Shuttlesworth Saves the Day Again


Shuttlesworth Saves the Day Again

"Jesus" saved the struggling Celtics last night.

Boston defeated the Portland Trail Blazers, 100-90, at sold-out TD Banknorth Garden and snapped a two-game losing streak thanks to Ray Allen, who is nicknamed "Jesus" by his teammates because he played the character Jesus Shuttlesworth in the movie "He Got Game."

Allen scored 26 of his 35 points - a game high that matched his season high - in the second half.

Kevin Garnett added 26 points for the Celtics, who snapped a two-game home losing streak and are now 17-3 at the Garden.

When asked about his team's recent struggles, Celtics coach Doc Rivers said yesterday morning, "Last time I checked, we're 30-6."

But when he was asked if fans have been spoiled by the team's fast start, Rivers added, "We haven't played well the last three games. We personally acknowledge that. That doesn't panic [us]. We don't want to play that way, just as long as we don't spoil ourselves."

The Trail Blazers weren't exactly welcome whipping boys. Led by guard Brandon Roy, they came in with a surprising 23-14 record and only two losses since Dec. 2.

Meanwhile, for the second time in three games, the Celtics were without point guard Rajon Rondo because of back and right hamstring injuries. Rivers started Eddie House for the first time.

A Roy lay-in gave Portland a 19-16 lead with 2:21 left in the first quarter. Although Tony Allen played some point guard after House, seldom-used rookie Gabe Pruitt was brought in - as Rivers had indicated he would do - with 1:54 left in the quarter. He showed no nervousness as he nailed a jumper to trim Boston's deficit to 19-18. The Celtics and Blazers completed the quarter tied at 19.

House replaced Pruitt with 6:59 left in the second and Portland up, 24-20. Pruitt seemed to run the offense well and play solid defense, but missed 3 of 4 shots and had two rebounds and no assists in seven minutes.

A 3-pointer by Jarrett Jack gave Portland a 33-27 lead with 6:05 left in the second. The Celtics responded with a timeout.

After that break, Celtics forward Brian Scalabrine was overheard saying, "They're good. Better than I thought."

With the Celtics down, 40-36, Garnett baited Portland forward LaMarcus Aldridge into his second foul with 2:20 left in the second. Before Aldridge went to the bench, Garnett told him, "You can't guard me." Garnett made both free throws.

The Celtics took their first lead since 16-14 when a Paul Pierce 3-point play pushed them ahead, 41-40, 1:54 before the half. Steve Blake, however, nailed a 3-pointer 0.4 seconds before the buzzer to give Portland a 45-43 lead.

The Celtics missed 9 of 21 free throws in the half, shot 35.9 percent (14 of 39), hit 21.4 percent from 3-point range (3 of 14), and had 8 assists. Portland shot 42.1 percent (16 of 38), made 5 of 10 3-pointers, and nailed 8 of 11 free throws. Roy had 13 points and three assists, , while Garnett had 15 points and four rebounds.

The Blazers opened the third quarter with a 7-2 run, including two Martell Webster 3-pointers, to take a 52-45 lead. Garnett's 3-point play tied the game at 52 with 7:58 left in the third. The Celtics went on an 8-2 run to take a 64-58 lead with 3:51 left after two straight Ray Allen layups.

Allen's lay-in with 52.6 seconds remaining gave Boston a 73-69 lead. The Celtics finished the quarter with a 74-69 lead. Allen made 5 of 8 shots and scored 12 points in the third.

The Celtics outscored Portland, 31-24, in the quarter while shooting 52.4 percent, hitting two 3-pointers and making 7 of 9 free throws.

The Celtics opened the fourth with a 6-1 run to take an 80-70 lead with 9:39 left after a James Posey lay-in. Garnett's 23-foot jumper with 4:31 left gave Boston an 84-76 lead.

A Travis Outlaw 3-pointer sliced Portland's deficit to 86-81 with 3:18 remaining. But Allen nailed a 3-pointer on a broken play at the shot-clock buzzer to give Boston an 89-81 lead with 2:18 left. Aldridge's jumper with 1:30 remaining brought Portland within 89-84.

Allen's 16-foot jumper with 1:14 left gave Boston a 91-84 lead. Jack's 3-point play with 56.9 seconds left kept Portland alive, 91-87. But Allen's 3-pointer with 49.3 seconds left gave Boston a 94-87 lead and sealed the game.

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