Tatum scores 30 to help Celtics power past Blazers 115-93
BOSTON (AP) — Jayson Tatum scored 30 points and made six 3-pointers, and the Boston Celtics beat the Portland Trail Blazers 115-93 to snap a three-game losing streak Wednesday night.
Tatum’s 36th game this season with 30 or more points helped the Celtics avoid their first four-game losing streak. Derrick White added 21 points and five assists. Al Horford finished with 17 points, six rebounds and five assists.
The Celtics played without big man Robert Williams for the third straight game as he recovers from a strained left hamstring. But they got back Tatum and Horford, who sat out Monday’s overtime loss at Cleveland nursing a sore knee and back, respectively.
Both were active during an 18-7 second quarter run that gave Boston a 53-35 cushion. The lead grew to 23 points (94-72) at the end of the third and as high as 27 the fourth.
“Just getting out of that losing streak is good for our group,” Horford said. “I guess you could say it’s a breath of fresh air.”
Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said playing the brand of basketball that had his team at the top of the Eastern Conference standings heading into the All-Star break will be a focus heading down the stretch.
“I think that’s always the goal, no matter how many games are left.,” Mazzulla said. “The great teams stay the best version of themselves the longest. And when you don’t, you have to quickly get back to who you are.”
Damian Lillard scored 27 points and had eight assists to lead the Blazers, who dropped to 14-20 on the road. Jerami Grant added 13 points.
Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic returned after a 14-game absence with a left calf strain. He’d been sidelined since Feb. 1. He started and had five points and six rebounds in 17 minutes.
Portland is 2-2 during its current six-game road trip.
“I don’t think we played great at all,” Blazers coach Chauncey Billups said. “We weren’t committed to playing the right way the entire night. We’ve had a tendency to when things aren’t going well to just kind of throw it to Dame and watch him play. That doesn’t work against good teams.”
The Blazers began the night 12th in the Western Conference standings, but very much in contention to make the play-in tournament. They had the same record as the Thunder (11th) and Pelicans (10th), and were just one game behind the ninth-place Lakers.
WILLIAMS MAKING TRIP
Williams will travel with Boston to begin its six-game road trip Saturday at Atlanta. Mazzulla said the hope is Williams will be able to return in the original 7 to 10 days that was projected after he was injured during the Celtics’ win over Brooklyn on March 3.
Celtics forward Grant Williams said before the game he isn’t worried about any lingering effects after he missed a pair of potential go-ahead free throws in Boston’s overtime loss at Cleveland on Monday.
Before the shots, Williams was captured on camera jawing with Cavs All-Star Donovan Mitchell, telling him, “I’m going to make both of them.”
“I felt like I was super locked in and focused, even the confidence of saying you’ll make them both,” Williams told reporters. “It’s funny because when you say that and miss both, it’s even funnier.”
Williams had eight points, but missed his lone free-throw attempt.
Trail Blazers: Were outscored 25-17 in the second quarter, shooting 4 of 17 from the field (24%). … Lillard started the game hitting a pair of 3-pointers. He finished the first period by missing four of his final six shots.
Celtics: Payton Pritchard sat with left heel pain. … Horford knocked down two 3s in the first quarter to move past Isaiah Thomas (460) for ninth place on the franchise’s all-time list. With a layup in the first quarter, Marcus Smart became the 25th player in team history to score 6,000 points. … Started the game 9 of 15 from 3 before missing 12 straight to end the first half. … Celtics led 35-28 at the end of the first, shooting 58% (11 of 19).
Trail Blazers: At 76ers on Friday.
Celtics: At Atlanta on Saturday.
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