Game 57: Celtics 96, Blazers 76

Busta BucketCorrespondent IFebruary 20, 2010

HOUSTON - APRIL 24:  Head coach Nate McMillan of the Portland Trail Blazers during play against the Houston Rockets in Game Three of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2009 NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center on April 24, 2009 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Portland Trail Blazers welcomed the second-best road team in the NBA to the Rose Garden Friday night for a fun and polite, recreational style, basketball contest between gentlemen.

I guess the Boston Celtics didn't get the memo, coming into the Rose Garden and absolutely dominating the Trail Blazers in almost every category, racing out to an early lead and never looking back.

Leading by as many as 22 points, the Celtics allowed the Blazers a brief comeback at the beginning of the fourth before Ray Allen's consecutive three-pointers and Rudy Fernandez' three consecutive turnovers halted any chance the Blazers had of losing respectably, much less winning the game.

The supposedly "tired," "old," and "broken" Boston Celtics, playing the day after a late night in Los Angeles featuring an emotional one-point victory over the reigning NBA Champs, easily whooped the Portland Trail Blazers 96-76 in front of a sellout Rose Garden crowd.

Before the game started the head coach of the Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers lavished Nate McMillan with generous praise, stating "he's been the best in the league, with all the injuries and the record they have, McMillan has done a heck of a job."

As it turned out, it appears McMillan set out to prove Rivers wrong by not starting superior-in-every-way Nic Batum in lieu of inferior-in-every-way Martel Webster, playing the hobbled Brandon Roy for more than 30 minutes when much of the time the game was clearly out of reach, and playing Rudy Fernandez instead of Jerryd Bayless.

I am remiss in coming up with a quick witted one-liner about how horrible Nate McMillan was tonight, so I'll just state unequivocally that McMillan truly delivered RIP City faithful a night they can't forget soon enough. No doubt, many fans are currently occupying various bars around the city trying to wash away their sorrows.

Deficient Trail Blazer coaching aside, the Boston Celtics won this game because they efficiently exploited the Blazers key weakness: the Blazers' shaky interior defense.

They got the ball inside on almost every possession and beat the Blazers in the paint 44-28 . The Celtics had four players in double digits and for much of the game seemingly got to the rim at will.

Overall, Boston shot 54% and were led by Ray Allen who scored 8 consecutive points during the Blazer "comeback" and finishing with 21 points, shooting 3-7 from the arc.

Rajon Rondo dominated Andre Miller most notably on offense, contributing 10 points, 11 assists and 3 rebounds. Kevin Garnett hit his first three-pointer of the season and finished with 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting.

The Celtics offense was clicking on all cylinders but what really threw the Blazers out of sync was the Celtics defense.

They showed the Blazers exactly why they are number one in defensive efficiency throughout the league, pressuring on each possession and pass.

The Blazers were never able to develop any offensive rhythm or consistency, in part because of the absence of a 100 percent Brandon Roy, but mostly because of the Celtics' pressure defense.

Among those who struggled the most against the Celtics' defense was Rudy Fernandez, whose recent play caused Blazers sideline reporter Rebecca Haarlow to exclaim before the game, "Rudy is back!"

I immediately tweeted that Fernandez' offensive resurgence will be truly tested tonight against the Celtics, and I think it is safe to say he failed. Miserably.

The Trail Blazers' goal was clear from the outset: build momentum, score early, pound the boards and take Boston starters out of the game.

This worked for roughly 80 seconds as LaMarcus Aldridge, who finished with 15 points and 9 rebounds, made a beautiful jump shot over Garnett to log the Blazers' first points.

Andre Miller led the Blazers with 16 points and Jerryd Bayless, playing severed minutes, contributed 14.

Marcus Camby had a mediocre debut overall but he played solid defensive, especially late in the game as the Blazers attempted a mighty but ultimately futile comeback, with a couple tell-tale blocks and decisive rebounds.

He finished with 2 points, 7 rebounds and 3 blocked shots. Not a terrible initial outing, but not great, either.

His presence will be more meaningful in the future as he plays more minutes and (hopefully) gains the trust of his coach. I have no doubt this season he'll become the reliable big man in the middle the Blazers sorely need.

I also observed that there is potential for Camby to make Aldridge more efficient. He could take away some of Aldridge's rebounding duties, thus allowing Aldridge a bit more freedom to move around on offense.

The rest of the game for the Blazers was dismal at best. During the last two minutes of the third quarter and the first 3 minutes of the fourth quarter the Blazers tried to come back from the double digit deficit, at one time cutting the lead down to 9 before giving up a couple three pointers off turnovers.

This eventually allowed their deficit to balloon above 20. The Blazers were out played the entire game and never truly had a chance to win.

Brandon Roy was irrelevant the entire game. He started out drawing heavy coverage from Ray Allen but that plan was quickly abandoned as the Celtics realized that Brandon Roy was not shooting, moving, running, jumping, cutting or taking any active role in the Blazers' offense or defense whatsoever.

It is painfully clear that Brandon Roy should not be on the court right now, the reason he played so many minutes tonight is beyond me and as a fan I am furious at the organization for pressuring Roy to risk more severe long-term injury of his hamstring.

Tonight's game was a rough loss made even more difficult to take as once again the Blazers lose in the Rose Garden in front of another sell out crowd.

The Blazers have a chance to redeem themselves in front of the home crowd on Sunday night when they take on their Northwest Division rival, the Utah Jazz.

Sophia Brugato | Twitter: @sophiabiabia | s.brugato(at)gmail(dot)com


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