The short-handed Celtics kicked off a big Boston sports day with a buzzer-beater win over the Portland Trailblazers, 97-96. Al Horford had the last word with a tough 18 foot fadeaway as the horn sounded. Damian Lillard had looked to score the winner when he converted an and-1 layup with seven seconds to go before Boston’s lone healthy All Star won it.
— NBA (@NBA) February 4, 2018
- Terry Rozier had his first rough game as a starter for 47 miutes and 40 seconds before hitting a clutch basket in isolation to put the team up two. The C’s only healthy point guard had been 4-17 to that point but had still posted a positive plus-minus due to his strong defensive effort against the Blazers top-notch backcourt duo. His late jumper will get overshadowed by the final ten seconds but it was a key moment.
- The Celtics are now 3-0 in this run of home games played without any of Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Marcus Smart, Marcus Morris, or Shane Larkin. The first two wins were impressive enough even against weaker opposition. To fight back in this one and grab a win against a Western Conference playoff team was a different level.
- Even before the buzzer beater shot, Horford had posted another strong game. His final 22/10/5 line on only 12 shots was reminiscent of some of his early season performances. To do it in this game, surrounded by a bunch of kids, was extremely impressive. Al played Point Center for stretches again; a role that Brian Scalabrine pointed out must be exhausting. He didn’t show it in the last seconds.
- In the absence of the team’s veteran core, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum continue to step up. Tatum was one of the only offensive outlets in the first half on his way to 17 points. Jaylen found his legs late, making a huge three pointer in a late clock situation after a video review called for by the Blazers. Brad Stevens also designed the late game plays for him so even though Horford and Rozier were the ones to ultimately make the shots, Stevens showed a real faith in Brown.
- Semi Ojeleye was nearly the goat of the piece if Horford hadn’t hit the game winner, but it’s not a situation that he should really be in to begin with. He gave a soft foul on Lillard on his late bucket. It was a bit of a tough call with Lillard using the off arm against him, but when a rookie swipes down on an All Star the ref is always going to give that. In total, this was a good game for him, though. He logged crunch time minutes and made a big, late three in transition.
- Aron Baynes may be getting marginalized when Greg Monroe arrives but he showed his value in the third quarter tonight. Coach Stevens is going to play a limited number of minutes with traditional bigs on the floor so it was good for Baynes to have a strong afternoon before Monroe signs.
— NBA (@NBA) February 4, 2018
- Lillard struggled for most of the night, opening 1-11 from the floor, but you’re never comfortable when he has the ball. Holding him to only 21 points on 19 fielg goal attempts and eight free throws is another feather in the cap of the Celtics’ league leading defense. He was moments away from being the hero, even with that difficult night.
- CJ McCollum had a similarly inefficient night but, unlike Lillard who had a neutral plus-minus, the Celtics won the minutes when he was on the court count. He was -16, in large part because he was on and Lillard off in the third quarter run that got Boston back in it.
- Even Turner had a very quiet return to Boston. It seems like this has been the story for a long time with Portland, but they just don’t have the wings to make real noise in the modern NBA. The Celtics have an level of wing depth that few teams can boast. Among playoff teams, the Blazers are on the other end of the spectrum. The one Blazer wing who did play well, Mo Harkless, may not be long for Portland anyway. If they could move his salary they probably would.
Brad Stevens was having a great time after the game, trying to escape the Garden to go watch the Super Bowl. He brought Eagles fan Marcus Morris up to the podium in a Carson Wentz jersey just to needle him a bit. It’s a big day in Boston sports and the Celtics got it off to a good start. Now it’s on to the Patriots in the Super Bowl!