PORTLAND, Ore. -- Finally. The Celtics ' five-game, seven-day trip ended with a sigh of relief and a n 89-81 victory over the Trail Blazers last night at the Rose Garden. With the win, Boston snapped a six-game losing streak, earned its first win without Paul Pierce , and avoided the ignominy of being shut out on a trip west for the first time in almost three years. The last time Boston went winless on an extended tour of the Western Conference was February 2004. This time, Boston finished its trip 1-4.
"I felt as a team we are starting to adjust to playing without Paul, though it's not anything you want to get used to," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "You could see them getting it. It was a big win for us psychologically, just coming back and not losing all the West Coast games. I thought our guys executed the game plan and stayed with it."
With solid defense during the second half (Portland shot 33 percent), Boston surged ahead for good in the fourth quarter. After Martell Webster tied the score, 70-70 , with a 3-pointer early in the final period, the Trail Blazers' offense started to stall in large part because of the Celtics ' defensive effort. Even though the Celtics committed three straight turnovers after Kendrick Perkins mildly sprained his right ankle and Sebastian Telfair pushed the visitors ahead by a basket, the Trail Blazers couldn't capitalize. As a result, Boston staged an 11-2 run that stretched its lead to 81-72 with 4:06 remaining . Tony Allen (game-high 22 points, 8 rebounds) capped the run with a 3-pointer from the right corner.
The Trail Blazers finally started moving in the right direction with a pair of free throws by Brandon Roy. Portland pulled to 83-79 when Webster hit a 3-pointer with 1:26 remaining.
After a Portland defensive stop, Zach Randolph (9 points, 10 rebounds) had a chance to make it a one-possession game, but he made a bad pass. Wally Szczerbiak scooped up the ball and dunked at the other end, virtually assuring Boston of victory.
Rivers complimented Ryan Gomes (18 pounds, 10 rebounds) for how well he denied Randolph the ball and trapping the Portland power forward on the catch, calling the effort "phenomenal." While maybe not phenomenal, Al Jefferson had another strong game with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
"As a team, we're getting better," said Jefferson. "Doc saw it before we could see it. Now, we see it. We're learning to play together and share the ball and [last night] it all came together for us."
Unlike most recent games, the Celtics made it through the first quarter without falling into a big hole. The Celtics did one better in the second quarter. By making sure an 8-point, second-quarter lead by Portland did not turn into something bigger, Boston entered halftime tied , 44-44. In the final contest of a five-game, seven-day road trip -- and in the second of back-to-back games -- with every player either less than fully healthy or fatigued from more minutes than usual, it was quite an accomplishment. It was a sign of how much the Celtics wanted to end the trip on a positive note.
For all the problems that have beset the Celtics during their travels, give them credit for showing resiliency. They have not pointed fingers or complained or made excuses. Rivers cannot say enough how much he appreciates the effort and business like attitude displayed by his players under difficult circumstances.
But effort and attitude do not automatically translate into better play. The Celtics entered halftime even, but they also continued to struggle defensively and play a game that was generally sloppy and undisciplined. It helped that the Trail Blazers are just another struggling team.
On a couple of occasions in the second quarter, Portland tried to separate itself from Boston, posting 8-point leads after a pair of quick 4-0 spurts. One run opened the quarter and another came midway though the quarter. But each time, the Celtics responded quickly and made sure the deficit never approached double digits.