Jayson Tatum helps C’s snap three-game skid

Celtics-Trail Blazers takeaways: Tatum helps C’s snap three-game skid originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The Boston Celtics snapped their three-game skid with a much-needed win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night.

After blowing double-digit leads in all three of those losses, Boston led Portland by as many as 27 points and held on for a 115-93 victory. It was a balanced effort from the C’s as all five starters reached double-digit scoring by the midway point of the third quarter.

Jayson Tatum led the way with 30 points in his return to the Celtics’ lineup. Derrick White added 21 points, and Al Horford looked well-rested after missing Monday’s loss to Cleveland with 17 points.

Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard finished with 27 points while Jerami Grant chipped in 13.

The Celtics improve to 46-21 on the season as they embark on a six-game road trip that begins Saturday night in Atlanta. First, here are our takeaways from the bounce-back win over Portland.

Rest does Jayson Tatum wonders

Tatum sat out Monday’s game in Cleveland due to knee soreness. While the Celtics certainly could have used him in the overtime loss, he probably needed the rest.

The 24-year-old entered Wednesday night leading all NBA players with 37.5 minutes played per game. He already admitted earlier this season to dealing with lingering injuries to his wrist and fingers. Those ailments, and general wear and tear, seemed to be taking their toll on Tatum in the first few games after the All-Star break.

But against Portland, Tatum appeared to be at full strength. He notched 16 points in the first half and another 14 in the third quarter for 30 points on 11-of-17 shooting (6-of-10 from 3).

Tatum and Jaylen Brown (11 points) got to rest for the entire fourth quarter, which hasn’t happened often for them this season. The rare occurrence comes at a great time for both Celtics stars as Brown averaged 45.2 minutes during the three-game losing streak, which included three overtime periods. They’ll get two days off before taking on the Hawks in Atlanta to begin a grueling six-game road trip.

Getting defensive

The Celtics have been searching for their defensive identity since the All-Star break. Their struggles on that end of the floor proved costly during their slump, but they took a step in the right direction Wednesday night.

Lillard got off to a hot start with two straight 3-pointers but was held in check for the rest of the game. The seven-time All-Star had 27 points but 11 of them came from the free-throw line. He finished 2-for-8 from deep.

Portland, which has had one of the league’s most efficient offenses, shot just 36.6 percent from the floor including 11-for-39 (28.2 percent) on 3-pointers. That was the difference as even when the Celtics’ offense went cold, their defense wouldn’t allow the Trail Blazers to cut into their lead.

Williams did not play the first three quarters of Wednesday night’s action after missing game-winning free throws on Monday. This has been trend recently as Williams has struggled mightily, perhaps partly due to a nagging elbow injury.

C’s coach Joe Mazzulla went with Blake Griffin as the first big off the bench. Williams, Kornet, and Muscala did not see the court until the garbage time in the fourth quarter.

When Williams did finally enter the game, he drilled his first 3-point attempt. He followed that with a nice and-1 but missed the subsequent free throw.

Williams finished with eight points (3-8 FG, 2-7 3PT), five rebounds, and a steal in 12 minutes. Before his free-throw misses against Cleveland, he was 4-for-5 from long range. He seems to be regaining his confidence to shoot without hesitation, but it’s clear Mazzulla isn’t ready to give him his usual minutes just yet.

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