Damian Lillard turned Sunday’s game around for the Blazers.
Early in the first half of Sunday’s game between the Boston Celtics and Portland Trail Blazers, Jayson Tatum’s welcome return to form was the big story. The Celtics wing, after scoring just five points on 2-of-18 shooting in his first seeding game, came out on fire against Rip City, torching the Blazers for 21 first-half points.
As the Celtics’ built up a seemingly insurmountable lead that stretched as high as 24 points, it felt like a game that might be over halfway through the third quarter. Fortunately for Portland, Damian Lillard wasn’t quite ready to let his team die just yet.
While the Blazers ultimately came up short in a 128-124 loss, Dame’s incredible second half led to one of the most exciting NBA games within the bubble thus far. His incredible shot-making helped Portland turn a 24-point deficit into a four-point fourth-quarter lead at one point, and because of it, basketball fans were treated to an incredible (and then anticlimactic) finish.
Damian Lillard turned a blowout loss into a comeback that just fell short.
Tatum and Jaylen Brown’s 3-point prowess was ultimately too much for Rip City to overcome, but it wasn’t for lack of effort from Lillard, Jusuf Nurkic and Gary Trent Jr. After only recording eight points (0-for-3 from downtown) and six assists in the first half, Dame exploded for 22 points (5-for-11 shooting from 3) and 10 assists in the second half, finishing his night with 30 points and a career-high tying 16 assists.
Nurkic chipped in an impressive 30 points, nine rebounds and five assists while Trent came alive late to finish with 21 points off the bench on 7-of-11 shooting from deep . Tatum ended his night with 34 points and eight assists, while Brown had 30 points on 6-of-8 shooting from beyond the arc.
Dropping in 11 third-quarter points, Lillard went ballistic to start the fourth, scoring 11 of his team’s first 19 points in the period and scoring or assisting on all but three of those points. The Blazers built up a 105-101 advantage, but Brown, Tatum and Gordon Hayward took over for the Celtics from there, teaming up for all 27 of Boston’s points to close out the game.
Portland had a chance to tie the game with three seconds left, but Nurkic’s errant inbounds pass sailed out of bounds untouched, giving Boston the ball and ultimately the victory in anticlimactic fashion. Still, even if the Blazers came up short, Lillard’s red-hot second half turned a blowout into one of the best games of the day.