We're LIVE at the Rose Garden for a historic meeting between your Portland Trail Blazers and the Boston Celtics. OK, that may be overstating it—but it's 70s Night here, celebrating Rip City and the decade in which Portland captured its lone NBA championship.
And the winds of history are certainly in the air. It adorned the backs of two fans I saw walking west on Broadway—one sporting a Larry Bird jersey, the other wearing Rasheed Wallace's. And think of what might have been had a certain coin toss gone the other way 168 years ago—we'd have Boston vs. Boston on our hands! (Why yes, I do have a B.S. History.)
But perhaps we should avoid looking too deeply into the past with a matchup that features two franchises who've combined for 18 NBA titles (you do the math). Recent history might suggest that Portland would have a shot at home against a Celtics team sitting in seventh out East, but the Blazers have dropped seven straight and look to be in the last throes of a season that appears destined for a Lottery Pick.
With Wesley Matthews back in the lineup and Eric Maynor making his debut for the Blazers (and Kevin Garnett back with the C's), this one may not be timeless, but it's probably worth your time.
So ditch the red carpet, lace up your Chucks, click past the jump and follow along, as I deftly describe the action on and off the court.
PREGAME: Lots of Celtics fans in the house, most of whom were gathered around the tunnel leading into the arena pregame.
Bill Schonely, the mayor of Rip City himself, belts out "America the Beautiful" and "God Bless America" pregame. Getting dusty in here! And now I (sniffle) have sudden urge (sigh) to call and check in with my grandparents.
Boston (29-26)—F Paul Pierce, F Brandon Bass, C Kevin Garnett, G Courtney Lee, G Avery Bradley
Portland (25-30)—F Nicolas Batum, F LaMarcus Aldridge, C JJ Hickson, G Wesley Matthews, G Damian Lillard
11:46—Blazers sporting the home "Rip City" whites. Celtics sporting their greens. And we're underway as Pierce is called for traveling on Boston's opening possession.
10:09—Pierce goes to the hole uncontested until he has a layup well in hand. He gets it down +1 and the Celtics are out to a quick 7-0 lead. Previously, Bradley gets past Lillard and goes uncontested to the rack as the crowd lets out a pretty good sized roar for a visiting club.
8:31—Batum goes baseline and lays one in after smartly jump-stopping under the rim to avoid a block. Portland not starting as slow as last time they were in the arena, but they'd be smart to get going here against a Celtics team that defends far better than Phoenix.
7:22—Batum draws a foul behind the 3-point line and it goes! Pierce with two fouls and he's headed to the bench. After a Garnett J, Hickson gets on the board with a hook shot in the line on a dish from Batum. Celtics lead 11-9, but Portland isn't waiting as long to get going tonight.
6:44—Two drives straight down the lane by Lee and Bass as Boston establishes itself physically early. So far, it doesn't look like the Blazers will be able to match the Celtics in the post.
5:37—Aldridge with two straight buckets. The first fading, the second slipping his defender and getting to the rim. Celts up 15-13.
5:11—Celtics coach Doc Rivers called for a technical foul. Batum hits the free throw and the Blazers will have it, tied at 15. Meyers Leonard checks in for Hickson.
4:46—Batum cans a 3 from the right corner and the Blazers have their first lead. The Frenchman has nine and Portland are up 18-15.
3:16—Timeout on the floor after Leonard is called for a foul after an Oscar-worthy flop by Bradley. Portland leads 20-19, but the Celtics have the play of the night thus far after Lee finds Chris Wilcox for an alley-oop jam.
1:52—Matthews with two straight buckets. The second on a turnaround jumper from the elbow. Good sign for the banged up guard. He then draws a foul and hits a pair of free throws. Portland leads 26-19 behind a nice little run from Wes.
0:39.2—Matthews draws Portland's second straight foul on a 3-point attempt. Rivers hates the call and spins all temper-tantrum-like to avoid getting another T. Wessy only manages to hit 1 of 3 and the Blazers lead 27-21. Also, Maynor checks in for Lillard to make his Portland debut.
0:00—Blazers lead 27-21, which you wouldn't expect after they went down 7-0 at the start of this one. One thing that's helping: Portland is shooting 62% to Boston's 43%. Batum leads all scorers with nine points, followed by eight for Aldridge and seven for Matthews. Garnett leads Boston with four points, followed by six Celtics with two points a piece.
11:00—Maynor misses his first shot attempt, a 3-pointer from the right wing. After a fruitless Boston possession, Hickson jump-hooks in the lane to give Portland a 29-23 edge.
10:09—Maynor gets his first bucket after showing a burst of speed on the baseline. He lays it in and the crowd offers a warm, welcoming applause.
8:54—Timeout on the floor after Aldridge is called for an offensive foul, his third. That doesn't bode well for Portland's chances to hold off Boston this half, but the Blazers have their biggest lead of the night nonetheless, 33-25. Aldridge out, Batum checks back in.
6:26—Lillard and Matthews check in for Barton and Claver. Upgrade.
5:54—Matthews called for an offensive foul and we have a TV timeout. Blazers still shooting well (56%) while Boston struggles (34%). Portland still holding on to an eight-point edge, 35-27.
5:21—Lillard goes left and leans into a highlight-quality shot in the lane +1. His first field goal of the night brings the crowd up. The rookie hits the free throw and Portland with a double-digit lead now, 38-27.
