ISAIAH Thomas and Marcus Smart came up with some clutch hits as the Boston Celtics rallied from 17 points down and pulled away down the stretch to beat the Portland Trailblazers, 120-111, at the Moda Center on Thursday (Friday, Manila time).
Thomas led seven Celtics in double figures and took over anew in the fourth quarter with 15 of his 34 points in the final period. But Boston also got a big boost from Smart’s heady play in the closing minutes to get back on the winning track and even the season series with Portland.
Boston cut an early 17-point deficit, 51-34, down to six at the end of the first half, then took a 59-57 lead with a 23-4 run bridging the second and third quarters. Both teams then engaged in a tightly contested battle with no squad leading by more than five points until the closing stretch.
Thomas got the Celtics off to a strong fourth quarter start to lead 84-79 at the 10:26 mark but the Blazers refused to fold and cut it down to one, 99-98, midway through the period.
The Celtics only managed to get some separation in the final two minutes in extending a two-point lead to six, thanks to a pair of free throws from Jaylen Brown and a putback by Smart off an Al Horford miss. Smart then drew a charge on Lillard on the next play that led to Brown splitting his charities to push the Celtics up 111-104, with 1:12 to go.
After a CJ McCollum miss from beyond the arc, Thomas converted a dagger of a layup, putting Boston on top by 10 with exactly a minute left. The Blazers could only get as close as seven the rest of the way.
Smart finished with 18 points for the Celtics (34-19), while Brown added 14 markers. Kelly Olynyk and Al Horford scored 13 and 12, respectively, while Gerald Green and Terry Rozier added 11 apiece.
Lillard led the Blazers (23-31)with 28 points and Al-Farouq Aminu poured 26 markers off the bench. McCollum added 20 points despite missing all six of his three-point attempts.