Celtics blaze Portland, 96-78

953657.jpg

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.

Tanguay: No pressure, Al, but Celts' postseason success hinges on you

Tanguay: No pressure, Al, but Celts' postseason success hinges on you

Hey, Al Horford. No pressure, but these upcoming playoffs are on you. 

The Celtics are having a great REGULAR season. But for this postseason to be anything but regular, Al needs to come up big.

To his credit, he's done that recently. But he need to play even better in the playoffs. Better isn’t even the right word. Power. That’s it: Power. Horford needs to play with more power. 

The problem is this has never really been his game, and therefore it may prove the Celtics overpaid when they gave him a max contract. 

During his 74 postseason games with the Hawks, Horford averaged 12.9 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. This season he has averaged 6.9 rebounds for the Celtics. There's no way his rebounding numbers an be that low in the playoffs. 

I want at least 18 points and 8 rebounds per game from him over the course of the Celts post season run. And NO THREEs. I know the guy can shoot, but he needs to keep that 6-foot-10 body of his twelve feet or less from the hoop. 

So if the Celtics let you down or underperform this spring, it won't be on Isaiah. It will be on you, Al. 

Again, no pressure. 

Report: Patriots asked Seahawks about a trade for Richard Sherman

Report: Patriots asked Seahawks about a trade for Richard Sherman

PHOENIX -- The Patriots pulled off what many considered a surprise free-agent signing when they acquired corner Stephon Gilmore. As it turns out, before they picked up the former Bills cover man, they inquried about a separate move that would have been even more eye-opening. 

According to NFL Media's Ian Rapoport, ahead of coming to a deal with Gilmore, the Patriots were among the teams that spoke to the Seahawks about a potential trade for Richard Sherman.

MORE PATRIOTS

During the NFC coaches breakfast on Wednesday morning at the Arizona Biltmore, Seattle coach Pete Carroll acknowledged that multiple teams have contacted the Seahawks about Sherman. But, Carroll said, "I don't see anything happening at all."

Sherman, who turns 29 next season, will make $11.431 million for 2017. He's due $11 million in the final year of his contract in 2018.