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Win in Portland shows Celtics’ true grit as Marcus Smart and Gerald Green spark rally 02.10.17 at 1:21 am ET
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Feb 9, 2017; Portland, OR, USA; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) shoots over Portland Trail Blazers center Mason Plumlee (24) in the second half at Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Isaiah Thomas (4) shoots over Portland Trail Blazers center Mason Plumlee (24) in the second half at Moda Center. (Jaime Valdez/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics had one of their toughest and most satisfying wins of the season Thursday in Portland. 

Trailing by 17 points with under three minutes left in the second quarter, the Celtics went on a 23-4 run to get back in the game, and then held off a rally by the Blazers late in a 120-111 win at the Moda Center in Portland. 

Gerald Green hit a three with 11:25 left in the fourth quarter to give the Celtics the lead for good. Boston improves to 34-19 while Portland falls to 23-31. 

With Avery Bradley (Achilles) and Jae Crowder (family illness) unavailable, Marcus Smart and Gerald Green stepped up while Isaiah Thomas was his standard unstoppable self, scoring a game-high 34 points. 

Smart had 18 points, six rebounds, five assists and five steals while Gerald Green was 5-of-6 off the bench with 11 points, including a spectacular put-back dunk with 7:06 left in the game that put Boston up, 94-91.

“That’s a heck of a win, considering we didn’t have Avery and Jae out there. That was a hard-nosed, tough win. Down big but stuck with it. End of the first half was outstanding,” head coach Brad Stevens told reporters afterward. 

Rookie Jaylen Brown also played a critical role in the win. He scored 14 points in the starting lineup, helping the Celtics avenge the 127-123 overtime loss to Portland on Jan. 21 at TD Garden. 

As for Smart?

“He was terrific. Marcus was good, he was really good,” Stevens said. “We were guarding at a much-better rate.”

The Celtics cut the 17-point hole down to six before half and continued their spurt to open the third quarter. Thomas was again remarkable in the fourth quarter, scoring 14 of the team’s 43 points in the final 12 minutes as the Celtics outscored the Blazers, 43-35. The 43 points was a season-high for the Celtics in any quarter. 

The Trail Blazers big took early advantage of the soft middle. 

One night after coming up empty late against a Kings team without DeMarcus Cousins and watching their seven-game win streak end, the Celtics again looked a step slow against one of the best tandem guards – Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum  – in the league. Lillard finished with 28 while McCollum had 20. 

McCollum made a sick hesitation dribble on Kelly Olynyk with 34 seconds left in the first quarter. He drove to the basket and drew the foul. 

Then McCollum, on the next Blazers possession, made a spectacular pass across the lane to Al-Farouq Aminu, who was fouled. He made both free throws and the Blazers led, 32-22, after 12 minutes. 

It was Aminu, who finished with 26 points, who had the great bounce pass midway through the second quarter, finding Lillard to grow the Blazers’ lead to 43-28. 

Former Celtics sixth man stud Evan Turner missed the game as he’s out 5-6 weeks with a broken bone in his right hand. 

For a full recap and box score of Thursday’s win over the Blazers, click here

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Smart, NBA
Jaylen Brown (21 points), Abdel Nader (16 pts) not enough as Celtics drop summer finale to Blazers 07.15.16 at 8:56 pm ET
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The Celtics concluded their summer league play on a down note Friday night in Las Vegas, falling to the Trail Blazers, 80-75, at Cox Pavilion. 

Rookie Jaylen Brown had a team-high 21 points for the Celtics but made just 7-of-21 shots from the field. Brown had a highlight-reel caliber dunk in the first half and again showed the ability to get to the rim with authority, something he’s been flashing this week with the Celtics. 

Brown struggled again from 3-point range, making just 1-of-7 from beyond the arc. He was just 5-for-22 from long range in six summer league games.

Iowa State product Abel Nader continued his impressive week. The Celtics’ final pick (No. 58 overall) added 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting from the field. 

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Read More: 2016 Summer League, abdel nader, Boston Celtics, Jaylen Brown
Isaiah Thomas changes shoes at half, sparks ‘one of funnest games’ in his career 04.02.16 at 3:12 am ET
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Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas shoots the basketball against Golden State Warriors center Andrew Bogut (12) and forward Draymond Green (23) during the second quarter at Oracle Arena. (Kyle Terada/USA Today Sports)

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas shoots the basketball against Golden State Warriors center Andrew Bogut (12) and forward Draymond Green (23) during the second quarter at Oracle Arena. (Kyle Terada/USA Today Sports)

When things weren”t going well Friday night in Oakland, Isaiah Thomas didn’t look at his hands. He looked at his feet. 

