If you keep digging yourself a hole, sooner or later you’ll get buried.
The Boston Celtics found that out Sunday at Moda Center, as they fell into a 19-point hole against the Portland Trail Blazers in the first half. As they’ve been known to do, the C’s mounted a furious comeback but were unable to come all the way back, falling 100-94.
Jayson Tatum (27 points) and Kyrie Irving (21) led the Celtics, but Al Horford (10) was the only other player to score in double figures for Boston. Damian Lillard led Portland with 19 points and 12 assists.
With the loss, the Celtics fall to 7-6, while the Trail Blazers improve to 10-3.
Here’s how it all went down:
PG: Kyrie Irving
SG: Jaylen Brown
F: Jayson Tatum
F: Gordon Hayward
C: Al Horford
The Blazers jumped on the Celtics early in the first quarter, attacking Boston’s defense with a lethal pick-and-roll game that got Jusuf Nurkic involved early and often. The talented big man scored 10 of the Blazers’ first 17 points, helping Portland take a 17-10 lead halfway through the first.
Portland extended its lead in the second half of the opening stanza. Lillard continued to terrorize the C’s on the pick-and-roll, using the screen to either feed a wide-open Nurkic or get to the cup himself and finish. The Blazers led by double digits for the majority of the quarter, but a 5-0 run by Tatum to end the frame cut Portland’s lead to 26-21 after one.
Nurkic led all scorers with 12, while Tatum paced the Celtics with seven.
CELTICS GO COLD
Despite Tatum’s late first-quarter flurry, the Celtics were unable to overtake Portland in the second quarter.
After a layup by Tatum cut the Blazers lead to three at the 8:29 mark, Portland exploded for a 20-4 run to grab a 52-33 lead with 2:55 to play in the half. Boston’s once top-rated defense was abused by the Blazers no matter what Brad Stevens threw at them. Portland got contributions from Seth Curry, Zach Collins, Nik Stauskas and Meyers Leonard during the run, as well as Nurkic and Lillard.
Boston also struggled offensively in the second, going 4:53 without a bucket until a Tatum jumper with nine seconds to play snapped the skid. The C’s trailed 54-37 at the break.
Nurkic was the high man with 14, while Tatum poured in 13 for Boston. Nurkic and Leonard combined for 22 points and 15 boards in the half.
NOT WITHOUT A FIGHT
After struggling in the first half, Boston’s offense came to life in the third quarter.
With the Blazers leading by 19, Irving drilled a 3-pointer to spark a 10-0 Celtics run that cut the lead to 58-49 and forced Terry Stotts to take a timeout.
Boston continued to trim Portland’s lead throughout the third, but each time the C’s got within striking distance Lillard or CJ McCollum made a play to push the Blazers’ lead back out. After a Horford dunk cut the lead to six, Lillard drove into the paint and found Evan Turner for an easy dunk. On the ensuing Blazers possession, Stauskas missed a layup but Collins was able to secure the offensive rebound and kicked it out to Curry for a wide-open triple, swelling the lead back to 11.
The Blazers finished the third quarter up 83-70.
Tatum led all scorers with 25 points through three, while Lillard was the high man for Portland with 16.
NO COMEBACK THIS TIME
Down 13 heading into the fourth, Boston made its usual fourth-quarter run.
Marcus Morris scored five quick points to cut the lead to 10 and Brown followed with a 3-pointer and layup to trim it to five. After a Stauskas miss, Terry Rozier canned a triple to cap an 11-0 run and make it 85-83. Then Morris drilled a 3-pointer to tie the game at 86 with just over seven to play.
The Blazers clung to a three-point lead with 1:21 to play when Lillard went around a screen and found Al-Farouq Aminu open on the wing. The veteran forward splashed the triple to make it 100-94 and end Boston’s comeback bid.
PLAY OF THE GAME
How do you stop this?
The Celtics will return home to face the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday. Tip-off from TD Garden is set for 7 p.m. ET.