Turner's Clutch 3 Takes Monkey off C's Back
PORTLAND, Ore. - The streak, as many called it, is over.
The Boston Celtics have won on the road against the Western Conference. And they did it in fashion.
It had been 697 days since the Celtics last won a road game against the West. That's 24 games. To give some perspective, James Young was in high school the last time this happened (h/t to @ByJayKing). In high school!
Well, that streak is now over, and Boston couldn't have found a better way to end it.
The Celtics did it in the road Thursday night, 3,100 miles away from Boston. But that's only the beginning of the story.
They also did it against one of the top home teams in the NBA.
They did it after suffering multiple injuries during the fourth quarter.
They did it in the clutch against arguably the league’s top fourth-quarter player.
And they did it with a game-winner.
Evan Turner ended the streak Thursday night with one flick of his wrist. He canned a game-winning 3-pointer with exactly one second remaining to propel Boston to a 90-89 victory over the Trail Blazers.
It was not a simple task for the Celtics to get to that point.
The final play was a microcosm of the entire night for Boston. They needed grit, determination, and a little bit of luck to lead to Turner’s 3. They needed the same to make it through the rest of the contest.
Turner’s 3-pointer capped a frantic play during the final 8.5 seconds of the game. Jared Sullinger had taken an inbound pass and attempted to work his way to the basket for a game-tying bucket. Instead, he lost the ball, and chaos ensued.
Every player in the general vicinity of the paint attempted to gain possession of the ball as it trickled into the middle of the lane. Sullinger wasn’t going to lose that battle.
He dove onto the ground and outwrestled every Trail Blazer in the area, snagging the ball into his hands with just a few seconds left on the clock. He rolled over onto his backside and found Evan Turner wide open along the right sideline. Sullinger kicked a pass out to Turner, and Turner did the rest, giving Boston a 90-89 victory.
The Celtics came into this game as heavy underdogs. Vegas favored the Trail Blazers by 6.5 points, and rightfully so. Portland, which owned a 19-5 home record this season, was searching to become the first team in the league to win 20 home games. The Blazers also owned the league’s third-best record overall.
Portland protected its home court over the first three quarters and took a 72-67 lead into the final period. It certainly did not feel as if Boston would stage a comeback during the fourth quarter, particularly after a disheartening stretch midway through the frame.
Injuries bit the Celtics three times over a three-minute span of the final period.
First to go down was Brandon Bass, who notched the game’s only double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. He went down with 7:04 remaining in the fourth quarter after he rose up to challenge a shot by Chris Kaman. Bass was undercut by Kaman and had his body turned horizontal to the floor before crashing approximately five feet to the ground. You can watch the fall here.
Thankfully, Bass was able to return to the game three minutes later, but almost immediately after he checked out, Kelly Olynyk went down for good.
Olynyk’s right ankle gave out on him following a rebound attempt on Kaman’s free throw. The 7-footer was barely able to make it off the court before falling to the ground on the way to Boston’s locker room. He did not return to the game.
A second ankle sprain – though of a much lesser degree – occurred just moments later for Boston. Avery Bradley, too, tweaked his right ankle and hobbled around the court for approximately two minutes of action midway through the quarter. He remained in the game, but his tweak played a role in allowing Damian Lillard to heat up.
Lillard entered Thursday’s game a averaging 6.9 fourth-quarter points per game, which ranked third in the league. He easily freed himself from Bradley’s defense and scored five points in a span of just one minute to put Portland on top 87-81 with 4:44 remaining.
Lillard’s spurt shot energy into the Moda Center crowd. Down six points and with a trio of hurt players, it seemed highly unlikely at that point that the C’s could stage a comeback. Their confidence, however, never wavered. They were determined to grab a win and grinded their way back into the game.
Boston did not allow Portland to score a field goal over the final 4:44 of the game. It slowly whittled away at its deficit, all leading to that fateful flick of the wrist by Turner.
Improbable is a great word to describe this Celtics victory. The streak indicated that it wouldn’t happen. Vegas believed it wouldn’t happen. Obstacles nearly caused it not to happen.
But it did.
The Celtics walked into Portland and knocked off the Trail Blazers in thrilling fashion.
Then they strolled out of town with a proverbial monkey off their back.