Before I get to all the good things the Celtics did in the 118-106 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday night, I need to address the problems. Unlike Sunday, the defense was less than impressive. I know what you’re thinking, the Celtics won by 12 and held the Blazers to only 106 points, which in today’s NBA is pretty impressive. But, I thought the Celtics were more fortunate than good defensively. The Blazers had A LOT of good looks throughout the night, especially from three, the shots just didn’t fall. Hayward had a turnover problem, committing 5 and Marcus Smart couldn’t find his stroke going 4-16 from the field. Plus, no Damian Lillard for an already injury-riddled Blazers team really played in the Celtics’ favor. Negativity aside, The C’s took care of business against the shorthanded Blazers and gained some ground on the Toronto Raptors in the standings. Now to the good stuff.
I really wanted to start with Jaylen Brown, I really did, but Tatum stole the show once again. He followed up his 41 point performance in L.A. with 36 points on 14-22 shooting, including 8-12 from three. It was getting to the point I thought every shot he took was going in. Did you know he’s only 21? For the past two games, in which he’s averaging 38.5 points, he’s been wearing a purple arm band to pay homage to his idol, Kobe Bryant. He may never take it off. If he plays like this Wednesday against the Utah Jazz, he may ask for year-round West Coast trips.
Jaylen Brown wanted to remind us all Tatum isn’t the only young Celtic making strides this year. Brown put up 24 points along with 7 boards and was again pretty stout defensively. If he’s able to get to the basket with ease, like he was tonight, you can basically pencil in a solid performance from him. I know I bashed on them to start, but Hayward and Smart did a lot of good things, too. Hayward didn’t put up a lot of shots, but was efficient adding 12 points on 5-7 shooting. Marcus Smart took four of the first five shots of this game and missed them all, but then followed it up with three straight three pointers. That’s what he does. He’ll make you want to pull your hair out and then knock down big shot after big shot. My fellow Oklahoma State Cowboy also continued his case for an All-Defensive team. He came away with 2 steals, a block and forced CJ McCollum to take some tough shots, never letting him get comfortable. Like Brad Stevens once said, I love him and I trust him.
Speaking of Brad, he got his second technical in as many games. Go ahead and fact check me on this, there’s no way that’s ever happened to him before. Do we have a new bad boy in the NBA? I think so. They came away with the win Tuesday, but I’m interested to see how they come out and play Wednesday. They’ll be playing their second game of a back to back to end the West Coast trip, and then will have two days off before playing the Rockets on Saturday. This isn’t to say they don’t want to win, but if they get down, how much energy and fight are they going to show? This team is still trying to get healthy, so I wouldn’t blame them if they coast so they can get home. Of course I hope that doesn’t happen, but this team has aspirations far beyond a February win against the Jazz. The Jazz have been one of the more inconsistent teams this year, but will no doubt be a handful for the Celtics.
Oh, and Kemba missed his third straight game and by the time you’re reading this he’ll probably be ruled out for the game in Utah. I’m not worried, you’re worried.