Lillard has 33, Blazers hand Celtics 4th straight loss
By DOUG ALDEN
BOSTON (AP) The Portland Trail Blazers have come to the other side of the country and beat up some of the Eastern Conference's best teams.
Of course, at the moment, it's not clear where in that hierarchy the Boston Celtics belong.
The Trail Blazers beat Boston 97-92 on Wednesday night for the Celtics' fourth straight loss. It was the fifth consecutive win overall for Portland, and the fourth during a five-game swing that has also included victories over playoff hopefuls Philadelphia and Brooklyn.
Damian Lillard scored 33 points, Maurice Harkless had 17 points and 10 rebounds, and Portland improved to 18-4 against the East this season.
"We're playing together offensively. Defensively, we've been sharp," Lillard said. "We're getting it from everybody on both ends of the floor and just being consistent. When you get that type of consistent effort from multiple guys - everybody in the rotation - this is what it looks like."
Jusef Nurkic scored 16 points, and CJ McCollum finished with 14 points for the Blazers.
"There's a lot to like about that game," coach Terry Stotts said.
The struggling Celtics are winless since the All-Star break. Kyrie Irving scored 31 points to lead Boston, which was coming off a 118-95 rout at Toronto and didn't lead after the first quarter Wednesday.
While Boston played better, the Celtics' recent struggles continued.
"It just wasn't enough," Irving said. "We know what we're capable of. When we don't play to that level, we know it. There's no sugar coating it."
Boston coach Brad Stevens said the Celtics seemed to be pressing for a better performance than the previous night. Boston is fifth in the conference, well behind East-leading Milwaukee.
"I think we were disappointed in ourselves and we looked like a team that really wanted tonight to go well. And it didn't," Stevens said. "You're going to have games like that and so, (I'm) a lot more encouraged tonight than I was last night."
Irving gave Boston a chance with a 3-pointer with 28 seconds left, cutting Portland's lead to 95-92, but the Celtics were forced to foul, and Lillard sealed it with two free throws with 12 seconds left.
Lillard also pulled down seven rebounds, and Portland outrebounded the Celtics 48-41.
Lillard credited Harkless for helping keep the Celtics from establishing much inside and hustling throughout the night.
Harkless made 8 of 15 shots, had three steals and committed just one foul and one turnover.
"He was a monster," Lillard said.
Portland's Enes Kanter will not travel with the team for its game at Toronto on Friday, remaining in the United States because of visa concerns. A native of Turkey and outspoken critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Kanter's Turkish passport was revoked in 2017. Kanter did not travel for a game in London when he was still a member of the New York Knicks last month.
Kanter, who scored eight points Wednesday, said it was especially disappointing that he couldn't be with his new team when they take on the top team in the East.
"The Toronto game is one of our, you know, most important games," Kanter said. "So that's why it's just, just because of one dictator I can't even go out there and do my job. It's pretty sad."
Stotts said Kanter will rejoin the Blazers for Sunday's game at Charlotte.
Trail Blazers: F Evan Turner (left knee) missed his third game in a row. ... Portland led 43-42 at halftime despite shooting 35.6 percent (16 for 45) in the first half. ... The Blazers received an apology Wednesday from Boston's Emerson College, where members of the team were stuck on an elevator for about half an hour Tuesday while holding a practice at the school.
Celtics: G Terry Rozier was out with a sore knee tendon he aggravated Tuesday night at Toronto. ... C Aron Baynes (foot contusion) missed his 10th straight game. ... Irving, who scored just seven points Tuesday night in a rout at Toronto, scored 11 in the first quarter Wednesday.
Trail Blazers: Visit Toronto on Friday.
Celtics: Host Washington on Friday.
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Updated February 28, 2019