The Boston Celtics visited the Rose Garden Sunday night to take on the Portland Trail Blazers—a team they hadn’t lost to since Dec. 30, 2008. Unfortunately for the road team, the winning streak meant nothing, as they fell 92-86.
Portland entered this game as the not-so-proud owners of the league’s longest losing streak. Part of the reason for the seven-game skid has been a lack of energy and production early, so the Celtics took advantage and jumped out to a quick 9-2 start.
Unfortunately for Boston, the energy of the Blazers made it difficult to keep that momentum going, and it was on the wrong side of an 18-6 run to close out the opening period.
The second quarter began similarly to how the first ended—in Portland’s favor. The Celtics began just 2-of-14 from the field, and while they eventually found the touch, their 37.8 percent shooting in the first half was only good enough to get them within seven by halftime.
The second half was a more evenly played battle, as Boston got out to an efficient start. Five quick points by Paul Pierce brought the team back within one, but more important than the Celtics’ shooting was their swarming defense.
The problem for the Celtics was that even when their defense was in the right place, the Trail Blazers showed that they're capable of hitting difficult shots. Portland won both the rebounding and three-point battles in this one, and both categories proved to be big difference-makers when it was all said and done.
You knew coming into this one that Avery Bradley's role wasn't going to be that of a scorer. Defense was going to be the name of the game, and that's exactly how he helped slow down the Rookie of the Year front-runner, Damian Lillard.
Matched up against Lillard, the theme was going to be physicality. Giving the young point guard space is the easiest way to get him going, and when Bradley took away the space, he also took away scoring opportunities.
On the offensive end, Bradley took full advantage of the young point guard. He never truly took over with his scoring, but by dribbling past Lillard on a regular basis, he helped create open shots for the rest of his teammates.
Bradley deserves more credit than he's likely going to get for his performance. One nice steal on Lillard is what most people will remember, but an entire game of physical play is what kept Lillard from ever truly taking over.
Courtney Lee got off to an inefficient start Sunday night against the Portland Trail Blazers.
The starting 2-guard missed three of his first four shots, and he had a hard time keeping up with the pace of Wesley Matthews on the defensive end.
Like the rest of the Boston Celtics team, Lee's defensive efforts translated better in half-court sets. He was able to body up Matthews nicely, but he still gave up a game-high 24 points on 8-of-11 shooting—including 5-of-8 from deep range—to the Blazers guard.
Lee's offensive game never made up the difference from his early start. He never got involved in the offense, and he finished with just five points on 2-of-5 shooting.
Paul Pierce began this game scoring five early points on 2-of-2 shooting, but the problem was that he picked up two quick fouls and had to sit after just the first four minutes.
Luckily for the Boston Celtics, when Pierce re-entered the game in the second quarter, he wasn't afraid of picking up his third and he stayed aggressive throughout the team's shooting drought.
When nothing was going right for the Celtics offense, Pierce made this game his own. He took 21 points and five assists with him into the fourth quarter, and he's the biggest reason Portland's momentum never got out of control.
The downside to Pierce's performance is that he wasn't able to get himself going when the game was on the line. He finished with an efficient 23 points, seven rebounds and eight assists, but it's tough to make up for his teammates' struggles when he only scores two points in the final period.
Brandon Bass has had plenty of quiet games throughout the 2012-13 season, but his showing against the Portland Trail Blazers was difficult to watch during much of the contest.
At 6'8", 250 pounds, Bass couldn't contain LaMarcus Aldridge. The Blazers forward scored both at the rim and with his jumper, and he was able to get past Boston's big man almost any time he wanted.
On offense, Bass' game never proved to be much of a difference-maker. He ended up finishing stronger than he started en route to an 11-point showing, but even simple entry passes were difficult for Bass to control.
Bass played 30 minutes on the night, but if it weren't for a subpar showing from Jeff Green, that number might have been even lower.
Kevin Garnett started this game just 2-of-7 from the floor, but when the team started pushing the tempo late in the second quarter, the big man started knocking down open shots.
On the night, Garnett scored 20 points on 9-of-19 shooting—he also collected nine rebounds, two steals and a block—but the best part about his performance was that he wasn't content just shooting jump shots.
With the game going down to the wire, he was looking for his teammates, attacking the basket and making sure that there was constant movement within the half-court offense.
Defensively, Garnett did a much better job of playing LaMarcus Aldridge than Brandon Bass. Garnett was more physical with him, and while Portland's big man has no problem shooting jumpers, he wasn't able to get to the rim the same way he did against Bass.
Following his brilliant performance against the Phoenix Suns, it would have been completely unreasonable to expect the same kind of production out of Jeff Green Sunday night.
That being said, it would have been nice to see him play more efficiently right out of the gate.
Green was brought into the game early for Kevin Garnett, and to put it nicely, he didn't make much of an impact. His shot wasn't falling, as he was just 2-of-8 in his first 15 minutes, and he was struggling to keep up with Portland's tempo.
Green played a total of 31 minutes in this one, and he made just four of his 12 attempts. An 11-point game off the bench isn't a terrible night, but if it had been a more efficient showing, he might not have been replaced by Brandon Bass with the contest on the line.
Aside from the 11 points scored by Jeff Green, there really isn't much to be proud of when it comes to the bench Sunday night.
There was virtually no consistency from any reserve on the roster. The team played five players off the bench, and all five guys combined for a dreadful 7-of-26 shooting.
Specifically, Terrence Williams, Jason Terry and newcomer Jordan Crawford made just two of their 12 attempts. Williams provided good transition energy when he saw the floor, but those seven minutes were quickly forgotten when this one came to an end.
When it came down to it, nobody could produce against the Portland Trail Blazers, and that's likely because they spent so much time against their starters. Portland has one of the worst benches in the league, so it had the advantage with the likes of Nicolas Batum, Wesley Matthews and LaMarcus Aldridge facing the Celtic's bench the entire way.