Celtics start fast, rout Trail Blazers 145-117
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Jayson Tatum and Dennis Schroder scored 31 points apiece and the Boston Celtics rode a sizzling start to a 145-117 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday night.
Enes Freedom grabbed 15 rebounds off the bench for the Celtics, who made 14 of their first 15 shots and built a 21-point, first-half lead.
Coach Ime Udoka believes Tatum’s recent success has been the product of attacking the basket. Tatum scored 37 on Friday night against Utah as well.
“He’s had some success driving to the basket and getting to the free throw line,” Udoka said. “That’s been encouraging him to drive more and not settle as much. With some of their guys out, we felt we could attack some mismatches and get to the basket without a ton of rim protection and he did that very well.”
CJ McCollum scored 24 points for the Trail Blazers.
Portland chipped away behind its bench before Boston took a 64-58 lead into halftime.
“I’ve never seen a team that needs its bench to inspire its starters,” Portland coach Chauncey Billups said. “It should be the other way around.”
Boston took control in the second half with a good start to the third quarter. The Celtics pushed their lead to as high as 26 before Portland pulled its starters with 5:51 remaining.
The Celtics continued to pour it on. Former Oregon star Payton Prichard scored 16 points in the final six minutes, sending the Celtics bench into a frenzy. The bench was called for a taunting technical for celebrating Prichard’s 3-pointer to put Boston up 145-114.
“You want to see him do well,” Udoka said. “The crowd was very supportive of a hometown hero but it got a little out of hand with our guys getting overzealous and getting a technical. I did apologize to Chauncey at the end for that. I didn’t mean for it to get out of hand like that. You’re happy for him, but there’s a line not to cross there.”
Boston’s 145 points were the most ever scored in regulation by a visiting team in Blazers history.
Saturday night’s game was Portland’s first following the firing of President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey. With Joe Cronin assuming the role of interim general manager, Billups expressed his respect for Cronin’s new position and excitement about working together.
“I’m very much looking forward to building with Joe,” Billups said. “In all honesty right now, Joe is the man. I’m not overlooking that, I don’t think anybody should. He’s been in the game for a long time, he’s well thought of by many people and I think Joe is as qualified as most people. He’s very good. It’s easy to jump over that and look for the next move. But right now, Joe is the next move.”
FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING
Udoka was in his hometown for the first time as an NBA head coach, something he wasn’t taking for granted.
“There’s a first for everything, as I mentioned. But this one obviously means more coming home,” Udoka said. “A ton of family and friends here and the first time in this capacity, so obviously it means a lot. For me, it’s great to come back and see family and friends briefly, but it’s also time to handle business.”
Udoka visited Jefferson High School before the game.
Celtics: Romeo Langford missed the game with a right ankle sprain. … Jaylen Brown remains out with hamstring tightness and Udoka said he won’t return until he’s “100 percent, not 85 or 90”… Al Horford sat out with a stiff lower back. Grant Williams started in his place.
Trail Blazers: Anfernee Simons (right ankle sprain), Damian Lillard (abdomen) and Nassir Little (left ankle sprain) all missed Saturday’s game.
Celtics: At the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night.
Trail Blazers: Host the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday night.