Tatum scores 34, Celtics hold off Trail Blazers 126-112
By ANNE M. PETERSON
PORTLAND, Ore (AP) — Jayson Tatum had 34 points and 12 rebounds, and the Boston Celtics withstood a late Portland rally for a 126-112 victory over the struggling Trail Blazers on Friday night.
Jaylen Brown added 27 points for the Celtics, who have won four of their last five after a three-game losing streak. Boston sits behind NBA-leading Milwaukee in the Eastern Conference.
Damian Lillard finished with 41 points — including 25 in the fourth quarter — for the Blazers, who have lost five straight. At 13th in the West, Portland hasn’t yet been eliminated from the playoffs but time was running out with just 12 games remaining.
Boston led by as many as 21 points in the third quarter. Lillard’s 3-pointer pulled Portland within 109-96 and he hit another 3 to close the gap to 111-103.
The teams exchanged free throws before Brown dunked and Al Horford hit a 3-pointer to put Boston up 118-105 with 1:33 left and all but seal the win.
Tatum (hip) and Marcus Smart (non-COVID illness) were questionable before the game but both started for the Celtics. Malcolm Brogdon sat out with right Achilles tendon soreness.
Grant Williams’ 3-pointer put the Celtics up 42-30 in the second quarter. Boston led by as many as 16 in the half to go ahead 63-48 at the break. Tatum led all scorers with 19 points.
The Celtics extended the lead to as many as 19 points in the third quarter.
Celtics: With a steal in the opening quarter, Smart became the fourth Boston player to reach 900 career steals. ... It was fourth of a six-game road trip for the Celtics. ... The Celtics won the first of the two meetings with the Blazers 115-93 on March 8.
Trail Blazers: Starting forward Jerami Grant missed his second game with a left quad contusion. ... The Blazers were also without Nassir Little because of illness. ... Portland announced earlier in the day that forward Justise Winslow underwent a bone marrow treatment on his left ankle. He has not played since spraining his ankle in December.
Celtics: Visit the Utah Jazz on Saturday night.
Trail Blazers: Host the Clippers on Sunday night.
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