The Portland Trail Blazers have followed a familiar script recently at the Moda Center. It goes something like this: Trail by double digits to a team from the Eastern Conference with a much worse record than their own by allowing said team to shoot a ridiculous percentage from the field, pull to within singled digits by halftime, draw even closer in the third before pulling away in the fourth for a relatively drama-free victory.
Such was the case Saturday night at the Moda Center, with the Trail Blazers defeating the Boston Celtics, a team on an extended losing streak playing on the second night of a back-to-back, 112-104 in front of a sellout crowd of 20,011.
“Well, it’s always good to get a win,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. You try not to be disappointed about not playing necessarily as well as you wanted to. Offensively, we were good and defensively, we were good when we need to be. But this stretch of playing teams with a lesser record, apparently is tough for us to get up for. But in the end, it was good to get the win.”
The Celtics shot 70 percent from the field in the first quarter, thanks in large part to Boston point guard Avery Bradley scoring 13 points on six of seven shooting in the first 12 minutes of the game, and took a 32-27 lead into the second quarter.
“I think there were some missteps and miscues on the first half,” said Robin Lopez. “That’s something that has kind of been haunting us the past few games. We still need to go back and correct those.”
The Trail Blazers improved in the second quarter on both sides of the ball, outscoring Boston 31-28 while holding the Celtics to 55 percent shooting in the quarter. The combination of improved, if not stellar, defense and better shots resulted in Portland trailing 60-58 going into halftime.
Portland would continue plugging away after the intermission, using a 13-0 run midway through the third quarter to take their first lead, one they would never relinquish, at the 7:33 mark on a Wesley Matthew three-pointer. The Trail Blazers would finish the quarter by taking a 90-86 lead into the fourth and would fight off numerous small runs by the Celtics to eventually come away with an eight-point victory for their 29th win of the season.
Portland is now 8-3 at home when trailing at halftime.
“We need to play better, that’s all it is,” said Wesley Matthews, who finished with 18 points on five of 12 shooting, five rebounds and three assists. “We’re happy we won but we’re not happy in the way we won. We’re happy how we got it eventually but we want to be elite, call ourselves elite, we’ve got to play like it and act like it.”
CJ McCollum, playing in just his second game as a pro, went four of six from the field to finish with 10 points in 14 minutes.
“I felt pretty good,” said McCollum. “I got into a rhythm early. Guys did a good job of moving the ball tonight, put me in a position to score. I told them before the game I was going to be more aggressive. I was just trying to feel out the first game and kind of see where I fit in there, but I’m going to play like I do in practice, I’m going to continue to be aggressive and not only look for my shot but look to kind of get in the lane and create different things.”
The first-year guard out of Lehigh hit his first three shots, including two three-pointers, and finished with a rebound and an assist.
“He was terrific,” said Stotts of McCollum. “He kept us afloat in the first half. He came in aggressive and he looked for his shots. Those two threes, I thought they did a good job of closing out on him and he still focuses and made the shots. It seemed like he was much more comfortable than he was in his first game.”
“I haven’t even displayed my total game yet,” said McCollum. “It’s still coming along. If you guys could see practice you could see a different version of me. But I’m just continuing to work hard and put myself in a position to be successful every night.”
The Trail Blazers got double doubles from both LaMarcus Aldridge (21 points, 13 rebounds, four assists) and Lopez (15 points, 13 rebounds), who also tied a career-high in offensive rebounds with nine.
Nicolas Batum flirted early with what would have been his second-consecutive triple-double but finished the night with 16 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in 37 minutes.
Damian Lillard would finish with 15 points and Mo Williams added 11 off the bench. All told, seven Trail Blazers scored in double figures.
“A lot of times, L.A. will have 30 points, I’ll have 20 points and Wes will have 17 or 18,” said Lillard, “but today it was everybody that contributed to the win. We needed it. We didn’t have our greatest shooting night and we got off to a slow start defensively, so it was important for everybody to put in. If we can have slow nights like tonight and everybody steps up and contributes, it’s going to be big for us down the road.”
Next up, the Trail Blazers host the Cavaliers on Wednesday. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 PM.