There’s no way to look at Thursday’s 116-109 loss at Portland as anything other than a winnable game that the Boston Celtics let get away.
They had the Blazers seemingly on their heels most of the game, only to succumb to a series of second half surges that proved to be too much to overcome. Now the Celtics (43-32) find themselves down to the No. 6 spot in the East following back-to-back losses.
And to make matters worse, they now move on to Oakland, Calif. to face the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors, who are riding a 54-game winning streak at home.
In what has been a season full of promise that they could head into the playoffs as potentially a top-three seed, has now hit a critical juncture where finishing with a better playoff position than last season will be challenging.
“There’s little room for error in these last six or seven games we have,” Boston’s Isaiah Thomas told reporters following Thursday’s loss. “Somehow, someway, try and get a win tomorrow.”
Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Thursday night’s game.
He was the first player to get paid this summer on the free agent market, and he showed on Thursday why the Blazers were so hot after him. Aminu scored a career-high 28 points, which included six 3-pointers, also a career milestone.
It wasn’t one of his best games this season, but McCollum came up with big shot after big shot down the stretch and finished with 17 points, eight assists and five rebounds.
Crowder has had better games, but he was surprisingly effective despite having not played in Boston’s eight previous games. He tallied a double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds in his return to action from a high right ankle sprain injury.
The nights when he has it going offensively are few and far between, which only adds to the disappointment of Thursday’s loss. Johnson had a near double-double of 12 points and nine rebounds.
He finished with 20 points, 16 of which came in the third quarter. Bradley’s hot third-quarter shooting allowed the Celtics to cling to a slim lead despite the Blazers getting on track offensively near the end of the quarter.
Celtics second half defense
Portland closed out the third quarter with a 12-2 run and the game ending with the Blazers scoring the final eight points. Give Portland credit. They made some tough shots during those stretches. But more than anything else, the Celtics did not play with the kind of force or consistency needed down the stretch of a really important game in relation to their playoff seeding.