Sunday, May 2: Trail Blazers 129, Celtics 119
The skinny: The Trail Blazers are rolling, playing their best basketball of the year with only two weeks left in the regular season. A fifth-place finish in the NBA Western Conference now appears attainable, after their fourth consecutive win on a six-game road trip.
Playing solidly throughout and making plays at crunch time, Portland beat Boston 129-119 Sunday.
Portland moved to 36-28 with two games left on the trip. Dallas and Los Angeles Lakers lost Sunday, dropping them to 36-28. Yes, it's a three-way tie for fifth place in the West.
CJ McCollum had 33 points, Damian Lillard 26 points and 13 assists, Norman Powell 23 points and Jusuf Nurkic 14 points and 11 rebounds at Boston. The Blazers took control of a close game in the second half and led throughout the fourth quarter, including by seven points, 120-113, after McCollum's 3-pointer with 3:51 left.
The Celtics (34-31) made it 121-119 with 1:21 on Jayson Tatum's two free throws.
But, then, talk about making winning plays:
Carmelo Anthony buried a 3-pointer. Nurkic blocked a shot.
Powell scored, and Boston missed.
Powell made a free throw (after Tatum and Jaylen Brown collided, injuring both). Anthony blocked a shot.
Lillard made two free throws to make it a 10-point game. Powell blocked Payton Pritchard's 3-point attempt.
Portland went 19 of 38 on 3-pointers (.500) and shot .518 overall. Boston also shot well, .483 overall and 20 of 39 on 3-pointers (.513). Portland made nine more free throws, and Boston had 18 turnovers, leading to 25 Blazers points (playing without point guard Kemba Walker, who sat out with a left oblique strain).
Tatum, who hit two late free throws and a 3-pointer in a 116-115 Boston win April 13 at Moda Center, had 33 points in his first game after scoring 60 against San Antonio. Evan Fournier had 21 points.
Movin' up: The Blazers are putting the pressure on Dallas and Los Angeles Lakers for fifth and sixth place in the West. Sacramento did Portland a big favor by beating the Mavericks 111-99, dropping Dallas into a tie with Portland at 36-28. Later, Toronto beat the Lakers, 121-114, dropping L.A. to 36-28. It's a three-way tie for fifth place in the West.
Quotable: "We know what needs to be done down the stretch here. Eight games left and we're fighting for a chance to be a higher seed," McCollum tells NBC Sports Northwest after the game.
Winning ways: Now the Blazers have won three consecutive games against teams with records above .500 at the time of the game, after losing 11 in a row and 13 of 15 against above-.500 teams.
Scoring big: The Blazers have played solid defense while scoring 133, 130, 128 and 129 in the past four wins.
Short bench: Anthony had 13 points and Robert Covington 10. Anthony, Enes Kanter and Anfernee Simons were the only players to play off the bench, and Kanter was minus-20 and Simons minus-7 in the game. Translation: The Blazers' starters and Anthony outplayed the Boston's top guys.
Weird stat: The Blazers were outrebounded, and had no second-chance points.
Next up: Portland plays at Atlanta, 5 p.m. Monday, followed by the sixth and final game of the trip 4:30 p.m. Wednesday at Cleveland.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.