With Jae Crowder finally back in their lineup Thursday, it appeared the Boston Celtics finally had restored order.
Then the Portland Trail Blazers introduced a little anarchy, and everything went haywire.
The Celtics led the Blazers by as many as 12 points late in the third quarter at Moda Center, but Portland came storming back to take its own double-digit lead in the fourth quarter. Another Boston comeback set up a dramatic finish, but a few missed shots and a crucial Isaiah Thomas turnover helped the Blazers escape with a 116-109 win.
Al-Farouq Aminu had a career night for Portland, coming out of nowhere to drop a game-high 28 points that included six made 3-pointers. The C’s held Damian Lillard to 14 points on 3 of 16 shooting, but the Blazers put six players in double figures.
Isaiah Thomas (22 points) led a balanced Celtics scoring attack that saw all five starters in double figures. Avery Bradley tallied 20 points, while Crowder notched a double-double (13 points, 10 rebounds) in his first game action since March 11.
Boston’s second consecutive loss drops the club down to sixth place in the crowded Eastern Conference.
Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Amir Johnson, Jared Sullinger
It was a sunny day in Portland on Thursday, but there was plenty of precipitation inside Moda Center in the first quarter.
The Celtics and Blazers combined for nine 3-pointers in the first 12 minutes, with Kelly Olynyk draining two of Boston’s four deep balls and five different players hitting threes for Portland.
The Blazers used three consecutive long balls to open up an early advantage, but the C’s used their defense to get back in it, as Marcus Smart and Bradley tallied steals on back-to-back possessions as part of a 7-0 run that helped them take a slim lead into the second quarter.
If it weren’t for free throws, Boston and Portland would have played the second frame to a deadlock.
Both the Celtics and Blazers went an identical 9 for 22 from the floor in the period — including 2 for 7 from three — with the C’s going on an early 7-0 run and Portland countering with an 8-1 run of its own.
But the difference in the tight quarter was free throws, as Boston went 7 for 9 from the charity stripe, while the Blazers made just four free throws on six attempts.
THE BRADLEY SHOW
Bradley had about 40 friends and family in attendance and put on a show for them in the third quarter.
The Tacoma, Wash., native dropped 16 of Boston’s points in the third frame, drilling six of his eight shot attempts to help the Celtics stretch their lead to double digits. Bradley also got some help from his friends, as Thomas and the C’s picked up the pace:
But Boston’s lead wouldn’t last for long, as Lillard drilled a 3-pointer to spark a furious 10-0 Portland run that tied things up once again.
OUT OF NOWHERE
A pair of Blazers helped the home team roar ahead — just not who you’d expect.
Aminu and Gerald Henderson were scorching hot in the fourth quarter, combining to score 16 of Portland’s first 19 points of the frame to close out a massive 31-8 Blazers run.
FAILED COUNTER PUNCH
The Celtics were undeterred by the heroics of Aminu and Henderson, cranking up the defense to respond with a huge 13-2 run of their own. Portland led by 13 points with 7:35 remaining, but Crowder drilled a huge 3-pointer with 1:08 remaining to give the Celtics a one-point lead.
Yet that’s where things fell apart for Boston, as C.J. McCollum hit a stepback jumper on Portland’s next possession to put his team up for good. Thomas coughed up the ball on Boston’s next trip, and an Aminu dunk proved to the be the nail in the Celtics’ coffin.
PLAY OF THE NIGHT
Marcus Smart somehow beat the shot clock in the second quarter with this incredible left-handed finish:
A rematch against the best the NBA has to offer. The Celtics will travel to Oakland on Friday night to take on the Golden State Warriors, who need to go 5-2 in their last seven games to secure the best record in NBA history. Boston will close out its road trip Sunday in Los Angeles against the Lakers. Tip-off at Oracle Arena on Friday night is set for 10:30 p.m. ET.
Thumbnail photo via Steve Dykes/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) shoots the ball over Boston Celtics guard Avery Bradley (0) during the first quarter at the Moda Center at the Rose Quarter.