If you are a Boston Celtics fan, you probably didn’t see this one coming. If you are a Portland Trail Blazers fan, it probably seemed inevitable.
On Sunday — Super Bowl Sunday — the Boston area saw at least one win come their way as Al Horford hit the game-winning shot as the buzzer sounded.
Portland had been in control for much of the game, holding the Celtics to fewer than 20 points in each of the first two quarters. Boston ground their way back thanks to impressive performances by Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Terry Rozier on a night in which Kyrie Irving did not play.
The end of the game was wild. Damian Lillard gave the Blazers the lead with seven seconds left, scoring on an and-1 play to make the score 96-95.
Portland took their foul to give with four seconds left, leaving Boston to draw up a sideline out of bounds play. They ran a fake handoff to Brown, and Horford hit a difficult turnaround jumper at the elbow to seal the win.
It was an excellent showing for the Celtics, who held strong while missing key players in Irving, Marcus Smart, and Marcus Morris. Horford led the way with 22 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists. Tatum scored 17 points and five assists while Brown added 16 points, six rebounds, and four dishes.
For Portland it was another loss that seemed to encapsulate their season. Strong performances from CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard were of course present, and both Ed Davis and Al-Farouq Aminu played brilliantly, especially on defense, throughout the game.
But the Blazers got zero points out of Evan Turner in 23 minutes, and Jusuf Nurkic was handicapped by foul trouble despite playing well. Portland had to get 19 points from Moe Harkless off the pine — a complete outlier as Harkless has been at the end of the bench for much of the season.
The Blazers seem to lose like this often — especially if they build an early lead — so it makes sense we’re hearing rumors that they have inquired about available trade pieces like DeAndre Jordan. Boston looks strong as they sit atop the Eastern Conference (and as the Cleveland Cavaliers crash and burn). Portland has many more questions to answer as we head into February.