Five takeaways: C's show bounce-back power in Portland
Five takeaways: Celtics show some bounce-back power in Portland
The Celtics showed some legit bounce-back power Thursday night in a 120-111 win at Portland 24 hours after a humbling 108-92 defeat at Sacramento.
Portland led most of the game, but the Celtics got major contributions from several players in the second half to pull away.
And so with day off Friday for the Green, many will surely use this time to rest, refresh and re-focus on solidifying their place as the second-best team in the East with an eye towards catching Cleveland which the Celtics by just two games.
But before this team gets too ahead of itself, players are mindful that there’s a lesson to be learned in every game they play, win or lose.
Here’s a look at five takeaways from Thursday.
BROWN’S 3-POINT SHOOTING
I pointed out yesterday how Jaylen Brown has made the most of his increased opportunity to play with Avery Bradley (right Achilles’) out, the kind of thing that Brown hopes will keep him in Brad Stevens’ good graces even after Bradley returns. He is showing he can make big shots when the opportunity presents itself. Boston had a one-point lead going into the fourth quarter on Thursday thanks to a 3-pointer by Brown in the closing seconds of the third. And the three-ball is a big deal when it’s being made by Brown. The Celtics have won their past five games in which Brown made at least one 3-pointer.
EMPTYING THE BENCH
We weren’t even at halftime yet before Stevens had all but emptied his bench against the Blazers. Stevens has maintained that every player dressed to play will contribute in some fashion during this current stretch out West, but few anticipated it would be in this form. While this group still has its share of growing pains, the experience they are gaining now should pay off for the Celtics down the road.
Thursday night we all got a chance to see the good Marcus Smart. And when he’s good, he’s really, really good. The Blazers never figured out how to neutralize Smart’s ability to impact the game at both ends of the floor. In addition to knocking down shots, he delivered one knockout punch after another to a Portland team that failed to establish any kind of flow courtesy of his defense. For the game, Smart finished with 18 points, six rebounds, five steals and five assists.
DEFENSE REMAINS PROBLEMATIC
The Celtics did some good things defensively in the closing moments of the game. But prior to that, there were plenty of signs that this team isn’t where it needs to be when it comes to getting defensive stops. And even upon Avery Bradley’s return, that’s not going to happen either. Boston’s defense wasn’t very good with Bradley in it, and it’s not going to all of a sudden morph into an elite unit overnight. But there are clear signs that the potential to be a good defensive team is there. Now it’s just a matter of being that kind of team consistently.
KING IN THE FOURTH
Portland’s Damian Lillard talked to CSN’s Abby Chin prior to Thursday’s game about being the one who originated the “y’all know what time is ‘’ gesture that we now see from Isaiah Thomas in the fourth quarter. Well, Thomas outscored Lillard 34-28, won the game and did so in part by doing what he does better than anyone in the NBA – get buckets in the fourth. He’s averaging a league-best 10.7 points in the fourth while Lillard is seventh in fourth-quarter performing with a 7.2 points per game average.