Take a second to remember the last time the Portland Trail Blazers (7-2) came into TD Garden and walked away with a victory over the Boston Celtics (4-6). Give up? You have to go back all the way to March 31, 2004, thanks to 31 points from Darius Miles and six blocked shots from Theo Ratliff. Times are changing though in Boston. The Big Three era of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce is over, and the Celtics are in the midst of finding their identity: new coach, no Rajon Rondo as of yet and are likely headed to the top of the lottery.
The Blazers were looking at nine straight losses at the TD Garden in the face and although it took till the second half to finally get going, they punched the Celtics in the mouth in the fourth quarter and earned a 109-96 win. Everyone from LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum and Robin Lopez (10 rebounds) were big factors but none bigger tonight than Mo Williams.
It wasn’t pretty to start things off for both teams. Boston had taken a cue from the Phoenix Suns about protecting the three-point line and made the Blazers work extra hard to find any kind of open shot. On the other hand, the Celtics simply couldn’t find the stroke and opened shooting 17% from the field. They were content to throw up erratic shots but work hard for offensive rebounds; a key stat that they have stunk at for the past three seasons (30th in the league). The Blazers meanwhile struggled to find their shot and fell in love with shooting the ball from midrange to no success (6-15 field goals and 0-5 from three). Jared Sullinger who played his first game tonight coming off an injury got some life and started 4-4, mainly all inside. The Celtics already had 16 points in the paint for the opening quarter yet trailed Portland 23-21.
After a timeout the Celtics’ shooting percent skyrocketed to 52% as they feasted on miscues from the Blazers and took an early four-point lead. It was all thanks to the Boston bench (Vitor Faverani anyone? How about Phil Pressey?) Igniting a 23-7 run that stretched from the last few minutes of the first. Once the Faverani/Pressey show got stale, the Blazers got back to work. Mo Williams and Wesley Matthews disrupted passes, nailed some threes and got to the free-throw line for a 16-7 of their own and took back the lead. Boston shot themselves in the foot for allowing Portland to create plenty of turnovers, something the Blazers aren’t good at anyway, and took a 57-51 halftime lead, lighting up their field goal percentage to 61% from 36% in a flash.
The third was mainly all about Williams, Aldridge and Batum, Nic had started 0-5 but nailed two three-point shots and suddenly he has ten points. Damian Lillard tallied eight on his end, which gave the impression Portland was ready to stomp on Boston’s throat. The Celtics still found a way to keep things interesting and wouldn’t let the lead go beyond five as they found most of their success in the paint and were still shooting 55%. Aldridge extends the lead to 12 for some breathing room on numerous key offensive rebounds and second chance points and a mini 7-0 run puts Portland up comfortably going into the final period.
Boston came back from a 14-point hole to cut it down to eight but steady doses of Williams attacking, slashing and dishing passes kept them at bay. The Blazers hit 101 points with less than six minutes left in the period and suddenly the Celtics are ice cold (28%) and nothing is going their way. They even couldn’t capitalize on the Blazers being sloppy, turning over the ball eight times in just the fourth quarter alone. It was up to Aldridge to shut down the Celtics for good and officially shut the door. The game was over when Coach Stotts put in Will Barton and Victor Claver with 1:20 remaining.
Who was Hot
- We’ve been waiting for Mo Williams to get out of his slump, and tonight was his best game of the young season. With the ball in his hands you didn’t need to worry he’d do something bad with it and provided a significant spark the bench needed: 18 points, eight assists, three steals on 8-13 shooting in 30 minutes. He did have four turnovers but those came mostly in the fourth quarter so a victory there for keeping the orange for most of the game.
- LaMarcus Aldridge continues his double-double streak at four games: Game-high 27 points, 12 rebounds, two steals on 11-18 makes and along with Batum finally gets a win in Beantown. Classic game by Aldridge.
- Nicolas Batum needed the second half to get going to help push the lead over double digits: 18 points, six assists, five rebounds and one block.
- This wouldn’t be considered Damian Lillard’s best game but he achieves yet another impressive milestone: His 212 career three-pointers are the most by any NBA player in his first 100 games, and this is game 91. Avery Bradley played some solid defense on him tonight and saw plenty of time on the bench thanks to how well Williams was doing: 17 points, four assists and two rebounds.
- Wesley Matthews had a solid game playing in front of his father but didn’t shoot the ball much, he did hassle the Celtics’ guards into coughing up the ball: 13 points, five rebounds and one steal.
- Nice effort from Jared Sullinger coming off the bench to give Portland some fits inside the paint and a few outside shots. The rest of the team struggled late to fight and he had a team-high 26 points and eight rebounds on 11-18 makes.
- Portland made 20-22 from the foul line that is always nice to see.
- Rebounds: Portland 47 – Boston 34
- Bench points: Boston 57 – Portland 38
- Fast break points: Portland 15 – Boston 8
Who was Cold
- Rookie center Kelly Olynyk from Gonzaga was dreadful: two points, two rebounds and four fouls. Not the greatest sight for someone who went 13th in the Draft.
- Dorell Wright struggled which was unfortunate simply because there were plenty of open looks he got in the corner but couldn’t knock them down: three points, four rebounds.
- Portland’s three-point shots are starting to cool off as teams now are figuring to guard the outside line as much as they can. Just 9-26 as Batum goes a whopping 4-10…yikes.
- Turnovers were a big issue for Boston in the first half (15 total) but Portland seemingly just got lazy with their passes and continuously opened the door for a Celtic comeback as they had 18 for the game.
- Points in the paint: Boston 44 – Portland 36
Tip of the Hat
Great job to Mike Barrett and Mike Rice who allowed Antonio Harvey to join them for the television broadcast and acted as a third commentator. Harvey normally is with Brian Wheeler for the radio broadcast but became sick and didn’t make the trip. This left Barrett to do a simultaneous play-call for both TV and radio and did a terrific job blending in the two without skipping a beat.
Although former-Blazer Gerald Wallace came off the Celtic bench for only seven points, I enjoyed his short-time with us as a energetic crazy-man and the R&B crooner voice that could make anyone swoon. Here are some memorable highlights (credit to geraldd39):
The Blazers keep hold of the top spot of the division and improve to 7-2! They grab their passports and head more north to Toronto where they will meet the Raptors for an early 10am game on Sunday and continue on this four-game road trip.