BOSTON — The Boston Celtics returned to TD Garden for the first time since the NBA All-Star break with a three-game skid in tow, and home court was not enough to stop the slide.
With 97-92 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday, the Celtics dropped their fourth straight, and sixth over its last eight games.
Kyrie Irving led the Celtics with 31 points, while Jayson Tatum (14), Al Horford (13), Jaylen Brown (10) and Marcus Smart (13) all reached double digits. Damian Lillard led Portland with 33 points.
With the loss, the Celtics fall to 37-25, while the Trail Blazers move to 38-23 with the win.
Here’s how it all went down:
PG: Kyrie Irving
SG: Marcus Smart
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Marcus Morris Sr.
C: Al Horford
Irving and Lillard dotted the scorebook early as Portland took a 25-24 lead after the opening 12 minutes. Lillard led all scorers with 11, while Irving had 10.
The visitors used an 8-0 run to take a 15-6 lead, with a CJ McCollum three-pointer capping the run with 5:35 to play in the quarter.
Boston rallied back with a 12-5 run, however, with Irving’s trey tying the game 24-24 with 14.6 seconds left in the quarter.
NECK AND NECK
Both offenses had trouble in the second quarter and were unable to pull away, as Portland took a narrow 43-42 lead heading into halftime after an even 18-18 stanza.
Offense was at a premium for most of the second quarter, with the Celtics scoring just 12 points over the first 9:30 of the quarter.
But the Celtics’ defense, as opposed to Tuesday’s loss, gave a stout defensive effort in the quarter to keep them in the game, as Marcus Smart’s steal and touchdown pass to Jayson Tatum sparked a 10-4 run to end the half.
Irving closed the gap to 43-40 with 54.8 seconds left in the half, while Marcus Morris at the line made it a one-point game before the teams headed for the locker room.
PORTLAND PULLS AHEAD
Thanks to 15 points in the third from Lillard, Portland was able to build a bit of lead, outscoring the C’s 31-22 in the quarter to lead 74-64 heading into the fourth.
The Trail Blazers opened their lead up to nine points when Lillard cut to the basket to make it 57-48 with 6:46 to go in the third. Lillard then hit a straightaway three to give Portland its first double-digit lead of the game.
Back-to-back baskets from Horford made it 72-64 in the closing seconds of the quarter, but the C’s allowed Lillard to run the floor and sink a buzzer-beating layup.
LATE PUSH NOT ENOUGH
A 6-0 run in the opening minutes of the fourth got the Celtics right back in the game, and they did it with Irving on the bench, with Brown draining a pair of layups, while a jumper from Smart made it 76-72 with 9:38 to play.
Portland was able to stop the bleeding and take an 84-76 lead after a pair of Jusuf Nurkic free throws, and following a Smart three-point play, Al-Farouq Aminu hit a trey to make it 87-79 with 4:05 left.
The visitors grew their lead in the final five minutes, leading 93-81 after another pair of Nurkic free throws. But Boston answered with a 6-0 run to make it 93-88 with 1:18 to play.
Lillard made it 95-88 with a lay-in with 36.6 seconds to play, and Irving answer with a three to make it 95-92 with 24.8 seconds left.
After getting intentionally fouled, Lillard hit a pair of free throws with 11.8 seconds left in regulation to put the game on ice.
PLAY OF THE GAME
Don’t hurt ’em, Jaylen.
The Celtics will remain at home for a matchup against the Washington Wizards on Friday night. Tip from TD Garden is slated for 8 p.m. ET.
Thumbnail photo via David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports