Celtics

Horford drills game-winner at buzzer, C's beat Blazers, 97-96

Horford drills game-winner at buzzer, C's beat Blazers, 97-96

BOSTON – When the Boston Celtics were making their comeback in the second half against Portland, it was Al Horford leading the charge. 

So when the Celtics needed a bucket to steal the victory, they turned to – you got it – Al Horford.

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And Big Al delivered when it mattered most, draining a fadeaway jumper as the final horn sounded to lift Boston to a 97-96 win. 

Horford led the Celtics with a double-double of 22 points and 10 rebounds along with five assists. 

For Portland, the Blazers were led by their dynamic backcourt of C.J.McCollum and Damian Lillard who had 22 and 21 points, respectively.

Boston opened the fourth quarter with a 6-2 spurt that tied the game at 75, only for the Blazers to bounce back with six straight points. 

It was that kind of game for the Celtics, who were in close-but-not-close enough mode most of the game against a Blazers team that like Boston, had won four of its previous five games coming into today’s matchup. 

Boston found themselves in catch-up mode from the outset, as Portland opened with a 15-10 run and led 26-19 after the first. 

The Celtics climbed back into the game, and were within one possession, 39-36, following a powerful drive and dunk by Horford. 

But the Blazers responded with a 15-2 run to lead 54-38 at the half. 

The Celtics knew Lillard and  McCollum were going to be problems, as well as Jusuf Nurkic.

But Mo Harkless?

The former St. John’s star, whose alma mater knocked off Duke this weekend, was having a big night for the Blazers and was indeed the difference-maker in the first half with 14 points on 5-for-7 shooting.  He would finish with 19 points off the bench.

But as we’ve seen with the Celtics all season, they have made a pretty good living off of comebacks with the early goings in the third quarter looking as if they were intent on adding another chapter to the season-long narrative. 

Boston opened the third with a 10-2 run to come within 57-48 following a jumper by Jaylen Brown. 

Portland called a time-out with 7:57 to play in the third, pushing its lead back to double figures following a 3-pointer by Al-Farouq Aminu.

Boston had multiple chances to take the lead in the third, with Terry Rozier having a trio of misses that would have put the Celtics ahead. 

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Daniel Theis, a 78 percent free throw shooter this season, missed a pair with Boston trailing 68-67 at the time. 

Portland eventually made the Celtics pay for the blown opportunities as they closed out the third quarter by scoring five of the last seven points to lead 73-69 going into the fourth. 

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Terry Rozier talks about competition with Kyrie Irving, his role with Celtics

Terry Rozier talks about competition with Kyrie Irving, his role with Celtics

The Boston Celtics have one of the NBA’s most talented rosters, so it’s no surprise that they have generated a lot of internal competition throughout the season. While that can be detrimental in some cases, it appears that competition is proving mutually beneficial for Terry Rozier and Kyrie Irving.

Rozier and Irving have been the primary point guards for the Celtics the past two seasons, and they may be the league’s best 1-2 punch at the position. But part of the reason that they’re so good is that they motivate each other to play better.

Rozier spoke about this and offered praise of Irving in a recent interview with Chris Mannix.

I’ve been saying it since I joined and played with [Kyrie Irving]…he’s like a big brother that I want everything that he got. It’s never hating on him or nothing like that, but it’s just I want everything you got. So, I’m going to challenge him every day and he’s going to challenge me.

Rozier also was questioned about his transition to a new role after serving as the starter when Irving was out for the playoff run last year. He said he didn’t focus on his role too much but hinted that he may like to have a bigger one.

Let’s just put it like this. I want to say that I’m the best backup guard in this league, because that’s not what I am. Now with that being said, I do have to adjust some things. I have to get better at controlling some things, but like I said. At the end of the day, I’m just going out there and I’m playing hard.

For more, check out the video above or click here for the full interview with Rozier.

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Could blowing a 28-point lead deliver a first-round pick to Boston?

Could blowing a 28-point lead deliver a first-round pick to Boston?

Could the so-called worst loss of the Brad Stevens era actually help deliver a first-round pick to Boston in June?

The Los Angeles Clippers, who roared back from a 28-point deficit to stun the Celtics here earlier this month, are set to send their 2019 first-round pick to Boston if it lands outside the lottery. That means Los Angeles would have to make the playoffs, which seemed unlikely after the Clippers dealt Tobias Harris to Philadelphia before the trade deadline.

But as the race for the final Western Conference playoff spots begins to take shape, the Clippers find themselves with pole position next to fellow hopefuls Sacramento Kings and Los Angeles Lakers. What’s more, the Athletic reported Friday that Clippers owner Steve Ballmer prefers the team make a playoff push this season. 

On the surface, it sounds counterproductive for the Clippers considering a lottery pick could be beneficial to the team’s rebuilding process, even as they prepare to chase max-contract free agents this summer. But let the Celtics stand as a model of how even a small taste of the postseason can help a young core, especially right before the team adds top-end talent. The Isaiah Thomas-led Celtics got a couple small bites of the playoffs a few years back and, as soon as the team added Al Horford in the summer of 2016, it rocketed the team to the conference finals.

The Clippers won on the road over the Grizzlies on Friday night to improve to 33-27 on the season and now sit 2 games ahead of the Kings and 3 ahead of the Lakers.

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Entering Friday’s action, projections heavily favored the Clippers making the postseason. ESPN’s Basketball Power Index gave the team a whopping 80.6 percent chance to make the playoffs based on the team’s performance throughout the season, with the Lakers (9.2 percent) and Kings (8.6 percent) lagging well behind.

Even FiveThirtyEight's NBA projections, which factor in roster and lineup changes, important considering the Clippers’ trade, had the team at 62 percent to make the playoffs, a comfortable distance ahead of the Lakers (28 percent) and Kings (9 percent).

The Celtics would benefit from both the Clippers making the playoffs and the Kings missing out. Boston will collect Sacramento’s first-round pick, so long as it doesn’t vault to No. 1 in the lottery.

Entering Friday’s action, draft-tracking website Tankathon had Boston set to collect picks No. 14 (via Kings), 18 (via Clippers), and 23 (its own). Ranking teams by total pick value, the Celtics projected to have more 2019 draft capital than, say, the Knicks if they landed the No. 2 pick.

That’s important given the Anthony Davis pursuit that could loom this summer. The team that emerges with the No. 1 pick could dangle that selection — more commonly referred to as “the chance to draft Zion Williamson” — and put themselves in the running for Davis’ services. But the Celtics can make a very intriguing package with both picks and proven young talent.

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Even though the Celtics can’t formally deal for Davis until July 1, the parameters of a deal could be in place with the Pelicans and Boston would simply draft for them with any 2019 picks that are set to be swapped.

The Clippers' pick is lottery protected again next season before morphing into a 2022 second-round pick if not conveyed by 2020. Given the Clippers’ hopes of adding max-contract talent this summer, there’s a strong chance that pick might simply deliver next June in the event the Clippers fade this season.

But if the Clippers pick delivers, and especially if it ultimately is flipped as part of a deal to acquire a talent like Davis, then maybe just maybe the Celtics coughing up a 28-point lead won’t be as bad as it seemed in the moment.

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