PORTLAND, Ore. - The Celtics
have suffered more than their fair share of deja vu this season. Last
night at the Rose Garden, it came mixed with an unfortunate dose of
dramatic irony. Shareef Abdur-Rahim hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from
the left wing, giving Portland an 89-87 win in a game that was close
from start to finish.
the reverse of the first matchup between the teams this season, when
Boston beat Portland, 90-88, at the FleetCenter Nov. 10 with a
buzzer-beater by Paul Pierce. The Celtics' losing streak was stretched to three games, leaving them winless and frustrated on their West Coast swing.
the stretch, I think if we would have rebounded the ball well, we would
have won the basketball game," said Gary Payton (14 points, five
assists), whose assessment was correct, as the Celtics
were outrebounded, 62-39, overall. "We go down and we were in the wrong
place and we didn't get the last shot off. If the ball hits the rim,
the clock is still running and they don't have a chance to set up those
type of plays, and they'll try to throw up anything. It's a learning
process and it's unfortunate we have to lose by doing it."
finally started to open up a lead when Payton hit a 10-footer over
Sebastian Telfair and followed it with a pair of free throws that put
the visitors ahead, 85-80. But it was back to a 1-point game (85-84)
when Zach Randolph hit a pair of free throws with 58.4 seconds
remaining. Then, it was time for the big shots. Ricky Davis nailed an
18-footer with 34.9 seconds left to give Boston an 87-84 advantage, but
Portland kept the game within reach (87-86) with a pair of free throws
But on a night when, for the most part, the Celtics
moved the ball well, they failed to get off a shot on their final
possession, committing a shot-clock violation with 5.4 seconds
remaining. That stopped the game clock and gave Portland time to plan
its final possession, though Boston coach Doc Rivers thought the
officials gave the home team a little too much time. Following the game,
he commented that the officials should have "just given Portland a
timeout at the end." Regardless, the Trail Blazers regrouped enough to
put Abdur-Rahim in position to win the game.
just wanted to get the ball to Derek [Anderson] or Damon [Stoudamire]
on the run and then try to get the basket and make something happen,"
said Abdur-Rahim (15 points, 14 rebounds). "That's what [Anderson] did.
He got in there, made Paul [Pierce] bite a little bit, kicked it out to
me, and I just thank God for giving me the concentration and confidence
to knock it down."
fast-paced scoring of the first half slowed considerably and the
shooting percentages dropped precipitously in the third quarter. The
slower pace was not entirely a bad thing as Pierce was under the
weather. He was clearly struggling to hit shots, though he made up for
it by finding his teammates and racking up five assists. But even with
just 6 points from Pierce, the Celtics and Blazers remained close through three quarters. Portland took a 66-65 lead into the fourth.
been in bed the last two days and I haven't been able to really
practice," said Pierce. "I'm just a little weak. My throat was kind of
bothering me, but I told Coach I wanted to give it a go."
Payton scored on a driving layup as the halftime buzzer sounded, giving the Celtics
a 52-50 lead. The fast-break basket prompted Rivers to pump his right
fist in the air, celebrating the fact that Boston regained a slight edge
after a first half featuring 11 lead changes and seven ties. He was
also pleased that Payton scored the basket on the break, reinforcing how
effective the Celtics can be when running.
teams played uptempo in the first half, though Boston outscored
Portland, 14-5, in fast-break points. And each team led by as many as 5
points in the first two quarters. Since defense on both sides was
spotty, the game seemed destined to come down to which team would make
stops when it mattered.
was a heck of a game for us," said Portland coach Maurice Cheeks. "We
tried to change our offense a bit and get the ball up the floor quickly;
changing the tempo a little bit, I thought, helped get us some better
shots in the first half. But the key to the game, other than Shareef's
shot at the buzzer, was our defense down the stretch. We were down 5
points and I thought we did a great job in holding them at bay."