Celtics blaze Portland, 96-78

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Celtics blaze Portland, 96-78

BOSTON Within the first three minutes, the Boston Celtics had delivered a hard foul, blocked a shot courtesy of good help-side defense and opened with a 7-1 run.

Physical play. Good defense. Efficient offense.

It was the kind of balanced attack Doc Rivers has been searching for all season, the kind of performance this team badly needed.

When the Celtics play like that, few teams can beat them.

And if you're one of the Western Conference's weaker clubs - a team like Portland - things could get ugly real quick.

That's exactly what happened on Friday as the Celtics delivered a decisive 96-78 whipping to the Blazers.

Making the win even more impressive was it came without the C's floor leader Rajon Rondo, who served the first game of his two-game suspension for an incident involving himself and Brooklyn's Kris Humphries on Wednesday.

Replacing Rondo in the starting lineup was Courtney Lee, who had a Rondo-like first quarter with four points, three rebounds and three assists. He would finish with a near triple-double of 10 points, seven rebounds and five assists.

Boston's victory was indeed a team-wide success, as contributions poured in from just about every Celtic in uniform.

Jeff Green, who was a game-time decision because of a right knee injury suffered on Wednesday, had one of his best games this season with 14 of his team-high 19 points coming in the first half. Portland was led by LaMarcus Aldridge who scored a game-high 23 points to go with eight rebounds.

The Celtics' scoring was fueled in large part by a strong defensive presence at all five positions, resulting in Portland shooting just 31.3 percent in the first quarter and a pitiful 23.3 percent at the half which ended with the C's leading 56-33.

For Boston (9-7), it was the kind of first half that they needed.

With a road game at Milwaukee on Saturday, the strong first half set the stage for Boston to rest their core guys for a good chunk of the second half. It would also afford some of their end-of-the-bench guys to get some minutes, as well as rookie Kris Joseph (2 points) who was recently called up from the Maine Red Claws of the D-League and scored his first NBA points.

And maybe most significant, it was an opportunity to win without Rondo who will not play on Saturday against the Bucks as well.

As for Portland, Friday's loss only adds to what has been a miserable road trip for the Blazers that includes a loss to the then-winless Washington Wizards.

Even Portland's talented rookie Damien Lilliard could not get into any kind of flow or rhythm. A 19.1 points per game this season, he only had two points in the first half while missing five of his six shot attempts. He finished with eight points on 2-for-8 shooting.

But the Celtics have shown a tendency to let their guard down when things come too easy, but Friday proved to be the exception.

Boston's 23-point lead at the half remained in the 20s most of the third quarter before a mini-run by the Blazers cut Boston's lead to 75-59 going into the fourth quarter.

The Celtics increased their lead in the fourth before Rivers emptied the bench so that the entire active roster saw action, including Joseph.

Brad Stevens podcast: "Only goal around here is a championship"

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Brad Stevens podcast: "Only goal around here is a championship"

Mike Gorman and Brian Scalabrine talk with Boston Celtics Head Coach Brad Stevens at Celtics Media Day about raised expectations for the upcoming season, how Al Horford will fit, can Isaiah Thomas build off an All-Star season, and how high are his goals. 

Plus, Kyle Draper and A. Sherrod Blakely discuss whether or not some critiscism could come Stevens' way if the Celtics doesn't perform well in the playoffs.

MORE PODCAST Isaiah Thomas: ‘Just getting to the playoffs in Boston isn’t good enough’

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David Ortiz 'guest edits' this week's Sports Illustrated

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David Ortiz 'guest edits' this week's Sports Illustrated

This week’s Sports Illustrated has been guest-edited by Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz, who is also featured on the New England regional cover with the headline “Designated Editor: Before He Retires Big Papi Takes Over SI.”

The cover shot is Ortiz stepping out of the dugout at Fenway Park, surrounded by his teammates and fans. In the issue, SI's Tim Verducci has an in-depth, candid Q&A with Ortiz on a range of topics in which Big Papi doesn’t shy away from questions about PEDs, his proudest accomplishments and biggest disappointments. 

This is the first time in the magazine's 62-year history that an athlete has guest-edited an issue. Ortiz was able to select the stories, including one on his friend, new Celtics free agent acquisition Al Horford, which explores the brotherhood of Dominican athletes beyond their major league dominance. Ortiz asked SI to look into what’s going on at Patriots headquarters, where his favorite NFL team is off to a 3–0 start. He called for an opus on Miami Marlins ace Jose Fernandez, whose life was tragically cut short last weekend, and who will have a lasting impact on those he touched. Finally, Seth Meyers, host of NBC's Late Night, and writer Michael Schur pay their respects to Ortiz.