Man, what a wild and fantastic 13 game winning streak the Trail Blazers had! Considering the fact they rolled over two gladiator teams in Cleveland and Golden State during said run, there was no shame having it snapped by the team with the best record in the league, the Houston Rockets. One could dissect Tuesday’s game against the Rockets up and down - Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum didn’t have great games, James Harden is a cheap, foul-drawing scumbag, etc. - but the fact is strong teams like the Rockets are tough to buck. There’s a reason they’re standing on top of the hill.
That’s not to say that the Blazers didn’t make it difficult for them. They had the lead for a majority of the contest, and since the Rockets were focusing most of their energy on Dame and CJ, Al-Farouq Aminu and Maurice Harkless were able to leak out and have great games. “Chief” Aminu went six for eight from the three point line and ended the game with 22 points. Every time he fired off a three you could start clapping when it left his hands because odds were it was going in. The Blazers showed the Rockets that they’ve got talent in a lot of pockets. Next time if Dame and CJ are able to put up their normal numbers, the Rockets might find themselves grounded.
With the hopes of starting another winning streak, last night the Blazers had to flex on the Boston Celtics. One of three teams in the Eastern Conference that have already clenched a play-off spot, the Celtics were gonna be a big wall to scale if the Blazers wanted to get off to another run. But like a few monster teams in the league, the Celtics have a number of players on the injured list. One being Kyrie Irving and his 24 points a game average. Missing a key member of their backcourt should’ve made it a little easier for the Blazers’ healthy backcourt to lead their team to a victory.
Unfortunately the end result looked much like Tuesday night’s game. The Blazers got a lead early and held it through almost the entire game. But, in the last few minutes the Celtics were able to muscle out a win, 105-100.
The Celtics opened up the game looking flashy on the offensive end and scrambled out front fast. Marcus Morris dropped two slow-motion threes, and Terry Rozier III levitated under the hoop for a nice reverse layup. After letting the Celtics have their fun for a few minutes, the Blazers gripped the wheel and commanded a lead for the rest of the quarter. Formidable forwards Chief and Harkless made up most of the Blazers offense to start. Dame was looking a little more like himself and tossed a couple long balls in as well. The score was 26-23, Blazers to end the first.
The Blazers started the second looking tough on the defensive side. Zach Collins stuffed Abel Nader from behind like a turkey on a fast break, then Ed Davis did the same to Aron Baynes shortly after. The Celtics put together a series of sprints throughout the second, even tying the score at one point. But the Blazers dug in their heels and always fired back. The half ended with the Blazers at a five point advantage, 52-47.
Seven and a half minutes into the third CJ teleported through three Celtics defenders all the way to the rim for a dunk, then floated another field goal in over three defenders on the next offensive approach. The Blazers had four players in double digits and the Celtics only had Morris. It wasn’t long before the Blazers stepped their lead up to double digits. Team basketball always trumps the one man show. Especially when that team can score, and force turnovers like the Blazers were. The Celtics turnover column ticked up to 12 before the end of the third. The Blazers took a 10 point lead into the final quarter. Things were looking up.
That is until the Celtics opened up the fourth knocking the Blazers’ lead down to three in the first three minutes. Coach Terry Stotts called a full timeout to see if he could get his team’s minds right, but they continued to flinch and let the Celtics get up by one. It was their first lead since the first quarter, but it only lasted less than a minute. CJ decided to make himself at home in the paint and sank a few solid looks.
After that, the Moda Center may as well have been the O.K. Corral. The last five minutes of the game the lead changed hands almost every up and down. Then, with the Celtics up two, Dame tried a heroic three and air-balled it out of bounds. The Celtics took it back up and Morris drained a three. After that, all the steam was sucked out of the Blazers. The Celtics lead was five and there was only 54 seconds left. After a series of unfortunate misses and failed stop attempts, the Blazers fell to the Celtics, 105-100. Dame's face says it all...