After going 0-for-7 from the floor with five assists in the first half, Thomas decided to not take things into his own hands, he decided to change his shoes.

“I switched my shoes,” Thomas told ESPN’s J.A. Adande on the court after the Celtics stunned the NBA world with a 109-106 win over the 68-win Warriors at Oracle Arena. “Them other shoes didn’t have any buckets in them. I always know the All-Star Kobes will give me some type of buckets.” 

Of course, the irony there is that Thomas and the Celtics finish the road trip Sunday night in Los Angeles against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers. 

With a new pair of shoes on his feet, he went out and torched the Warriors for 18 points in the third quarter and finished with a team-leading 22 points, giving him 15 straight games with at least 20 points, one shy of Paul Pierce’s mark in 2005-06 and extending his franchise record to 15 games as the team’s leading scorer. 

“This says a lot about this team,” Thomas told reporters after the game. “Hopefully, it gives us some confidence to end the season off the right way and play at a high level.”

The Celtics took the best shot from the Warriors down the stretch, leading by 10 points with six minutes left only to see the Warriors make a predictable run in the final two minutes. 

“That was one of the funnest games I’ve been a part of just because every time they hit us with something, we hit them right back,” Thomas said. “Usually, teams don’t do that. That’s when they usually go on their run. 

“For me, personally, I stayed aggressive, stayed the course. My teammates kept confidence in me and wanted me to be in attack mode. And then things started to open up. Different guys, every guy down the line, made a key play in this win.”

Perhaps most satisfying is how Thomas and the Celtics put Thursday’s 116-109 loss in Portland behind them. 

“Man, it was tough [Thursday] night. We gave ourselves a chance to win,” Thomas said of the loss against Portland. “We felt like we should’ve won. We end up losing. And then knowing that we had to play the defending champs, it wasn’t getting any easier. It says a lot about this team and knowing that we can turn the page as quick as needed.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Isaiah Thomas, Portland Trail Blazers,
Avery Bradley, Celtics look forward to challenge of 68-7 Warriors: ‘That’s what I play basketball for’ 04.01.16 at 2:08 am ET
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Warriors guard Stephen Curry shoots over Celtics guard Avery Bradley during the first half at TD Garden. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Warriors guard Stephen Curry shoots over Celtics guard Avery Bradley during the first half of their game at TD Garden in December. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Even though they suffered an emotionally draining loss in Portland, the Celtics say they’re ready for the biggest challenge of the season Friday night in Oakland.

The 43-32 Celtics will be going up against the 68-7 Warriors, who are in the midst of an NBA-record 54-game home winning streak, including a perfect 36-0 this season.

“It’s fun. That’s what I play basketball for every single night — to go up against the best players,” Avery Bradley said after Thursday’s 116-109 loss in Portland.

The last time the Celtics and Warriors met, Golden State was on another amazing streak. Heading into their Dec. 11 meeting at TD Garden, the Warriors had won 23 straight to open the season. They extended the streak to 24 but barely, outlasting the Celtics, 124-119, in double overtime. Steph Curry scored 38 points while Draymond Green added 24 as the Warriors improved to 24-0.

That streak ended the next night in Milwaukee but the Celtics made their case that they were legit this season. 

Now, Isaiah Thomas takes one look at the Eastern Conference standings and sees more urgency. Thursday’s loss dropped Boston to sixth place, a game behind the Heat and the Hornets in the loss column.

“We’ve got to win,” Thomas said.

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Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Golden State Warriors, Isaiah Thomas
Studs and Duds: Blazers spoil return of Jae Crowder, Celtics fall to 6th in East at 12:52 am ET
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Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas shoots the ball in front of Portland Trail Blazers forward Al-Farouq Aminu during the first quarter at the Moda Center at the Rose Quarter. (Steve Dykes/USA Today Sports)

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas shoots the ball in front of Trail Blazers forward Al-Farouq Aminu during the first quarter at the Moda Center at the Rose Quarter. (Steve Dykes/USA Today Sports)

Not exactly the way the Celtics wanted to head into Golden State.

Al-Farouq Aminu scored a career-high 28 points and single-handedly spoiled the return of Jae Crowder Thursday night as the Blazers outlasted the Celtics, 116-109, Thursday night at the Moda Center.

