C’s survive wild fourth quarter to win, 126-112

Celtics-Trail Blazers Conclusion: C’s Survived Wild Fourth Quarter in Portland Originally Appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The Boston Celtics looked more like their pre-All-Star selves on Friday night in Portland.

It’s been a tough period for the C’s, but their performance against the Trail Blazers marked one of the best since the calendar shifted to March. At least it lasted three and a half quarters.

Boston held a double-digit lead for most of the game, but saw their 21-point lead slip to eight in the fourth quarter. Blazers star Damian Lillard dropped 25 frame points to lead Portland’s valiant comeback effort, but the Celtics held on for a 126-112 victory.

Jayson Tatum led the way for the Celtics with 34 points. Jaylen Brown scored 27 points alone, while Marcus Smart added 15.

Lillard finished with a game-high 41 points. Anfernee Simons was the Trail Blazers’ second leading scorer with 17.

The Celtics improved to 49-22 on the season with the win. They will look to clinch their third consecutive victory when they visit the Utah Jazz on Saturday.

First, here are our takeaways from Friday’s game in Portland.

Jayson Tatum Compensates for Filming Problems

Tatum is in the middle of a brutal shootout. In his last three games, he shot just 4-for-29 from 3-point range. He was 2 for 11 from beyond the arc on Saturday night.

The four-time All-Star has found other ways to dominate against the worst defense in the NBA. His nine free throws in the first quarter marked the most free throws in the first quarter of his career. He finished with 15 points on the board and continued to come to the line consistently.

Tatum was 16-of-18 from charity range for the game, meaning nearly half of his 34 points came from free throws. He went 6 for 9 on shots from inside the arc.

The Celtics are hoping Tatum’s kick will come back sooner rather than later, but Saturday showed he doesn’t need to live for the 3 ball to be effective. The 25-year-old added 12 rebounds, four assists and three steals to his stat line.

Big night for big men

The Boston big boys dominated from start to finish against Portland. It all started with veteran Al Horford, who set the tone early on with a pair of 3s and is now shooting 26-of-43 from deep in March.

Horford also made a huge difference as a playmaker as he enjoyed his first 10-assist game since 2019. He finished with 12 points (4-6 FG, 3-4 3PT), 10 assists and five rebounds.

Blake Griffin continued to be a force on the offensive glass, which has been huge with Robert Williams III out. He knocked down six offensive rebounds and nine rebounds in his 14 minutes. Six of those rebounds (three offensive) came in the first quarter, when he was all over the court giving the C’s a spark. He maintained the same energy throughout the night.

Luke Kornet hasn’t been a big factor lately for the C’s, but the 7-foot-1 has certainly made his presence felt in Portland.

Kornet had nine of his 11 points and four of his five rebounds in the second quarter. He collected three offensive boards in his 18 minutes.

Overall, the Celtics dominated the offensive glass, 18-8. They outscored the Trail Blazers 52-37.

Close shave

Even with a lead of 15 or more points, the Celtics haven’t made it easy for themselves this season. That was the case again on Saturday, as they saw a 21-point lead dwindle to eight in the fourth quarter.

Damian Lillard was the man responsible for Boston’s final scare late in the game. The seven-time All-Star was controlled for three quarters but exploded to 25 points in the final frame, including 18 consecutive points scored.

Fortunately for the Celtics, Lillard couldn’t overcome the deficit on his own. Marcus Smart’s clutch steal with about two minutes left stopped Portland’s momentum and helped put the game on ice.

Closing games has not been the Celtics’ forte. And although they got away with the win this time around, it still looks like no double-digit lead is secure. That’s an area they need to improve in the postseason.

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