on January 1, 2009 by in Uncategorized, Comments (0)

Blazers battle past slumping Celtics

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – The road-weary Boston Celtics lost for the third time in four games when the Portland Trail Blazers scored a 91-86 upset victory over the defending NBA champions on Tuesday.

Steve Blake scored 21 points and LaMarcus Aldridge added 20 for the Trail Blazers, who shot 45 percent and frustrated the Celtics for most of the game with their smothering defense.

Boston (28-5) started the season 27-2 but lost two straight at the start of its four-game western swing. The Celtics crushed Sacramento 108-63 on Sunday but ended the trip with another loss as Portland improved to 12-3 at home.

Aldrige was quick to downplay any significance of the upset win.

“It doesn’t mean anything,” Aldridge told reporters. “We’re just trying to get better.

“Everybody played with confidence and played well tonight, that’s all it was. We played really good defense.”

The Trail Blazers needed a team effort as they were playing without All-Star guard Brandon Roy. The win snapped Portland’s seven-game losing streak to Boston and pulled them into a tie for the Northwest Division lead with Denver.

“We had to step it up a notch,” Blake said. “But if you’re going to win a championship, you’re going to have to step it up.

“We have a lot of talented guys that come to play each night and tonight wasn’t any different.”

Travis Outlaw had 17 points for the Trail Blazers, who trailed 45-40 at halftime. Greg Oden added 13 points and 11 rebounds despite injuring his ankle in practice Monday.

Paul Pierce led the Celtics with 28 points while Kevin Garnett had 17 points and eight rebounds. Boston made just 3-of-14 three-point attempts and was out-rebounded 44-29.

“Down the stretch we just made bad plays,” said Ray Allen, who scored 12 points in a losing cause for the Celtics.

“That’s been the theme of the last three games we’ve lost.”

Despite the loss, the Celtics still lead the Atlantic Division by 12 games over the New Jersey Nets and the Conference standings by one game over the Cleveland Cavaliers, who lost 104-95 to Miami.

(Writing by Roger Lajoie in Toronto; Editing by John O’Brien)