At Portland 11/11: Sunday Scaries

FINAL

Portland (10-3): 100- Boston (7-6): 94

Top Performers:

Boston:

Jayson Tatum: 27 PTS 8 REB 2 BLK

Kyrie Irving: 21 PTS 6 REB

Marcus Morris: 17 PTS 2 REB 6 AST 5 STL

Portland:

Damian Lillard: 19 PTS  5 REB 12 AST

Jusuf Nurkic: 18 PTS 17 REB 3 AST

Al-Farouq Aminu: 11 PTS 9 REB 2 STL

Recap

Another game, another frustrating 48 minutes of basketball from the Celtics. They went into Portland Sunday night looking to salvage what was left of a poor road trip thus far tallying a 1-3 record. The only win mixed in there was an OT effort against the lowly Suns so that doesn’t really spark much confidence. Tonight was eerily like their last few efforts as they immediately came out of the gate stagnant. They saw themselves in a 23-12 hole with four minutes left in the quarter. Jusuf Nurkic started his reign of terror early as he overpowered the Celtics in the paint en route to 5-5 from the floor and 12 points in the quarter. The Celtics powered back as they closed the quarter only trailing 26-21 and the offense looked promising. Less threes, more layups, and the Celtics were taking what the defense was giving them. 9-17 from two-point range in the quarter and it looked as if the Celtics wanted to force the issue inside.

The second is where the Celtics had their nightly “We’re going to forget how to play basketball for an extended period of time” quarter and boy did it look bad. 6-21 from the floor and a rebounding deficit of 20-10 came back to bite them. Highlighted by a 24-6 run by Portland the Blazers shot out to a 54-33 lead and things looked bleak. The Portland bench made their mark in this quarter as they contributed 20 second quarter points on 8-15 shooting. The size of Portland down low with Nurkic, Meyers Leonard, and Zach Collins gave the Celtics nightmares as once again they got killed on the glass. Jayson Tatum was the only source of offense in the quarter and hit a couple of free throws and a jumper to go into the half trailing 54-37.

The third brought to light the true scoring talent these two teams have as Tatum (12 points in the quarter), Kyrie Irving (10 pts), C.J. McCollum (10 pts), and Damian Lillard (11 pts) all started to get going in the frame. The two duos traded bombs from three-point land and put on a show. Most notably, Tatum scored 12 straight points for the Celtics on 4 straight threes. He checked all of the boxes as one was a step-back, one off the catch, one off a dribble handoff, and one crazy fade-away from the wing over Aminu.

Lillard and McCollum were both just fantastic as they fended off the Celtic comeback efforts with bucket after bucket. To end the quarter Boston saw themselves still down (83-70) but in a manageable position.

Marcus Morris had another impressive showing with 13 points and 6 rebounds (he might just do this every single game now) as he got the Celtics going to start the quarter. 2 big jumpers and the eventual game tying three knotted this one up at 86 and it seemed like the Celtics might be able to steal one. For as bad as they played this team is never out of a game and it showed. While Lillard and McCollum were quiet in this quarter Nurkic (4 rebs 2 Orebs) and Aminu (5 rebs) gave the Celtics fits on the glass and the both of them hit some big shots. Nurkic was a force down low as even when the Celtics would put multiple bodies on him it seemed like it didn’t matter. He’d still get the rebound and even finished a couple of offensive rebounds which really gave Portland the advantage. At 92-88 Kyrie hit a three and Aminu responded right back with one of his own. Next possession somehow Kyrie squeaked a lefty layup in between 3 defenders and the Celitcs still had life. After a couple of Horford free throws the game was 97-94 with a little more than a minute left. What happened next was flat out rude if you ask me. Career 33% 3-point shooter and noted brick layer Al-Farouq Aminu caught a pass from Lillard and buried a dagger from about 5 feet behind the 3-point line to all but seal it. A couple of missed shots and a costly offensive rebound led the Celtics to their eventual demise in a 100-94 loss to cap off the roadtrip at 1-4 (smh).

Takeaways

  • I really should not have to write this out because I do literally every single game. Giving up 24-6 runs and falling asleep for quarters at a time is unacceptable. If they plan on going deep into June, then they have to take care of business and play 48 quality minutes.
  • The return of Daniel Theis was a short one but this team is going to need him in a big way. Outrebounded 58-50 and a clear disadvantage in the paint leads me to continually believe they need better play out of their bigs. Horford isn’t a Center by design and it’s not easy containing big centers like Nurkic when most of your lineups are populated by wings/ball handlers.
  • Gordon Hayward continues to struggle. He didn’t have a bad showing offensively dishing out 5 assists and also led the team in rebounding with 9 but it’s still a work in progress. Players defended by Hayward went a combined 6-9 from the floor for 17 points. He’s been slow on defense and teams have been taking advantage of that by constantly going at him.
  • Jayson Tatum was a bright spot for this team tonight. While CJ and Dame hit everything in sight in the third Tatum kept the Celtics in it. His 4 straight threes (3 of which were particularly difficult shots) propelled this team to their eventual third quarter run and they’re a whole different animal when Tatum has it going. It’s been tough for him to pick his spots with Kyrie playing so well recently so it was welcomed to see Tatum alongside him putting up big numbers.

Player of the Game: Jusuf Nurkic

 Who else would receive this title other than the man behind all of the Celtics issues inside. Nurkic was a monster posting 18 points and 17 rebounds (10 defensive 7 offensive) and the Celtics didn’t have an answer for him. He preyed on smaller defenders getting switched onto him and gave Al Horford all that he could handle (6-12 for 14 points when covered by Horford). It seemed as though every possession he could’ve gotten the rebound and when he didn’t you still felt like he had a real chance to grab it. His positioning was textbook and he did a really nice job. He stuck his nose into everything and made a huge impact on both ends as he even held Horford to 3-10 from the floor and took him out of the game on offense. The Celtic’s Achilles heel is rebounding/big-man play and Nurkic exploited it every time he got the opportunity to.

Whats Next?

The Celtics head back to TD Garden as they take on Zach Lavine and the Chicago Bulls (4-9) on Wednesday 11/14 at 7:30 PM ET

-Chuck

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