Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart both snapped out of their funks at the right time for the Boston Celtics to cook the Trail Blazers 126-112. Now 3-1 on this six-game road trip, the Celtics got 34 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals (and 18 FTAs) from Jayson Tatum. Damian Lillard erupted in the fourth to put in Portland with 41 points and 5 assists.
Great defense leads to great offense pic.twitter.com/c3L5CdkoWN— Boston Celtics (@celtics) March 18, 2023
The Celtics have gotten up and down contributions from two starters – Marcus Smart and Jayson Tatum – since the team returned from the All-Star break. Smart, in particular, was in the middle of the worst stretch of his career as the starting point guard for the Celtics. Tonight, he looked like the general of the league’s best offense ever from back in November despite a few turnovers. Smart posted 15 points, 6 assists and 4 steals.
While Tatum hasn’t been as bad as Smart, he hasn’t been his usual self. He set a personal record tonight, shooting nine freethrows in the first quarter for the first time in his career. Tatum and Smart were supported by a strong big rotation tonight. Grant Williams came in and hit shots, Blake Griffin earned some Tommy Points (plural) with great offensive rebounding and passing, and Luke Kornet had one of the best games of his career (he dunked on Lillard).
Kornet had 11 points and 5 rebounds.
Jaylen Brown’s been on fire lately, and despite a slow start, he still finished with 27 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists. Al Horford was also excellent in limited minutes, coming out hot as well. He’s on an unbelievable heater shooting from 3 this month. Horford finished with 12 points, 10 assists, 5 rebounds, 1 dagger.
The Portland Trail Blazers played without Jerami Grant, which definitely hurt them on both ends. It wasn’t uncommon for Dame Lillard to do all he could to create wide-open shots for his teammates just for them to brick it. Tough scene. Anfernee Simons finished with 17 points, and that’s about the extent of the help Lillard received.
The Celtics did get cute toward the end of the third quarter, allowing Damian Lillard to let his team pull it close. One thing that the Celtics did well all night that helped decrease Portland’s chances was absolutely crush it in the rebounding department. The Cs out-rebounded the Blazers by 13. Blake Griffin alone hauled in nine of them.
A sequence of second-chance points took the Celtics leading by 12 to the Celtics leading by 21 in a hurry.
Entering the fourth with a 19-point lead, the Celtics didn’t choke this one away and rode into the sunset. Unfortunately, a late-game flurry from Lillard (23 points in 6.5 minutes) prevented the Celtics regulars from calling it quits early because the threat of Dame Time is quite large. Portland cut it to as low as 8, but a Smart steal to a Jaylen dunk into an Al Horford dagger put the Blazers to bed. The Cs are 1.5 games back of the first seed with the second night of a back-to-back coming tomorrow night against the Utah Jazz.
The Celtics also play the Bucks at the end of the month, so the first seed is officially back on the table after Boston fell behind by 3.0 games at one point (thank you, Indiana). If the Celtics play the rest of their 11 games like they’re playing the Blazers, they’ll be trending up going into the playoffs.