Cs survive the wild fourth quarter and win 126-112
Celtics-Trail Blazers Takeaways: C’s Survive Wild Fourth Quarter in Portland originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
The Boston Celtics looked more like their pre-All-Star break Friday night in Portland.
It’s been a rocky road for the C’s, but their performance against the Trail Blazers was one of their best since the calendar switched to March. At least for three and a half quarters.
Boston maintained a double-digit lead for most of the game but watched their lead shrink from 21 points to eight in the fourth quarter. Blazers star Damian Lillard dropped 25 points in the frame to lead Portland’s brave comeback, but the Celtics held on to clinch a 126-112 win.
Jayson Tatum led the Celtics with 34 points. Jaylen Brown scored 27 points himself, Marcus Smart 15.
Lillard finished the game with a game-high 41 points. Anfernee Simons was the Trail Blazers’ second-highest goalscorer at 17.
The Celtics improve to 49-22 in the season with the win. They’ll be looking for their third straight win when they visit the Utah Jazz on Saturday.
First, here are our takeaways from Friday’s game in Portland.
Jayson Tatum makes up for shooting problems
Tatum finds himself in the middle of a brutal shootout. In his last three games, he’s only 4-to-29 from 3-point range. He was 2-for-11 from beyond the arc on Saturday night.
The four-time All-Star found other ways to dominate against the NBA’s worst defense. His nine first-quarter free throws were the most first-quarter free throws of his career. He finished with 15 points in the frame and continued to get to the line consistently.
Tatum was 16-to-18 from the charity streak for the game, meaning almost half of his 34 points came from free throws. He was 6-for-9 on shots from inside the arc.
The Celtics will be hoping Tatum’s shot returns sooner rather than later, but Saturday showed he doesn’t have to live with 3-ball to be effective. The 25-year-old added 12 rebounds, four assists and three steals to his stat line.
Big night for the big men
Boston’s Bigs dominated against Portland from start to finish. It started with veteran Al Horford, who set the tone early with a pair of 3s and is now shooting 26-for-43 from the deep in March.
Horford also made a tremendous difference as a playmaker as he enjoyed his first game with 10 assists since 2019. He finished the game with 12 points (4-6 FG, 3-4 3PT), 10 assists and five rebounds.
Blake Griffin continued to be a force on the offensive glass, which was tremendous after Robert Williams III’s off. He brought down a total of six offensive boards and nine rebounds in his 14 minutes. Six of those rebounds (three offensive) came in the first quarter when he was all over the floor giving the C’s a spark. He kept that energy all night.
Luke Kornet hasn’t been a huge factor for the C’s lately, but the 7-footer certainly made an impact in Portland.
Kornet had nine of his 11 points and four of his five rebounds in the second quarter. He collected three offensive boards in his 18 minutes.
Overall, the Celtics dominated the offensive glass 18-8. They passed the Trail Blazers, 52-37.
Even with a lead of 15 or more points, the Celtics haven’t made it easy for themselves this season. That was the case again on Saturday as they saw a 21-point lead shrink to eight in the fourth quarter.
Damian Lillard was the man responsible for Boston’s latest late-game scare. The seven-time All-Star was held in check for three quarters but exploded in the final frame for 25 points, including 18 straight.
Luckily for the Celtics, Lillard couldn’t close the gap on his own. Marcus Smart’s clutch steal about two minutes from time halted Portland’s momentum and helped put the game on hold.
Closing games wasn’t the Celtics’ forte. And even though they walked away with the win this time, it still feels like no double-digit lead is safe. That’s one area where they need to improve heading into the postseason.