroe lineup to close the quarter. The team unit didn’t cut into the deficit, but it did stop the bleeding and helped the Celtics go into the 4th only down 10.
The Celtics started the final frame on an 11-2 and was able to cut the deficit to 3 thanks in large part to Jayson Tatum finding his groove offensively and going on a personal 6-0 run. His partner in crime was Larkin, who found his rhythm from the mid-range and did a fantastic job pushing the pace for an offensive that could not afford to let the stingy Trailblazers defense step up. The team continued their run and pushed it up to 18-6, taking the lead momentarily after a Marcus Morris three.
Morris sinks the and gives Boston the lead! pic.twitter.com/zweFPghEWH— NBA TV (@NBATV) March 24, 2018
The Trailblazers (read: CJ McCollum) punched back with an array of vicious crossovers and tough shot-making that the Celtics had absolutely no answer for. By the time the smoke cleared, the Blazers had pushed the lead back up to 4 and looked like they were back in control again. The Celtics immediately responded out of the timeout with a top of the key three by Al Horford, and a foul shot tied the game back up at 91. The teams traded punches a bit, but Boston momentairly had control after a Tatum score gave them a two-point lead and Lillard airball gave them possession. With the shot clock winding down, a frantic Al Horford threw to Marcus Morris who bobbled it at first before facing up, staring down his defender and draining a three-point shot in his face that gave the Celtics a shocking 5 point lead with 54 seconds left. (101-96).
Blazers free throws made it a three-point game momentarily, but the Celtics immediately responded on the next possession, with a beautiful play that concluded with a wide open Tatum cutting into the lane for powerful dunk. (103-98).
Had to repost because the autocorrect is going bonkers on my phone: Perfect delayed flex action where Mook and Larkin stay high to prevent help as Rozier comes in for a flex screen that Tatum swings around for an easy catch and finish. pic.twitter.com/kfuysvbvTZ— Jared Weiss (@JaredWeissNBA) March 24, 2018
The Blazers quickly rushed the ball up the floor and got a quick score from McCollum. (103-100). Boston was able to wind the clock down all the way down to 10 seconds before calling timeout. On the play, Tatum, took and missed a shot, but Al Horford was able to grab the offensive rebound and kick it out to Terry Rozier who was fouled and iced the game with two free throws. And just like that, your Boston Celtics walked into the house of one of the hottest teams in the league and beat them.
The Celtics head down to face the Sacramento Kings on Sunday, followed by a game in Phoenix against the Suns on a Monday night. All eyes will of course be on any updates on Kyrie Irving’s surgery and whether he’ll get a chance to play again this season. We’ll have you covered on the site.