The Celtics notched their 4th straight win with a nail-biter over the Trail Blazers 116-115 in Portland on Tuesday night. The game featured yet another dominant performance from Jayson Tatum who led the way with 32. Jaylen Brown pumped in 24 with Kemba Walker adding 21 points.
The Trail Blazers had hot nights from Damian Lillard and Carmelo Anthony off the bench, tallying up 28 and 25 respectively. Recent trade deadline acquisition Norman Powell found himself open more than a few times, draining 4 threes in a 20 point effort. Former Celtic Enes Kanter came up 1 point shy of a double-double off the bench, just a few days after his monstrous 30 rebound night against Detroit.
The game stayed close into the final seconds. Jayson Tatum drilled what would end up being a game clinching step-back 3 in front of CJ McCollum with 8.5 seconds to play.
The win – coupled with losses by the Miami Heat and Charlotte Hornets – propelled Boston to sole possession of fifth place in the East.
STUDS AND DUDS
Marcus Smart: After hearing people criticize his all defensive team credentials Smart has been an absolute bulldog on the defensive end. Smart was tasked with chasing around Lillard – the NBA’s 4th leading scorer – all night. And while Lillard scored a team high 28 points, nothing came easy. Smart fought through screens and was up in Lillard’s jersey all night.
I thought he guarded Lillard as well as anybody I’ve seen as far as handling those screens,” head coach Brad Stevens said. “A couple of the shots Lillard made were not on him and weren’t certainly due to him. I thought he impacted him as well as you possibly could. But he’s been really good in the past couple of weeks.”
The Celtics guard also chipped in 13 points to go along with 7 assists, 2 steals and a block. A very Marcus stat line.
Jayson Tatum: Tatum’s transformation back into an unstoppable force continues. Tatum dropped a game high 32 on the Blazers. Over his past 10 games, the reigning Eastern Conference player of the week is averaging 29.4 points while shooting just under 50% from the field and just under 40% from 3-point range. But it’s not just the increased scoring, it’s HOW Tatum is scoring with a lot more buckets coming at the rim and the free throw line.
Rob Williams: Williams had his best game since getting embarrassed by 76ers center Joel Embiid earlier this month. Williams scored 16 points on a season high 12 field goal attempts. He made 8 of them which is a highly efficient night but still lowered his season field goal percentage to 72%. Time Lord also added 7 rebounds and 4 assists and held his own defensively against a much larger and more physical Jusuf Nurkic who managed only 8 points.
Payton Pritchard: Rough night for the Oregon native playing in his home state for the first time as a pro. Pritchard shot 1-7 and 0-3 from behind the arc. But hey, at least there weren’t fans in the building to see it.
Enes Kanter: Kanter was 2 games removed from maybe his best game as a pro (20 points, 30 rebounds vs the Pistons. And while he didn’t play poorly – finishing with 9 points and 10 rebounds – but he did get exposed in the pick and roll, something that has been an issue with Kanter his entire career. The former Celtics big man finished a game low -18 in 21 minutes.
With the game so close all night it’s hard to not award this to Tatum for his game winning side step 3. Money shot from a big time player playing at the peak of his powers.
SO THAT HAPPENED…
Soon after Tatum made his 3 to put the Celtics up 4, Powell answered with a quick 3 to get Portland within one. The Blazers fouled Smart on the next possession with 3.5 seconds to play. Smart missed the 1st free throw meaning even if he hit the second the Celtics would only be up 2. With no timeouts remaining for Portland, coach Brad Stevens instructed Smart to miss the second free throw to make it harder for the Blazers to get off a good shot. Lillard got the rebound but was pressured by two Celtics and all he could do was throw an 80-footer that was well wide of the mark.
“It’s obvious they’re going to get a 3-point shot up in 3.5 seconds with no timeouts, most likely,” Stevens told reporters during his postgame press conference. “So, we want to make it as hard as possible so it wouldn’t matter if we were up one or two at that moment. It would be different if he made the first, we probably would have tried to make the second. You have such a better chance of taking time away with them catching the ball and going towards their basket.”
THAT’S WHAT HE SAID
Jaylen Brown did not want to talk about Basketball after the game. Instead, Brown – who has been a leading NBA voice on social issues – devoted all his comments to the recent events in Minneapolis following the death of Daunte Wright at the hands of police on April 11.
“The main events that have recently made headlines over the past week, last months, last years, and at this point we shouldn’t be pleading or persuading people to see things for what they are. We know what this system is and we know what it’s capable of,” Brown said.
SWEAT THE BET
The Blazers were favored by one according to the online sportsbook betonline.ag so anyone who laid action on the Celtics against the spread or the money line came away happy, but they had to sweat it out. The over under (230) also came down to the wire but over bettors hit when Powell drained the 3 to make it a 116-115 final.