The Boston Celtics moved to 1-1 on their Western Conference road trip with a decisive performance tonight at Portland’s Moda Center, blowing out the Trail Blazers, 145-117. It was their season-high point total.
Boston was led by Dennis Schroder and Jayson Tatum, who each scored 31 points. Marcus Smart added 17, and Enes Freedom provided a huge spark off the bench with 9 points and 15 rebounds.
The Celtics shot 56%, made 21 threes, and had 26 assists on 49 baskets.
Jaylen Brown missed his second straight game with right hamstring tightness, while Romeo Langford was out due to the right ankle sprain suffered against the Jazz, and Al Horford sat with lower back stiffness (possibly from carrying the Celtics for the first half in Utah, but more likely just to rest on a second game in two nights).
Meanwhile, Portland was without their All-NBA leader Damian Lillard (abdominal tendinopathy) as well as Anfernee Simons and Nassir Little.
Tonight seemed like a good time for the Celtics to face the Blazers, who’ve been in disarray this week. Besides losing Dame to injury, team ownership fired Neil Olshey from his post as President of Basketball Operations after an investigation into his workplace behavior. And on Thursday night, the Blazers were blown out at home by the Spurs.
Boston’s first possession resulted in a loud two.
However, the Celts were called for fouls on Portland’s first four possessions; two of them were on Rob Williams, and without Horford, Freedom made an early appearance. The former Blazer quickly hit a jumper, drawing some cheers.
In fact, all the Celtics were getting buckets with relative ease against Portland’s porous defense. The Celts made 14 of their first 15 shots, six of the makes being threes, in racing to a 21-point lead. The Blazers regrouped by scoring the last six points of the quarter, but the lead was 38-23. Schroder had 10 as Boston shot 74%.
Tatum began the second quarter by draining a pair of threes and Boston rebuilt the lead to 19. Payton Pritchard and Juancho Hernangomez made appearances, and each hit a triple.
But we know these Celtics never make anything easy for themselves. The Blazers picked up their pace and intensity, and Boston failed to respond. The ball stopped moving and the Celts’ shooting percentage was down to 56%. McCollum had 11 in the quarter as the Blazers got as close as 54-53. The Celtics recovered a bit to lead 64-58 at intermission.
Portland also benefitted from a friendly whistle. They were 15 of 18 at the line in the half, compared to Boston’s 5 of 6. Marcus Smart picked up a frustration technical as a result.
In the third, Smart channeled his emotions into attacking the basket. He twice got the hoop and the harm, completing two three-point plays that helped the Cs restore the lead to a dozen, 80-68. His teammates also got more aggressive.
Tatum had 15 points in the period, and twice drew a shooting foul on attempts from behind the arc. Schroder added 11 in the frame, which the Celtics won, 39-26. The lead was 103-84 with 12 minutes to play.
Opening the fourth, Aaron Nesmith knocked down his second and third treys of the night, ballooning the lead to 111-86. The Celtics cruised home as the teams basically traded hoops the rest of the way.
The Cs now have two nights off before a rematch with the Lakers on Tuesday night at 10 p.m. Eastern. That game will be televised on TNT exclusively; NBC Sports Boston will have its studio show only.
For more postgame coverage of tonight’s contest, tune into the Garden Report Postgame Show LIVE on CLNS Media right after the final buzzer. Join A. Sherrod Blakely, Bobby Manning, Josue Pavon, Jimmy Toscano and host John Zannis for a full breakdown.