(Photo courtesy of MassLive) “Celtics forward Al Horford battles for possession of the ball.”
In the past five games, the Celtics have gone 4-1 as they start a late-season road stretch which began and ended with wins against the Portland Trail Blazers.
On March 8th, as the Portland Trail Blazers flew into Boston, the Celtics looked to snap their three-game losing streak which knocked them out of the first seed in the East. Portland, on the other hand, looked to grab a big road win and make a push for the play-in tournament.
By the end of the first quarter, Boston took a 35-28 lead. By halftime, that lead extended to 15 as the score was 60-45.
Portland never outscored Boston in a quarter this game, and so the Celtics escaped with a much-needed bounce back win as the final score was 115-93. Small forward Jayson Tatum led all scorers with 30 points, making 11 of his 17 shot attempts. For the Trail Blazers, point guard Damian Lillard led all scorers with 27 points but only made 7 of his 16 shot attempts.
Following their dominant win against Portland, the Celtics then flew out to Atlanta to face the Hawks that Saturday on the road and began their week-long road trip.
The game started off close with the first quarter ending in a one-point favor for Atlanta, 38-37. However, Boston soon cut into that small lead in the second quarter and took a ten-point lead entering halftime, 71-61.
By the third quarter, the Celtics had extended their lead even further. Although the Hawks outscored Boston in the fourth, it would not be enough and the Celtics would escape with a convincing 134-125 victory.
Once again, Jayson Tatum led all scorers for Boston with 34 points on 12/25 shooting. He also led the team in rebounds with 15, completing the double-double. Hawks point guard Trae Young also got his own double-double as he scored 35 points on 12/27 shooting with 13 assists to go along with it.
The Celtics then took off to face the Rockets in Houston, who currently sit at the bottom of the western conference. On paper, it looked like an easy road win for Boston.
However, the game would start slowly for the Celtics; the Rockets would lead at halftime 62-55. Despite Boston cutting into the lead in the second half, the game would come down to the wire.
As time winded down and the Celtics were down one point, power forward Jabari Smith Jr. would go to the line for the Rockets with 7.8 seconds left on the clock. After missing the first free throw but draining the second, Boston would call timeout and hope to score the game-tying layup.
On the Celtics’ final possession, Tatum would receive the ball and charge into the paint. However, as time expired, he would miss the layup and Boston would lose in heartbreaking fashion, the final score 111-109.
Shooting guard Jaylen Brown led all scorers this game with a season-high 43 points for him on 16/25 shooting. Shooting guard Jalen Green would lead all scorers for the Rockets with 28 points on 8/29 shooting.
After their tough loss, the Celtics looked to bounce back against the Timberwolves in Minnesota two days later. Most of the game was close and started to get chippy as Jaylen Brown and Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert exchanged some words after Brown was elbowed by the center. As revenge, Tatum would posterize Rudy Gobert later in the game as he extended his arm out and slammed a dunk on Gobert’s head.
Despite Minnesota slowly trailing back in the fourth, Boston would stay ahead and escape with a narrow two-point win, 104-102. Jaylen Brown led the team in scoring with 35 points on 12/24 shooting. For Minnesota, shooting guard Anthony Edwards led his team in scoring with 28 points on 10/20 shooting and even completed the double-double with 10 rebounds to go along with it.
Following their win, Boston then flew out to Portland for a rematch against the Trail Blazers. Boston once again found their step early in this game and outscored the Trail Blazers for most of regulation. They left with a convincing 126-112 victory on the road.
Tatum and Lillard once again led their teams in scoring, with Tatum scoring 34 points on 8/20 shooting with 12 rebounds to complete the double-double while Lillard 41 points on 12/23 shooting.
Boston now sits second in the East at 49-22, one and a half games back from the Milwaukee Bucks. If they can continue winning and get a few lucky breaks, they may just take the number one spot in the East again.