Celtics grind out a win in Portland, 88-78

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Celtics grind out a win in Portland, 88-78

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

PORTLAND, Ore. When you've had as many injuries as the Portland Trail Blazers have had this season, mucking the game up is a given.

Even as the Blazers managed to get the usually efficient Boston Celtics to play one of their sloppiest games of the season, the C's still managed to get more than enough stops and timely baskets down the stretch to kick off their first West Coast trip of the season on the right foot with a 88-78 win.

With the win, the Celtics (35-10) have won 11 of their last 12 against Portland, and five of the last six series.

But this one didn't seem to be the Celtics kind of game, not while committing 21 turnovers that led to 22 points.

"Their pressure got us going a little too fast in the first half," said coach Doc Rivers. "They played extremely hard."

This was expected after Rivers and his staff as well as the players, read about how the Blazers planned to be more physical with the always-physical Celtics.

"When we read that, we actually like it," Rivers said. "That means the game is going to be played our way."

At times, the physical play seemed a bit much.

There was an instance where Rajon Rondo was fouled by Blazers center Joel Pryzbilla, which sent Rondo sprawling to the floor.

Kendrick Perkins, who had 10 points and 9 rebounds off the bench, got in Przybilla's face moments after the play.

"Sometimes you have to set a tone," said Perkins, playing in just his second game back after suffering a torn MCL and PCL against the Los Angeles Lakers in Game Six of the NBA Finals last season. "Teammates are going to take up for teammates. It doesn't matter how it goes."

When asked about Przybilla attempting to play the role of bully, Garnett responded, "Przybilla is far from a bully. You understand? We weren't going to let anybody beat anybody up out there. You can't just pick up and be tough one day, and the next day, go back to being who you are."

After seemingly having the game in control, the Celtics found themselves trying to fend off a late surge by Portland, which cut Boston's double-digit lead in the fourth down to just 82-77 following a 3-pointer by Rudy Fernandez with 48.9 seconds to play.

That would be as close as Portland would get, as the C's closed the game out by scoring six of the game's final seven points.

If you went by the box score, it would be hard to believe that the Celtics won.

Portland outscored Boston 48-34 in points in the paint. The Blazers had a 15-5 edge in second-chance points. In addition, Portland held a slim 9-8 advantage in fast-break points.

"They showed why they're champions," said Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge, who had 17 points and 16 rebounds. "They play champion basketball."

Blazers coach Nate McMillan added, "That team is prepared and built to win a championship. Our guys scrapped. I thought they played hard, they battled. But the Celtics have so many options that they can go to. When you have that many options and that team is locked into playing that way, knowing how to win, it's going to be a tough game. They're very good."

On the night when the Boston Celtics' Big Four discovered that none of them would start in next month's All-Star game, they went out and showed why it didn't matter.

"The goal was to be the best team before the break," said guard Rajon Rondo, who, along with Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Garnett, is expected to be chosen by the coaches as All-Star reserves. "We can't do that with San Antonio (which has the league's best record). For the East, we can still get as many victories as possible with this big road trip, before the break."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached atsblakely@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

It was still a banner year for Celtics, according to Bleacher Report tweet

It was still a banner year for Celtics, according to Bleacher Report tweet


Minutes after the Celtics were eliminated by the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals, the folks at Bleacher Report tweeted a video that celebrated the C’s one victory in the series. 

Ouch. 

There are 17 Celtics championship banners that actually exist and hang at TD Garden. You won’t be seeing one for being a “finalist” or celebrating an actual sweep, such as Spurs over Cavs in the NBA Finals.

Blakely: This could be the start of something big for Celtics

Blakely: This could be the start of something big for Celtics

BOSTON -- Prior to this year, the Celtics hadn't been to the Eastern Conference finals since 2012. That trip served as a curtain call of sorts for the last great C's dynasty.
 
But this one, which ended with Cleveland's emphatic 135-102 Game 5 victory Thursday at TD Garden, is very different.
 
Rather than closing another chapter in the Celtics' longstanding legacy of greatness, it could serve as the beginning of a new narrative in the franchise's steady growth.
 
"For us to be in the Eastern Conference finals after the first year of this team really being together, adding additions like Al Horford and Gerald Green . . . I can go down the list of guys that we needed to learn to play with, and for us to talk about where we wanted to be and actually make it, it's a big-time accomplishment," said Avery Bradley.
 
Boston has been among the younger teams in the NBA, with the 31-year-old Green being the oldest player on the roster.
 
But what the Celtics lacked in experience, they made up for with great effort.
 
"The great thing about this is the experience," Bradley said. "We were able to go to the Eastern Conference finals, learned a lot about being in this position, and I feel like it's going to help us for next year."
 
But as we all know, the Celtics will look to strengthen themsevles this offseason, which means there's a very good chance they'll have a different look when they gather again in the fall.
 
How different is anyone's guess.
 
"It's difficult every year whenever you don't have guys back," said coach Brad Stevens. "I think you share a bond (over the course of a season)."
 
Stevens and this group have been together for eight months. Eight months of struggles, successes, frustrating defeats and euphoric victories that brought them to the conference finals, which is where their season came to an end.
 
But as disappointed as the players and coaches are inow, there's definite excitement about this franchise in the very near future.
 
Boston has the No. 1 overall pick in next month's draft, with all indications -- for now -- pointing to Washington's Markelle Fultz as their choice.
 
And their top first-round pick from a year ago, Jaylen Brown, seemed to steadily improve as the season progressed. It was one of the few times in his life where minutes weren't just handed to him, which he admits was a learning experience unlike anything he had ever had, yet he adjusted and played better as the year went along.

"I've had ups, I've had downs, I've had opportunities, I've had mistakes," said Brown. "So I've been learning and growing and improving all year and I'm going to continue growing and improving and prove people wrong, prove doubters wrong."
 
Having the season end the way it did has indeed left a bad taste in the mouths of many Celtics.
 
"I can use it as fuel," Brown said, adding: "I want to get back to the same place I'm at now."
 
Bradley, who was on the 2012 team that lost to the Miami Heat in the conference finals, knows the Celtics are going to do whatever they feel is necessary to give them the best chance at competing for a title.
 
"It's out of our control as players," Bradley said. "We had a great year together. If guys are here, if guys aren't, we all wish the best for each other.

"But I do feel this is a special group. We all gave our heart every single night, played as hard as we could. I respect all my teammates, and I really appreciated playing with all the guys I had a chance to play with this year; a special group."