Celtics Wrap: Al Horford Hits Game-Winner In Thrilling Win Over Blazers

A huge sports day in New England got off to an epic start at TD Garden, thanks to Al Horford.

The Boston Celtics forward hit a game-winning buzzer-beater to give the C’s a thrilling 97-96 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Super Bowl Sunday.

Boston trailed for nearly the entire game but played great basketball down the stretch to pick up up one of its most exciting victories of the season. Horford led the Celtics in points (22), rebounds (10), assists (5, tied with two others) and blocks (2). He also spent much of the second half playing point guard while Terry Rozier was on the bench.

Jayson Tatum (17 points), Jaylen Brown (16 points) and Rozier (11 points) also had big games for Boston.

The Celtics once again over came the absences of Kyrie Irving, Marcus Smart, Marcus Morris and Shane Larkin — who all remain out with injuries — to pick up their fourth consecutive victory, improving to 39-15 while the Blazers fell to 29-24.

Here’s how it all went down:

STARTING FIVE
PG: Terry Rozier
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Al Horford
C: Aron Baynes

SLOW START
Tatum used a sweet fake to pick up the game’s first points. The first quarter was mostly downhill from there, though.

The Blazers outscored Boston 26-19 in the first frame, as the C’s shot a woeful 26.9 percent from the floor in the quarter. The Celtics didn’t reach 10 points until just under five minutes to go in quarter, and the score would have been even uglier if it weren’t for Tatum’s eight points.

Boston’s thin bench clearly was a factor, as it’s never a good sign when Guerschon Yabusele gets first-quarter minutes.

MORE OF THE SAME
The second quarter was equally uninspiring, as Portland outscored Boston 28-19 to take a 54-38 lead into the locker room. The Celtics’ shooting and rebounding woes continued, as Portland out-rebounded them 28-19 in the first half.

The second quarter did include some great highlights, though, especially Yabusele’s 3-pointer and ensuing bow-and-arrow dab.

That never will get old.

HERE COME THE C’S
The Celtics, as they always do, made a run in the third quarter.

Boston opened the second half on fire and used a huge run to narrow the score to 61-60, Blazers.

The C’s had multiple chances to either tie or take the lead — including when it was 68-67 — but couldn’t get over the hump in the period.

Rozier, unsurprisingly, was a big part of the Celtics’ push.

The Blazers eventually rediscovered their game, and closed the quarter holding a 73-69 lead.

EPIC FINISH
The fourth quarter was a complete roller coaster, concluding with an exhilarating win for the Celtics.

Portland maintained a multiple-possession lead for much of the frame. But a 3-pointer from Tatum with 3:35 remaining, followed by a 3-pointer from Horford on the next possession, gave the C’s their first lead since early in the first quarter.

Boston looked to have the game in control toward the end, but Damian Lillard’s and-one finish gave the Blazers the lead with under 10 seconds to go. That set the stage for Horford’s fade-away game-winner.

Here’s Lillard’s play:

And here’s Horford’s winner:

Unreal.

Here’s another angle of the celebration:

Your move, New England Patriots.

PLAY OF THE GAME
We already covered the buzzer-beater, so Horford’s second-quarter dunk on Jusuf Nurkic gets the nod here.

UP NEXT
The Celtics return to action Tuesday night for a road matchup with the Toronto Raptors. Tip-off from Air Canada Centre is set for 7:30 p.m. ET.

Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images

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