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Celtics fall to Blazers in final minutes, 119-129

Portland’s terrific twosome shouldered the road team to a hard-earned victory.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Boston Celtics David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The Boston Celtics entered Sunday’s matchup against the Portland Trail Blazers in hopes of extending their win streak to three. Unfortunately, they instead saw their streak end at two games and in a dramatic fashion. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum scored 59 points, and the Celtics fell, 129-119.

First Quarter:

Portland jumped out to a 16-7 edge to begin this game behind torrid shooting — 7-for-10, to be exact. Damian Lillard sunk three of his first four shot attempts while Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown were an ice-cold 1-for-7 combined. Boston then rallied off an 8-0 spurt highlighted by a spot-up trey from the surging Aaron Nesmith and an alley-oop slam from Robert Williams. Evan Fournier, whose recent struggles have been well-documented, began to find his groove — he tallied seven points without any misses. Tatum bookended the opening period with consecutive step-back treys, giving the Celtics a slim 32-31 lead with 12 minutes in the books.

Second Quarter:

Rookie Payton Pritchard checked in at the beginning of the second and hit a deep three expeditiously, usually a harbinger of a standout game for the neophyte. Aaron Nesmith built on his excellent start from deep by adding two more three-balls to his total but made a preemptive exit due to foul trouble. The second stanza was a shootout, as both teams were knocking down shots left and right and scored more than 20 each before the quarter’s halfway point. Tatum, who once again stole the show, held 22 points at the 5:38 mark on 70% accuracy. Boston outscored Portland 39-37 in the quarter, and thus the two squads entered halftime knotted at 71 apiece. CJ McCollum served as the linchpin to Portland’s offense in the first half with 18 points, while Tatum, who carried the Celtics for stretches, had 24.

Third Quarter:

Marcus Smart and Fournier (who remained perfect from the floor) each cashed in on a triple to usher in the second half, but a 10-6 start for the Blazers prompted a timeout from Brad Stevens at the 8:55 mark. Although the Celtics didn’t cut into the Blazers’ lead after the timeout — threes from Jusuf Nurkic and Robert Covington ballooned Portland’s advantage to nine with 5:29 remaining. Fournier buoyed Boston’s reserves with timely buckets to keep the C’s afloat, but the green continued to find trouble stringing together stops on the other end. The Blazers once again won the quarter, 32-27, and were up 103-98 heading into the final frame of a neck-and-neck battle. Boston and Portland combined to make 32 triples to this point, 17 for the former and 15 for the latter.

Fourth Quarter:

Aaron Nesmith showed up when his team needed him most. With the lion’s share of the starters taking a breather, he scored five points in the early going of the fourth and would have had seven if not for an offensive goaltending violation. These baskets kept the Celtics within striking distance at a point where both sides threw up more clanks than swishes. However, that all changed when McCollum and Carmelo Anthony connected on long balls in consecutive possessions, giving their team a comfortable seven-point cushion with as many minutes to go. Now that’s not to say the Celtics capitulated the rest of the way — a timely corner trey from Fournier trimmed Portland’s lead to three by the 2:27 mark. Yet, it wasn’t enough to overcome ten points in the frame from McCollum, who ran roughshod over Boston’s perimeter irritants all night long.

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