Smart's play down stretch helps Celtics seal 120-111 win over Blazers

Smart's play down stretch helps Celtics seal 120-111 win over Blazers

The box score will show that Boston’s Isaiah Thomas (34 points) had another big night scoring the ball, while Jaylen Brown (14 points, seven rebounds) Kelly Olynyk (13 points, seven rebounds) were Boston’s most productive players on the boards.

But no one made more winning plays for the Boston Celtics down the stretch than Marcus Smart whose all-over-the-map game helped the Celtics escape with a 120-111 win.

Portland had a chance to tie the game late in the fourth, but Smart poked the ball from behind of Al-Farouq Aminu (he finished with a season-high 26 points) which led to a turnover.

On an ensuing Celtics possession, Smart crashed the lane, grabbed an Al Horford miss and put it back in for a basket that put the Celtics ahead 110-104.

And moments later, Smart drew an offensive foul against Damian Lillard.

You hear head coach Brad Stevens talk all the time about how Smart makes winning plays, but rarely have we seen him deliver them in such a trifecta fashion, one after another after another.

Smart finished with 18 points, six rebounds, five assists and five steals as Boston (34-19) bounced back from a loss at Sacramento on Wednesday night.

Boston spent most of the first half playing from behind as the Blazers pulled ahead by as many as 17 points.

Playing without Jae Crowder (family emergency) and Avery Bradley (right Achilles), Boston’s perimeter defense was going to be tested by a Blazers backcourt – C.J. McCollum and Lillard – that ranks among the highest-scoring backcourt tandems in the NBA.

And for long stretches, McCollum and Lillard gave the Celtics’ guards all they could handle.

In the first half, each took turns putting their imprint on the game with a dizzying array of step-back jumpers, 3-pointers and ankle-breaking crossover dribbles.

Lillard finished with 28 points, seven assists and six rebounds while McCollum chipped in with 20 points.

Their play coupled with solid play from the Blazers frontcourt allowed Portland to pull ahead by as many as 17 points, only for the Celtics to cut Portland’s lead down to six points (55-49) at the half.

Boston continued to surge back into the game in the third quarter, scoring six of the first eight points of the quarter to take the lead 59-57.

The two went back and forth for the rest of the quarter which ended with Boston ahead 77-76 after a 3-pointer by Brown.

Jayson Tatum comes up big vs Paul George, Thunder

Jayson Tatum comes up big vs Paul George, Thunder

BOSTON – Jayson Tatum had another strong performance for the Boston Celtics, doing so against the Oklahoma City Thunder and Paul George, a player Tatum has acknowledged on more than one occasion he has looked up to. 

That admiration didn’t get in the way of Tatum delivering a big-time performance in helping Boston rally from six points down with 12.7 seconds to play, to knock off the Thunder 100-99.

Tatum tallied a double-double of 23 points and 11 rebounds. And doing so at 20 years and 17 days old, Tatum became the youngest player in franchise history to tally at least 20 points and 10 rebounds in the same game.

“It feels good,” Tatum said when asked about his first 20-plus point, 10-plus rebound game in the NBA. “But honestly, I’m just glad we won. That was a big win against a great team and it was fun playing out there today.”

Impacting the game on multiple levels offensively along with being a defensive and rebounding force are qualities often associated with George who became familiar with Tatum prior to last June’s NBA draft which is when the Celtics selected him with the third overall pick. 

“I reached out to him before he was coming into this draft and I got to talk to him,” said George, who had 24 points and a game-high 13 rebounds against the Celtics. “It’s an honor when you see young talent. I‘ve been inspired by many in this league so it’s great to inspire the younger generation in this league.”

And while Tatum may be young, he continues to prove himself up for whatever challenges await him. 

“We are going to keep throwing to the wolves and keep going to him in those moments,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens.

Boston closed out the game with an 8-1 spurt in the final 24.7 seconds, with Tatum either scoring or assisting on five of those points which includes assistant on Marcus Morris’ game-winner.

Tatum’s composure down the stretch comes from being influenced by many, including George who considers it “an honor” that Tatum holds him in high regard. 

“At the end of the day, us veteran guys want the younger guys to take the game further and advance much farther than what I was,” George said. “There’s going to be kids looking up to Jayson (Tatum) that are probably already looking up to Jayson (Tatum).”


NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: Kyrie Irving getting second opinion on injured knee

NBC Sports Boston Photo

NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: Kyrie Irving getting second opinion on injured knee

1:15 - A. Sherrod Blakely joins Gary Tanguay and Trenni Kusnierek to discuss Kyrie Irving getting a second opinion on his injured knee and what the Kyrie’s options are for the remainder of the season.

5:53 - Kyle Draper and Brian Scalabrine break down the Celtics stunning last second comeback win over the Thunder with multiple key players sitting out.

10:27 - Tom Curran and Jerod Mayo stop by Early Edition to play a game of Fill in the Blank that involves Gronkowski’s contract and the Patriots best offseason acquisition.