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Ray Allen led the way for visiting Boston as the Celtics led most of the way in an 88-78 victory over the Blazers in Portland.
Allen was the top scorer for Boston with 18, including 3-of-6 from three point range. Paul Pierce had 17, and Rajon Rondo added 11.
Semih Erden saw lots of court time with both Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal out with injury, and Kendrick Perkins still limited after only his second game back from an injury of his own. LaMarcus Aldridge was the star for Portland with 15 points and 15 rebounds, but Kevin Garnett provided stingy defense and made him work for every shot. Many of his early shots went contested and it took Aldredge a while to get hot.
The Celtics shot almost 70% from the free throw line and were rewarded with 33 trips to the stripe. Portland, by contrast, only shot 13 free throws the entire game.
The Celtics reserves had some success in the fourth quarter as Von Wafer saw his first minutes. After a speedy coast-to-coast lay-in, Wafer again found himself with the ball on the following possession and nearly spun out of control before dishing to Rondo who deferred to Erden who was fouled. TNT announcer Kevin Harlan noted that it’s “all offense with Wafer,” alluding to his near-inability to look for other players.
The starters soon returned to the floor and maintained order. With 5:20 left to play, Ray Allen hit a beauty of a floater to beat the clock to extend the lead to thirteen. Allen looked to continue his roll as he picked Dante Cunningham’s pocket, but found his break-away layup swatted away by the relentless Portland forward.
Rudy Fernandez then drilled a three pointer with just under 49 seconds to play to bring the Portland crowd to their feet as the Blazers closed the gap to 82-77. They then wisely fouled Rondo, who missed the two ensuing free throws and suddenly the game took on a real sense of urgency before turning into a foul-fest, which Boston benefited from. Paul Pierce was mysteriously absent from the court in the waning minutes, off to the locker room with only 4 fouls.
Boston travels to Phoenix for a game Friday night in which Shaquille O’Neal is expected to return.