Avoid wasting outliers – two double-digit wins over Denver, for one – the 2020-21 Boston Celtics are a group that matches their competitors. They dwell and die with the safety of a coin flip. Flip on one night, and so they’re heading to time beyond regulation with a group presently projected to select within the top-three within the upcoming NBA Draft. Flip on another, and so they’re trouncing what was then a title contender on the heels of a 31-3 run.
Tonight’s sport towards the Portland Trail Blazers was the definition of a coin flip, one that might land on… nicely, not T(r)ails, ruining a killer joke, however offering a slight seeding-cushion to the lads in inexperienced. A 50-50 contest between groups in an identical positions of their respective conferences might have gone the Celtics manner by a ultimate rating of 116-115, nevertheless it felt as if it might’ve gone the opposite manner virtually each second. In an ideal world, these two groups would meet in a seven-game playoff collection and in some way play 15 video games. In that very same excellent world, neither group slips up late in a season the place a play-in event is coming into play for the primary time. One can dream. Hopefully, desires come true.
In case you like offense, your dream definitely got here true within the first quarter. The Celtics made six of their first 9 photographs to start out the sport, although that was surpassed nonetheless by the Blazers seven-for-nine clip from the soar. 5 of these first few Portland makes got here from three, putting a bitter emphasis on the Celtics latest lack of ability to cease their opponents from beginning video games white-hot from behind the arc. Although the Blazers slowed down, they nonetheless completed 7-of-13 from three of their 38-point first quarter. In opposition to Denver, the Celtics trailed by 11 after the primary, and gave up 5 triples; towards the Timberwolves, the Celtics gave up a three-for-seven mark that contributed properly to their 14-point deficit after one.
Fascinatingly sufficient, Boston gained each of these video games having trailed by double-digits following the primary. The same double-digit destiny was prevented tonight – the Celtics trailed 38-30 – and the tip end result remained the identical. So, possibly there’s no actual correlation in any respect. Possibly Bob Ryan is right, and three-pointers are silly. Possibly nothing about this season is smart.
Price mentioning, although, is the truth that the Blazers are the best first-quarter team in the NBA. To not point out they drop to 24th within the second quarter. Right here’s the issue, although: the Celtics have been a middling risk in too many respects this season. Their 1.9 web score is reflective of a group that tends to play to the extent of their opponent, irrespective of the quarter, irrespective of their benefit within the ever-important ability division.
So, when the Blazers scored a meager 22 within the second, the Celtics (naturally) responded with a sturdy, although not gang-busting 27, capped off by two missed free throws from Jayson Tatum. Whereas Marcus Good led a stretch of hustle plays – he performed a big hand in Portland’s eight first-half turnovers – and sparked a run in the course of the second, the Blazers would reply with two buckets within the paint from Jusuf Nurkic and a late three from Norm Powell, regaining a 60-57 lead by quarter’s finish.
Powell and Carmelo Anthony paced the Blazers, combining for 27 factors within the half, a complete that the Kemba Walker-Jaylen Brown duo would match for the Celtics. Staff capturing numbers, although, instructed a barely totally different story. The Blazers shot 48.8 % from the sphere within the first half, whereas Boston shot 40.8 %; all night time, even, Portland felt a bit extra selective with their photographs. Not even Damian Lillard, who completed with 28, appeared like he felt pressured to tug from the emblem to kickstart the offense; it was already roaring.
A lot of the identical persevered by way of the primary six-minutes of the third – mini Celtics run right here, mini Blazers burst there, resulting in an indignant Brad calling a timeout to cease the bleeding brought on by a six-point deficit. The lead would change 11 occasions within the quarter.
Later within the interval, the C’s discovered a method to cauterize the wound: with a Band-Assist named Jayson Tatum. His 17-point effort within the third helped gas an 11-2 run that helped Boston carry a 92-87 lead into the fourth. By then, he had 24 of his eventual 34 — not 53, however definitely sufficient.
Up 5 with seven minutes to go within the ultimate body, Jayson Tatum went to the bench, and the Celtics have been handed a chance to showcase precisely the type of group they are often when the massive(gest) weapons want a breather. It began off on collection of excessive notes. Marcus Good pressured a deflection as Anthony tried to feed Nurkic in a naked-eye mismatch; Kemba Walker drained a transition three after knocking down a defensive rebound. However Lillard and Anthony continued to climate the storm introduced on by Boston, scoring 13 of the Blazers first 15 within the fourth and by no means letting the Celtics lead develop to greater than eight. Nothing — NOTHING — about this sport ever felt snug; the silver lining is that this discomfort was undoubtedly true for each side.
With two-and-a-half minutes remaining and the Boston lead at simply three, CJ McCollum made what appeared to be the three largest performs of the night time. First, he ripped down two important offensive rebounds. Then, whereas falling out of the bounds, threw the ball off of Jaylen Brown, permitting the possession to reset on the baseline. With McCollum taking it out, Lillard minimize to the nook, caught the inbounds go, and did what he does: drained a 3. Tie sport, 109 all.
On the opposite finish, Tatum drove to the basket and missed a layup, not removed from the place Robert Williams lingered. He tipped the ball again up and in, giving the Celtics a 111-109 lead. Down got here the Blazers, instantly right into a McCollum three, making it 112-111.
Then, Tatum occurred. He drove to the rim, was fouled by Nurkic earlier than the shot (however within the bonus), and drained each ensuing free throws. Lillard introduced the ball up within the different route, missed a step-back, and and not using a foul to provide, the Blazers simply needed to defend. Tatum drained a step-back three, giving him 32 and the Celtics a four-point lead.
Following a Blazers timeout, Norman Powell drained a 3, due to course he did. 116-115, Boston. 5.4 seconds to go, each considered one of them feeling like sufficient to arrange a buzzer-beater from the person with a penchant for pointing at his imaginary watch.
With no timeouts, the Blazers needed to foul following the Celtics timeout. They put Marcus Good on the road, the place he’d miss each (the second on objective).
Irrespective of, in some way. An excellent instinctive lure pressured Damian Lillard to try what NBA.com has deemed an 83-foot three-point try. He missed; I’m not optimistic it wasn’t nonetheless on line. Boston wins, 116-115.
Okay… obtained all that?
Following tonight, neither group finds itself in what one would possibly precisely name a dream situation standings-wise, although the Celtics will definitely take the additional cushion that comes with a win. Boston now finds itself in fifth place within the East and one entire sport out of the play-in foursome, whereas Portland is in sixth and three video games within the clear.
That is gonna be a enjoyable trip. Apparently a bumpy one, too.