Jayson Tatum, Celtics Hold Off Dramatic Rally by Damian Lillard, Blazers for Win

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistAugust 2, 2020

Boston Celtics' Jayson Tatum (0) goes up to shoot against Portland Trail Blazers' Zach Collins (33) during an NBA basketball game Sunday, Aug. 2, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann/Pool Photo via AP)
Mike Ehrmann/Associated Press

It sure is good to have the NBA back. The quality of play certainly hasn't suffered after a four-month hiatus.

The Boston Celtics and Portland Trail Blazers were a perfect example Sunday. Despite trailing by as many as 24 points, the Blazers pulled off an epic second-half comeback and took the lead in the fourth quarter, only to see the Celtics wrestle the game away from them in the closing moments, winning 128-124. 

That's the drama we missed.   

Both teams now have a win and a loss in Orlando. With the victory the Celtics moved to 44-22 and remain the No. 3 seed in the East. Portland dropped to 30-38 on the season and three games behind the Grizzlies for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference.  


Key Performances

Jayson Tatum, BOS: 34 points, eight assists

Damian Lillard, POR: 30 points, 16 assists

Jaylen Brown, BOS: 30 points, six rebounds

CJ McCollum, POR: 17 points, eight rebounds

Gordon Hayward, BOS: 22 points, eight rebounds

Gary Trent Jr., POR: 21 points, 7-of-11 from three

Kemba Walker, BOS: 14 points

Jusuf Nurkic, POR: 30 points, nine rebounds


Jayson Tatum Woke Up

Tatum couldn't have been much worse in Boston's first game of the restart, a 119-112 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, scoring just five points on 2-of-18 shooting. He did add seven rebounds, three assists and two steals, helping the Celtics in other ways, but that sort of shooting performance is impossible to overcome against a team of Milwaukee's caliber.

But Tatum's slump didn't last long. He was excellent against Portland, showing off the scoring ability and versatility that has made him one of the game's most exciting young stars. 

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Bounce back, Tatum. That was pretty. (via @celtics) https://t.co/ljpgIPsJjy

Wosny Lambre @BigWos

Tatum putting his head down and attacking has been the saving grace

Louis Riddick @LRiddickESPN

Jayson Tatum sending a message 🤫 #lovetoseeit

Dave DuFour @DaveDuFourNBA

Tatum remembering how to shoot is huge

The Celtics don't need Tatum to be a worldbeater every time he steps on the court. They have plenty of offensive talent. But when he plays like he did Sunday, the Celtics are a tough matchup for any team.  


The Second Half was Dame Time

Lillard had just eight points at halftime but caught fire in the second frame, going off for 22 points to claw the Blazers back in the game.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

DAME. TOUGH. (via @NBAUK) https://t.co/pgsNQMBrpB

Suffice to say, Lillard had social media buzzing with his second-half heroics. 

Tim Bontemps @TimBontemps

Remember when we were concerned about Damian Lillard's foot? Yeah, those concerns have gone away. Just an incredible performance by Lillard in this second half. Blazers are going to be very dangerous if they can somehow make their way into the playoffs.

Rob Perez @WorldWideWob

in the event you're not watching Damian Lillard right now https://t.co/JjJtCFyzxg

Tommy Beer @TommyBeer

feel like Dame Lillard is one of those players that we’ll have to explain to our kids: “I don’t know why he’s not mentioned as one of the greats, b/c he was incredible... Had to watch him to appreciate him”

shannon sharpe @ShannonSharpe

@Dame_Lillard cooking with crisco again, done set the bubble on fire. #NBARestart

Even Paul Pierce was sweating:

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Blazers lead. Paul Pierce is sick 😂 https://t.co/ZkbG9WmohN

Opponents of the Blazers have learned a hard lesson in recent years—no lead is completely safe so long as Lillard is on the court. Few players can heat up like Lillard, especially come crunch time. He remains one of the NBA's most dynamic players to watch, even if he couldn't steal the win Sunday.


What's Next?

The Blazers face the Houston Rockets on Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET, while the Celtics take on the Miami Heat that same day at 6:30 p.m. ET.