Portland Trail Blazers vs Boston Celtics Recap: Another frustrating defeat for the C's
The Celtics last night looked to rebound off of one of the most disappointing performances of the season against Toronto. Last night was a game in which I was looking forward to seeing how they would perform coming off a brutal loss to the Raptors, which followed a brutal loss to the horrendous Bulls. The Celtics lost the game 97-92, despite displaying a much better effort than the game against Toronto the night before. Here are some things to ponder after tonight's game:
Better effort defensively
This was a much better defensive performance, following the horrible one the Celtics had the other night which was one of the seasons worst. The effort was led by the heart of this team, Marcus Smart (no surprise) making a ton of hustle plays all over the place. There was improved effort and intensity all around. Still, the Celtics are struggling right now against bigs and in the paint without Aron Baynes. Guys like Jusuf Nurkic and Pascal Siakam are having their way inside. Better defense was expected as the Celtics remain a top-10 defensive team in the NBA, and top-5 against the three-point shot.
Boston's shooting woes continue
One could only hope they wouldn't shoot around 20% from three in this game and better than 38% overall like they shot in the Toronto game. Instead this game, they shot 5-28, or 17.9% from three against the Blazers. Boston hasn't been able to figure it out yet from the three-point range to this point, but they were able to stay in the game by upping their field goal percentage to 46.5%, taking better shots at times and getting to the rim more, rather than settling.
Another note is that while the Celtics were driving a lot, the Blazers took DOUBLE the amount of free-throws (15-20) while the Celtics only took 10, making 7. I'm not one to ever really complain about the refs unless they make (or don't make) a call as they did in the Saints-Rams NFC Championship game, but I am hearing what Celtics announcer, Tommy Heinsohn, was saying during the broadcast. I feel like this game could've been won by the Celtics had they gotten a few more calls. Calls that seemed a lot softer than what the Blazers were doing on defense. For that, there's a reason to be confident. This narrow loss comes to a Blazers team that entered the night 17-4 against Eastern Conference teams this season.
Celtics fail to make the most of homecourt advantage
Boston this season has been undeniably better at home, and their record proves that. This is a team that struggles on the road. We have seen them play well with momentum and the home crowd cheering them on. They just need that extra push, and to feel like they're actually playing for something.
This one was at home, and what do you know, they played better. Unfortunately, the TD Garden cannot fix the Celtics issues they have when it comes to shooting the deep ball. Home court is also likely something the Celtics won't have the luxury of when it comes to the playoffs.
I know this season has been such a roller coaster ride all year long that started with such high expectations, and now we're just sitting here hoping for maybe home court in the first round as a four-seed at best. That's only if the team can find the consistency and come together, which Smart's comments after the game against Toronto suggest they have not yet done.
While this game against Portland was again, frustrating, I'm still holding on to hope for this Celtics season. There isn't much time left to get it figured out, but there is some time. They have all the weapons. A star player in Kyrie (31 points tonight), pieces around him that can shoot/make plays like Tatum, Hayward and Morris, a good big that can run excellent pick and roll/pop offense in Horford, young and talented players like Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier (who we saw shine last season, especially in the playoffs with no Kyrie or Hayward, obviously). Oh, and Marcus Smart, who I am of the mindset that he was worth every dollar the team paid him this past offseason.
His impact on the game is something the Celtics would desperately miss. The schedule isn't going to get any easier for the C's with their next game being against the Wizards before their West-Coast trip which features games against the Rockets, Warriors, Kings (who are sneaky good, young and talented), LA Lakers and Clippers, before returning home to take on the Kings again. The Celtics could've used the W tonight, but the frustration and the grind continues.