2/25 Game Preview: Celtics at Trail Blazers
CJ McCollum is picking up the slack for injured teammate Damian Lillard.
The Portland shooting guard looks to follow up his best performance of the season when the Trail Blazers host the Jayson Tatum-led Boston Celtics on Tuesday night.
Lillard is slated to miss his third straight game due to a groin injury, and McCollum is pushing the pace as a playmaker while putting the ball through the hoop.
He matched his career high of 10 assists and scored 27 points in a loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday. McCollum followed up with a career-best 12 assists and scored a season-high 41 points in Sunday's 107-104 home win over the Detroit Pistons.
The victory over the Pistons also marked forward Carmelo Anthony's best game with the Trail Blazers, as he scored a season-high 32 points and matched his season best of five 3-pointers.
"He's really good at pick-and-rolls, he sets great screens and he has that offensive repertoire where he shoots the mid-range and gets to isolation, so I was glad to see him wide open, especially down the stretch," McCollum said of Anthony in a postgame interview with NBCS Northwest. "That's what he's done for 16 years -- he hits big shots."
McCollum equaled his season best of six 3-pointers and also collected nine rebounds. His all-around big performance helped the Trail Blazers snap a three-game losing streak as they try to chase down the eighth-place Memphis Grizzlies for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
"We understood the importance of this win with our hopes of making the playoffs," McCollum said. "We need every game, especially at home and (Detroit) is under .500, so we just dug deep."
The competition level will be tougher with the Celtics in town. Boston had won 12 of 14 games before losing 114-112 to the host Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday in an epic battle.
LeBron James hit the decisive shot with 30.4 seconds left as the Celtics fell to 1-1 on a four-game road trip.
"That's a great atmosphere," Boston shooting guard Jaylen Brown, who scored 20 points, told reporters. "It don't get too much better than that. To be honest, I had a great time. Even though we lost, it was fun being out there competing at the highest level, and it makes you thirsty for the postseason."
Tatum was superb while matching his career high of 41 points. He is averaging 36 points over the past three games while continuing to increase his star status.
Brown noted that it was time to move up the 21-year-old All-Star to a new level.
"Tatum has reached a new height -- superstar level," Brown said. "We've all got to continue to improve and go with him. The way he's playing is unreal. We've got to continue to find ways to allow him to reach his potential."
The Celtics missed All-Star point guard Kemba Walker (knee) for the second straight game. Still, Tatum didn't want to hear about who wasn't on the floor.
"We still should've won," Tatum told reporters. "We know that. We can't make excuses when guys are out. That was definitely a game we should've won. ... That's all that really matters. I know what I'm capable of. My teammates know that. We know what each and every guy can do in here."
Tatum has scored 20 or more points in 14 of the past 16 games. He is averaging 22.9 points and 7.0 rebounds per game.
The Trail Blazers allowed an average of 93 points while winning both of last season's meetings against the Celtics.