BOSTON — Neither LaMarcus Aldridge nor Nicolas Batum, who have both played the entirety of their NBA careers for the Trail Blazers, had ever beaten the Celtics in Boston. At least until Friday night, when huge third quarter production by both veterans helped the Trail Blazers to a 109-96 victory Friday night in front of a sellout crowd of 18,624 at TD Garden.
The victory was Portland’s fifth in a row, a feat they accomplished just once last season, and their third road victory of the year, something they didn’t accomplished until December last season.
“I’m trying to be fair in my analysis of this because I think the fair thing to do is to credit Portland, because they’re a good basketball team,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “And they’re really, really cohesive; they clearly have been playing together a while, they know the shot they’re looking for, and they’ve really got some go-to options on the block with (LaMarcus) Aldridge when they need a bucket, and then they really know what to do in those situations where they need a basket. Whereas we might be searching a little bit, they know exactly where they need to go, and they did that.”
Batum started the contest missing his first five shots but scored 10 of his 18 points in the third quarter, a quarter in which the Trail Blazers outscored the Celtics 33-27. Batum also had three rebounds, an assist a steal in the quarter.
“Just before we start the second half all five starters came up and say, we don’t lose this game,” said Batum. “We need this game. We’re plus six, let’s go up to 10 or 14. Don’t put the crowd into it because we know if we you put this crowd into the game, it will be different. This are great fans, a great crowd so we tried to put the fans out of the game and we win.”
Batum would finish with a game-high plus/minus of +23 and proudly noted after the game that, “finally I can say I won everywhere.”
“We want to keep this winning streak going so that is one of the reasons we needed this game,” said Batum. “We got a good start, a good start right away. The way they came back in the game early, we didn’t panic we played our game and get the ball inside.”
But for as good as Batum was in the third, Aldridge was better, scoring 11 points and pulling down five rebounds in what would be the deciding quarter. While Aldridge was at his best after the intermission, he was nonetheless dominant from start to finish, ending the game with 27 points on 11 of 18 shooting, 12 rebounds, two steals and an assist in 34 minutes. Whenever the Celtics looked primed to make a run in the second half, Aldridge had an answer.
Aldridge downplayed the importance of getting his first victory in Boston, preferring to focus on the entire road trip rather than just the first game of a four-game swing.
“I’m more big picture this year,” said Aldridge. “I want to win on the road and I want to try to go above .500 on this road trip, if not win them all. It’s nice to win here but that’s small picture for me.”
But Friday night’s victory was in no way a two-man affair. Five Trail Blazers scored in double figures and everyone in the rotation who played at least 12 minutes scored. The performance continued a season-long trend of scoring coming seemingly in waves, with one Trail Blazer getting hot just as another cools off.
“I don’t think we know how we’re going to score necessarily on a certain possession but I like the way we share the ball, make the extra pass and help guys get good shots,” said Terry Stotts. “We make some tough shots and LA is a calming influence on the block. It’s a little bit of everything. We’ve done it going back to the second game of the season against Denver. I keep going back to that game where we had a different guy do it each quarter. I think that’s hopefully going to be a hallmark of our team is that we have different guys at different times depending on the opportunities.”
Portland also managed to win the rebounding battle 47-34 and outscored the Celtics 15-8 in fast-break points and 17-8 in second-chance points.
“Tonight I thought our defense is getting better,” said Stotts. “They had some guys that made some threes that don’t normally make threes but I like the way we are attacking the defense, our approach, and more than anything I think I like the way we are coming together as a team.”
Mo Williams played 30 minutes and finished with 18 points, nine assists and three steals. Williams was particularly effective in the second quarter, scoring eight points, three assists and three steals before the half.
“I thought Mo had an exceptional floor game,” said Stotts. “He had 8 assists, in the first half he didn’t have any turnovers. He’s feeling more comfortable with the offense, play calls as far as knowing, he has a good sense for the game and his team. He sees things out there and he’s able to get to them now whereas before he wasn’t as comfortable doing that.”
Wesley Matthews continued his season-long hot shooting with 13 points on three of six shooting while adding five rebounds, two assists and a steal in 32 minutes.
“When we get spread scoring from everybody, you can’t prepare for that,” said Matthews. “Scouting reports, they go through rotations and stuff but it’ll say ‘LaMarcus is going to get this, Dame is going to get this.’ When they do and everybody else is getting theirs too, you can’t prepare for that. That’s how this team is built. When we play the right way, we can beat anybody.”
Damian Lillard struggled with his shot in the first half, but continued to force the issue and was able to finish with 17 points on six of 15 shooting in addition to four assists and two rebounds. Lillard also hit his 212th career 3-pointer tonight, which is the most threes made by any player in his first 100 games played according to the NBA.
Next up, the Trail Blazers head north to Canada to face the Raptors in Toronto. Tipoff is schedule for 10 AM.