Celtics shut down Blazers 116-93
Look at Evan Turner furiously stuffing Gerald Henderson. Rarely do photos capture the story of a game so well.
The Boston Celtics defeated the Portland Trail Blazers 116-93 behind an excellent defensive effort from the end of the first quarter on. Damian Lillard didn’t get to 30 points for the ninth time in 10 games, scoring 20 points. And after an excellent start, CJ McCollum’s shot faded as the game went on, finishing with 17 points.
Isaiah Thomas broke the Blazers down all night, finishing with 30 points. The Celtics defense wore the Blazers down, holding them to one of their worst offensive games of the season, while the Blazers had one of their worst defensive games of the year. In terms of points allowed, it was the 4th-highest total allowed by the Blazers this season.
McCollum had eight points right out of the gate, helping the Blazers push their lead to as high as 12 in the first quarter. But then the Celtics and the fact it was their 4th game in five nights caught up with them.
As we stated in our scouting report, the Celtics are a team full of guys that will never give up on a game. And the Blazers probably knew that better than any of us. Either way, the Celtics locked in on the defensive end and finally got their offensive going. The Celtics defensive effort compared to that off the Knicks was striking from the beginning even though the Blazers had relative success in the early going.
The Celtics showed why they have the record they have and why they are probably going to be a problem for any team they face in the playoffs. They locked in defensively with their trademark grit and Marcus Smart was all over the boards, bringing his own brand of toughness to the game. His defense was important, too.
The Blazers guards usually get a breather against (insert second unit point guard), but Smart and Evan Turner did not allow for that. The Celtics defense remained consistent throughout the game thanks to the defense provided by their guards. Avery Bradley gets a ton of credit, but the Celtics have a lot of perimeter players that can bother you and they were successful against the Blazers.
It also helped that the Celtics help was impeccable and they knew they didn’t need to consider Plumlee and Vonleh threats to shoot. While Vonleh may one day be able to shoot consistently, the confidence from him in his shots just isn’t there yet. The Celtics are smarter than most teams and have better perimeter defenders than most teams. So, it’s not exactly a replicable game plan.
Nonetheless, the Blazers suddenly didn’t find things so easy. Sensing this towards the end of the quarter when the Celtics went to a hack-a Ed Davis, Lillard tried to picked up a few easy points but the officials didn’t budge.
Halftime didn’t help the Blazers get their bearings. The Celtics pushed their lead from six at halftime to 13 in the blink of an eye. And problems that were present in the first half, inability to get quality shots and box out the Celtics on the defensive boards, only got worse for the Blazers. (Insert second chance points and field goal percentage from the 1st quarter on.
It also hurt the Blazers that this was their 4th game in five nights and that all of their jump shots started coming up short. Their defense, mostly their defensive rebounding and transition, failed them. The Blazers gave effort on the initial shots when they managed to get back on defense, but the extra effort play whether it was physical or mental fatigue, didn’t get made.
All of a sudden, the Blazers were losing by 26 and the game became an exercise in pride. But the Blazers looked a little too tired for pride.
The Celtics deserve a lot of credit for never giving the Blazers any hope they would turn the game around after the first quarter.
- With the loss the Blazers are no longer tied with the Mavericks for the 6th seed (tiebreaker pending). The Mavericks play tomorrow against a Kings team that is in a tough game with the Grizzlies tonight. Their best chance to pass them will probably be the two match-ups they have coming up later this month.
- The Celtics play really good, physical defense at all positions. Isaiah Thomas is limited because of his size but they make up for it with incredible intensity and attention to detail. How they are able to do it without a real rim protector and having a player who is such a liability with his size may be remarkable to some. But it’s also proof that if the Blazers buy into their scheme like they have over the past month, that elite defense is possible for this team one day. They’ve brought it over this hot streak, but tonight wasn’t one of those nights. Portland’s transition defense wasn’t good, getting beat 30-11 in fast break points.
- The Blazers rotations got a little weird tonight. That was probably because Allen Crabbe picked up his third foul with 10:30 left in the 2nd quarter. Stotts then brought Moe Harkless back into the game after being subbed out for Meyers Leonard. Stotts also went to the Leonard-Plumlee front court, which has been a disaster on the boards this year. I don’t think that was his first choice.
- Jason Quick of CSNNW.com reported that Al-Farouq Aminu has a minor injury on his shooting hand. He was wearing a tape on his right knuckle all the way to his elbow but then he removed it. Aminu took just four shots and only made one. It could be nothing. But it might be worth keeping an eye on.