Horford Beats Trail Blazers at the Buzzer

BOSTON – Al Horford’s turnaround jumper at the final horn sent 18,624 home happy on this Super Bowl Sunday as the Celtics edged the Trail Blazers, 97-96, at TD Garden.

This one had all the makings of another victory willed by All-Star guard Damian Lillard. He made up for a tough shooting night (6-19 FG) by putting Portland in front just before Horford’s heroic shot. Lillard scored Portland’s final eight points, including a 3-point play that gave the Trail Blazers a 96-95 lead. He added a game-high nine assists and six rebounds to his 21 points.

"We had our opportunity tonight," said Lillard. "It came down to us getting one stop, and they made the better play." 

Portland got a huge lift off the bench from Maurice Harkless, who finished with 19 points on 5-for-5 shooting behind the 3-point line. Harkless led all scorers with 14 points by halftime, and had already set a career high with four 3-pointers (out of four) at the break. He entered the game with 3:10 remaining in the first quarter and didn’t leave the floor until halftime. Harkless also tied a season high with eight rebounds in 31 minutes.

“He’s been in a tough spot, been in and out of playing time,” said Head Coach Terry Stotts of Harkless. “He came in, and he was ready. We needed his points.”

The Trail Blazers rushed to a 16-point halftime lead, 54-38, after scoring the last 12 points of the second period. Boston outscored Portland, 22-7, to begin the second half, bringing the Trail Blazers lead to just one at 61-60. The Celtics then pulled even at 75-75 before CJ McCollum buried a huge 3-pointer on a second chance opportunity with 8:45 to play. But Boston fired back with three straight 3-pointers to take an 88-85 advantage, its first lead since a 5-4 first quarter score.

The Celtics narrowly kept their string of wins together when allowing opponents to shoot below 44% from the floor. Boston improves to 26-0 in such games this season. The Celtics entered the game second in the NBA in points allowed, and led the league in both opponent field goal percentage and 3-point percentage.

TOP SCORERS

·        CJ McCollum scored nine of his team-best 22 points (9-22 FG, 3-6 3-PT) in the fourth quarter.

·        Jusuf Nurkic scored 10 of Portland’s first 15 points on 5-for-6 shooting. His night ended with 14 points (7-13 FG) and eight rebounds when he fouled out with 2:15 to play.

·        Al-Farouq Aminu rounded out Portland’s double-digit scorers with 11 points and a team-high tying eight rebounds.

NOTABLES

·        Lillard assisted on each of Portland’s first three field goals and five in all in the first quarter.

·        The Trail Blazers carried a 40-22 advantage in points in the paint.

·        Shabazz Napier missed today’s game with left great toe soreness.

·        Kyrie Irving missed his third straight game with a right quad contusion. Gordon Hayward, Shane Larkin, Marcus Morris and Marcus Smart were also out of action for the Celtics.

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QUOTABLE

“Tough loss. I thought both teams ended up making a lot of plays down at the end. Obviously, it could have gone either way. But Horford made a well-defended shot, and they had the ball last.” – Coach Stotts

NEXT UP

The Trail Blazers complete their three-game Northeast road trip Monday night against newly acquired Blake Griffin and the Detroit Pistons. Tipoff is scheduled for 4:00 p.m. on NBATV, NBC Sports Northwest and NBC Sports Northwest Rip City Radio 620 AM.