Less than a week ago, Doc Rivers talked about the Celtics
lacking the kind of toughness needed to pull out close victories. After
last night's game at the FleetCenter, no one can question the toughness
of Paul Pierce.
from seven hours of dental surgery, Pierce hit a buzzer-beating
21-footer from the left wing to give Boston a 90-88 win over the
Portland Trail Blazers. The shot came only moments after Pierce took a
hit to his mouth.
seconds left, Pierce (20 points) was called for traveling, giving the
Trail Blazers a shot at the lead. But Darius Miles could not convert
around the basket. In an attempt to gather the rebound, Ruben Patterson
slapped Pierce across the face. Pierce remained in the game. A Gary
Payton layup attempt was blocked by Theo Ratliff. But on the other end,
Zach Randolph (22 points) made just 1 of 2 free throws to tie the game
with 19.1 seconds left.
Trail Blazers took the lead for the first time when Patterson scored on a
layup with 8:11 remaining. After Payton threw up an airball and Damon
Stoudamire missed on the other end, Ricky Davis gave Boston back the
lead with a driving layup. The teams remained close throughout the
fourth quarter. But Boston saw the momentum turn in its favor at the
five-minute mark when Payton hit a 3-pointer, followed by a layup from
Raef LaFrentz (18 points, 10 rebounds) that pushed the home team ahead,
82-79, with 4:23 to play.
swarming defense beneath the basket, Miles hit a 3-footer that again
made it a 1-point game. Mark Blount answered with a 17-footer. But at
the other end, Miles hit a 5-footer with 2:44 to go that gave the Trail
Blazers an 85-84 edge. LaFrentz returned the lead to Boston with a
3-pointer, but once again Miles had an answer with a tip shot that tied
the game, 87-87. When LaFrentz hit 1 of 2 free throws with 1:37
remaining, it gave the Blazers a chance to retake the lead. But Randolph
missed a 6-foot attempt over Blount, and the Celtics once again had an opportunity to stretch their 1-point lead.
Throughout the third quarter, the Trail Blazers chipped away at the Celtics'
sizable lead, turning a blowout into a close game. After leading by as
many as 20 points late in the second quarter, Boston held onto a 7-point
lead (71-64) at the end of the third. It was a discouraging turn of
events for the Celtics, who once again found themselves in need of some fourth-quarter heroics before a home crowd.
surged to a 10-point lead in the first quarter and a 53-39 halftime
advantage by shooting 50 percent and posting a lopsided advantage on the
rebounding would be important, especially considering the considerable
size advantage held by Portland. But while the Celtics
were the aggressors throughout the first half, the Trail Blazers
appeared generally disinterested as they struggled for the second night
in a row. On Tuesday at Continental Airlines Arena, Portland shot just
24 percent (19 for 78) in a mind-numbing loss to New Jersey. Rivers
worried the Blazers might be due for an offensive explosion.
time they missed a shot, you're thinking, 'Make some shots,' because
we're thinking no way they shoot that poorly two games in a row," said
But Portland did
just that as its shooting percentage dropped precipitously from the
first to second quarters. Boston held a 27-22 advantage at the start of
the second and stretched its lead. The Celtics
opened the second with a 10-0 run, starting with a dunk from Al
Jefferson and finishing with a hook shot from the rookie. A pair of free
throws from Blount with 2:03 left in the second pushed Boston ahead by
By the end of the opening half, the Celtics
held an 18-14 advantage in points in the paint and a 12-1 advantage in
fast-break baskets. LaFrentz was on pace for a double-double. Meanwhile,
Payton picked up the scoring slack for Pierce. Randolph and Shareef
Abdur-Rahim were forced to carry the scoring load for the Blazers as
their teammates' struggles carried over from the Nets game.