2:35—Boston mounts a bit of a rally to pull within six, but Leonard puts a stop to the run with a little hook shot in the lane +1. Timeout on the floor, Blazers lead 40-32 with a free throw coming. Leonard misses it, but a lane violation is called on Garnett. Take two, and Leonard hits it. Blazers up 41-32.
1:45—Lee drains a 3-ball from the left corner to pull Boston within four. They'll have a shot at pulling within a basket after Batum turns it over out of bounds.
1:31—And Garnett hits a 15-foot jumper. Boston within two at 41-39 and Terry Stotts calls a timeout.
0:58.3—Sloppy sequence for Portland ends with a Matthews 3-pointer from the right corner. Lillard somehow escapes a triple team to find him, and Portland leads by five. Matthews all smiles after nailing the high-arching shot, and he has 12 points.
0:33.3—Matthews. Three. Again. 47-40 Blazers.
HALFTIME: Blazers lead 49-42 after Batum follows up a Lillard miss with a nifty rebound and reverse layup. Portland holds off Boston's charge and makes a push of their own down the stretch of the half to maintain the lead. Matthews has 15 points to set he pace, followed by 11 for Batum. Portland shooting 51% to Boston's 37%, and Pierce leads the C's with 14 points and four rebounds.
10:41—Celtics strike first on a steal and fast-break reverse layup by Bradley. Blazers respond with a 3-pointer from Matthews, who remains hot after the break.
9:20—Pierce knocks down a 3 and Bass hits a baseline jumper, and just like that, Boston is right back in this one. Portland clinging to 52-51 lead.
8:32—Bradley strips Lillard and has a breakaway dunk all alone on the other end. Stotts calls a timeout as Boston seizes the lead, 55-54.
6:01—Aldridge hits a pair of free throws to reach 10 points. Blazers lead 60-57 as Portland has come back to earth shooting-wise. They're at a 48% clip. Boston has improved to 43%.
3:19—Batum with a step-out 3-pointer from Lillard and the Blazers lead 65-63. On the other end, Green is called for an offensive foul and the Blazers will have it back.
3:04—Aldridge with a fadeaway jumper to extend Portland's lead to four, 67-63. Timeout on the floor.
0:53—Aldridge with a jumper from the top of the key, and on the end, a nice block by Leonard but it will stay on the Celtics' end.
0:00—Blazers' last possession ends with a step-back 3-point attempt by Matthews that falls short. Leonard attempts to tip it in, but can't get it atop the rim in time. Blazers have held off a couple of Boston runs, and Portland leads 71-67. Unfortunately for the home team, Matthews comes off the court limping and checks out.
10:47—Claver with a nice rebound and put-back over Garnett right under the rim. Hey! It looks like Claver found a place he's comfortable shooting from!
9:11—Williams bails out the Blazers as he fouls Batum on semi-desperation heave from 3-point land. And once again, it's three free throws for Portland. Nicolas hits two of three, and Portland leads 77-73.
7:41—Lillard drives strong to the hoop but can't finish on the layup attempt. Rough night for the rookie—he's 4 of 12 from the field, 0/4 from 3-point land.
6:50—Matthews crushes a 3-pointer from the right corner on a dish from Lillard. Blazers lead 80-73, and this would be a good time to pull away.
5:48—Boston has gone a bit cold and Claver is making an impact. He grabs his 10th rebound on a Garnett miss, and on the ensuing break, Aldridge drains a jumper to give Portland a 82-74 lead.
4:59—Pierce lobs to Garnett for an alley-oop jam. Celtics have scored four straight and they're not going away.
3:51—Hickson banks one in and he has another double-double. His 413th this season. Impressive. Blazers up 86-82.
2:53—Bass with an awkwardly awesome flip for a bucket, we have ourselves a two-point game. Blazers clinging to an 86-84 lead as each team has four players a piece in double figures.
1:46—Garnett drives on Hickson and the Celtics have scored six straight to tie it at 86. Boston fans are really making noise.
1:32—And there's Lillard. He drives hard to the hoop off a screen and hits a free throw +1. The rookie nails the free throw and Portland goes back on top, 89-86. Not a great night for Lillard, but a clutch play right there when he needed to take a possession in his own hands.
0:53.6—Pierce misses a 3 and on the other end, Matthews all but seals it with a pull-back 3-pointer from the top of the key. Big shot right there, and Blazers fans let Matthews hear it. Portland leads 92-86 and the sound effects are reverberating through the Rose Garden.
0:15.6—Pierce misses a fadeaway jumper. On the other end, Lillard drives strong to the hoop and misses, but he grabs a clutch rebound and the Celtics will let the clock run out. Again, a tough night for Lillard, but he comes up big when his team needs him most.
FINAL: Blazers win 92-86. The first win for Portland in more than three weeks. A seven-game losing streak is snapped behind 24 points from Wesley Matthews. Batum adds 18 points and six rebounds, followed by 16 points from a foul-trouble-hindered Aldridge and 12 points from Lillard. Hickson adds 11 points and 11 boards and the Blazers get 11 points from their bench.
Celtics are led by 23 points and seven rebounds from Pierce, followed by 20 points Garnett.
The Blazers host their next three games, starting with Denver on Wednesday.
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