Tuesday, April 13: Celtics 116, Trail Blazers 115
The skinny: Portland kept it close, but another winning team beat the Trail Blazers on Tuesday at the Moda Center.
Jayson Tatum made two free throws to give Boston the lead, and then added a 3-pointer to provide cushion with less than 10 seconds left and Boston went on to beat Portland 116-115.
It was Portland's seventh consecutive loss when playing a team with a team above .500 at the time of the game, and 11th loss in the past 13 games against above-.500 opponents at the time of the game (beating only Dallas and Golden State). The Blazers fell to 31-23.
The game was close throughout with each team making runs. The Blazers burst out to a 38-30 first-quarter lead, but Boston led 92-87 at the end of three quarters.
The Celtics (29-26), who have won six of their past eight games, led 107-99 before Portland rallied.
Damian Lillard hit a 3-pointer to tie it 109-109, but Robert Williams III scored off an offensive rebound to put the Celtics ahead again.
CJ McCollum hit a 3-pointer with 1:01 left as Portland led 112-111. But, Tatum made two free throws with 40.4 seconds left, and Lillard followed with a missed jumper.
Tatum then sidestepped McCollum and buried a 3-pointer for a 116-112 Boston lead.
Off an inbounds play, after a timeout, Powell inbounded the ball and got it back and hit a long 3-pointer with 5.4 seconds left for the 116-115 score. Marcus Smart missed two free throws for Boston with 3.5 seconds left, the second one intentionally to force Portland to rebound the live ball and Lillard's one-handed heave wasn't close.
Tatum had 32 points and Jaylen Brown 24 for Boston.
Portland made more baskets, including 17 3-pointers, but the Celtics hit five more free throws. Both teams moved the ball well: Portland had 31 assists and Boston 30.
Lillard had 28 points (and 10 assists), Carmelo Anthony 25 and Powell 20 for Portland. Anthony's output came after he went scoreless against Miami in the previous game.
Matchup breakdown: Of course, Portland has 18 games to get better for the playoffs (16 with playoff contenders, and only Cleveland and Houston are not fighting for playoffs), and everybody could forget about their regular-season performance. And, the Blazers are quite capable of putting it together for the playoffs — as long as they're healthy and tighten up defensively.
But, it is interesting looking at the breakdown of Portland's performance against winning teams. They have five wins against teams with winning records at the time of the game (L.A. Lakers, Dallas, Golden State, Philly twice) — and 16 losses, including the season-opening loss to Utah. Five other wins have come against teams currently above .500 (Miami, Charlotte, Dallas, New York, Atlanta).
The record today is 9-16 against current .500 or above teams and 22-7 against teams below .500. They are statistics that keep fluctuating, obviously, because teams win and lose games, but it's a trend and it provides evidence for the Blazers' urgency to beat good teams.
Quotable: "We just let the ball hop around, and we cut and we screened for each other," Lillard said, of the Blazers passing more and shying away from pick-and-rolls. "It's a style that we'll be able to play against any team. It was good to see that we can execute that way."
Next up: The Blazers play road games at San Antonio (5:30 p.m. Friday) and Charlotte (4 p.m. Sunday).
Pritchard's night: Payton Pritchard, the former West Linn High and Oregon star, made his first appearance in the Moda Center as an NBA player. The Boston rookie had two points on 1-of-7 shooting (0 of 3 3-pointers).
New player: The Blazers have signed 6-10 forward TJ Leaf, 23 and the 18th pick in the 2017 draft from UCLA, to a two-way contract. He played 139 games with Indiana before being traded to Oklahoma City before the start of the season; the Thunder waived him Dec. 18.
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