Crowder made a big impact with a double-double, scoring 13 points and hauling in 10 rebounds, in his first game back from a high ankle sprain. With 22 points, Isaiah Thomas set a new franchise record with his 14th straight game as the team’s leading scorer. It was also his 14th straight game with at least 20 points, two games shy of Paul Pierce’s streak in the 2005-06 season.

“It felt good. He showed signs of what he does,” Thomas said of Crowder afterward. “It probably will take a couple of games for him to get back to his full strength. Just glad to have him back in a routine. It just sucks we couldn’t get the win for him.” 

It was a costly loss for the Celtics (43-32) as they fell to sixth in the East, a half-game behind the Heat and Hornets.

Thanks to 50 percent shooting from the field in the first quarter, the Celtics raced out to a 12-4 lead. Portland didn’t score in the game’s first two minutes. 

The first quarter featured the first action from Crowder since suffering a high ankle sprain March 11 against the Rockets. In the opening 60 seconds, he showed no ill effects, grabbing a rebound on the first Blazers possession of the game. On the next possession, Crowder collected a steal and dished an assist on an Isaiah Thomas 3-pointer. 

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, NBA
Jae Crowder says he will ‘push [right ankle] to the limit’ in effort to return Thursday 03.30.16 at 6:31 pm ET
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Celtics forward Jae Crowder drives to the hoop against Rockets guard James Harden before his injury March 11. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

Celtics forward Jae Crowder drives to the hoop against Rockets guard James Harden before his injury March 11. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics may have their most versatile player back in uniform when they take on the Trail Blazers Thursday night at the Moda Center. 

Jae Crowder returned to full team practice on Wednesday at the University of Portland for the first time since suffering a high ankle sprain in the second half of their March 11 loss to the Rockets at TD Garden.
 
The team will see how he reacts Thursday and assess his availability Thursday morning. 
 
“Today I’m going to push it to the limit,” Crowder told reporters Wednesday before practice. 

“I’m hopeful that we can get back to playing the way that we were playing when we’d been all healthy earlier this year,” coach Brad Stevens told reporters before practice. 

Crowder started Boston’s first 66 games before missing the last eight with the right ankle injury. The team has played .500 ball (4-4) in those games. Crowder’s value came not just in his 15.4 points per game but consistently drawing the opposing team’s best scorer as well as providing a legitimate second scoring option behind Isaiah Thomas. In losses to teams like Oklahoma City, Toronto and the Clippers on Monday, his absence was dramatically felt.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Jae Crowder, NBA
Brad Stevens sees a lot of his team in surprising Blazers 03.02.16 at 6:48 pm ET
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Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum (3) and guard Damian Lillard (0) and guard Tim Frazier (10) talk after a game against the Los Angeles Lakers at the Moda Center at the Rose Quarter. (Troy Wayrynen/USA Today Sports)

Trail Blazers guards (from left) C.J. McCollum, Damian Lillard and Tim Frazier talk after a game against the Lakers. (Troy Wayrynen/USA Today Sports)

When LaMarcus Aldridge left for the Spurs before this season after nine strong seasons in Portland, many thought the Trail Blazers might be going through a bit of a rebuilding phase.

And when they started this season 23-26, even with the great efforts of Damian Lillard, those predictions seemed to be pretty much spot on. The Blazers were a good young team with lots of growing to do. But a funny thing happened, they got good almost overnight.

They’ve won 10 of 12 heading into Wednesday’s game and players like Al-Farouq Aminu, Noah Vonleh and Mason Plumlee have picked up the slack for Aldridge and complemented the likes of C.J. McCollum and Lillard quite nicely. At 24.9 years, they have the fifth-youngest roster in the NBA. Only Boston, Utah, Philadelphia and Milwaukee are younger.

And now, like the Celtics did last year at this time, they are starting to step up their game in time to make a serious playoff push.

“It’s not that big of a surprise,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said before Wednesday’s game. “They’ve already got a guy in Lillard that is very accomplished at a young age in this league and a guy in McCollum that didn’t average a ton [of points] but sure put a lot of fear into people when he played. It’s not a shock what he’s doing. And what they’ve surrounded them are guys that are really athletic and all have a chip on their shoulder. Kind of sounds like a familiar tale to some of the things we’re dealing with here.

“Our guys work really hard. They’re young, they’re hungry to prove, and for whatever reason, some of them have been other places where it didn’t work quite as well or fit quite as well. And you see the same thing in Portland and all those guys are playing at their best level and that’s what has to happen when teams are going to maximize themselves. Coach Stotts and his staff have done a great job.”

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