Better Performance But Same Result Versus Celtics

by Casey Holdahl
Follow @chold

PORTLAND -- The Portland Trail Blazers finished up a three-game homestand versus teams from the Eastern Conference with a 116-115 loss to the Boston Celtics Tuesday night at the Moda Center.

“I thought it was a well played game by both teams,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “We played a very good game. Tatum makes a tough shot at the end -- going right instead of left. There were a lot of positives for us to take away from that game. It’s tough to lose a game, no question. It’s tough to lose a game, but I thought both teams played very well, played hard.”

The Trail Blazers are now 31-23 overall and 16-12 at home this season. Portland has now lost four of their last five games and their last three contests versus the Celtics.

“I think we all just understood the way we’ve been playing the last week, week and a half, whatever it’s been, just hasn’t been good enough,” said Damian Lillard. “I think what we showed tonight, by coming out -- we didn’t win but the way we played the game, I think we showed who we are as a team and what we’re capable of. Now we’ve just got to come out on the winning side, try to continue that.”

Portland came as close to getting a win versus a team over .500 as they have in weeks Tuesday night versus Boston. A close game throughout, neither team led by single digits, there were eight ties and the lead changed hands 24 times. 

So it was only right that the game wasn’t decided until the final 10 seconds. After CJ McCollum hit a three with 1:01 to play to give the Trail Blazers a 112-111 lead, Jusuf Nurkic fouled Jayson Tatum with 40 seconds to play, with the Celtics forward making both to reclaim the lead at 113-112.

Lillard missed a 21-footer on the other end with 33 seconds to play, with the Marcus Smart grabbing the rebound for the Celtics. On the ensuing possession, Boston worked the ball around the floor before finding Tatum at the top of the three-point line with the shot clock running out. Tatum took a stepback over McCollum, hitting the three with 8.5 seconds to play to give Boston a 116-112 advantage.

“We’re down one, I take a shot that I was comfortable with and I miss, and (Tatum) comes down and makes his,” said Lillard. “To me, that shows the growth, the level of player he is when another player leaves the door open and it’s your opportunity to shut it, shut the door on them and he does it.”

Though Tatum putting the Boston up by four didn’t totally shut the door, as Norman Powell’s three with 5.4 seconds to play cut Boston’s lead to one. But with no timeouts, the Blazers had to intentionally foul Smart, who then missed both free throws with 3.5 seconds to play, removing any chance of Portland getting anything more than a full-court desperation attempt at the buzzer, which was well off the mark.

“I thought we really competed at both ends,” said Stotts. “We were locked in on what we were trying to do offensively. On the heels of the Miami game I was very pleased with the way we responded from that game.”

Four Blazers finished in double figured led by 28 points, 10 assists and five rebounds from Lillard. Carmelo Anthony had his best offensive performance in weeks, going 10-of-15 from the field for 25 points in 28 minutes.

Powell finished with 20 points, four rebounds, three assists and a steal in 38 minutes. McCollum added 16 points, seven rebounds and five assists and Jusuf Nurkic put in a yeoman effort with eight points, nine rebounds, seven assists, three steals and a block in 26 minutes.

Tatum led all scorers with 32 points while also grabbing nine rebounds. Kemba Walker had 21 points, eight rebounds and seven assists and Jaylen Brown contributed 24 points in the winning effort.

The Trail Blazers now head out for a two-game trip which starts with a game versus the Spurs Friday in San Antonio. Tipoff is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.

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