PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Jayson Tatum’s 3-point practice showed against the Trail Blazers.
Tatum had 36 points, including a career-high eight 3-pointers, and the Boston Celtics beat Portland 118-106 on Tuesday night.
“That’s a shot I’ve been working on a lot,” Tatum said. “When those guys are coming at you at 7 feet it makes it tougher. Sometimes it goes in, sometimes they block it.”
Jaylen Brown added 24 points for the Celtics, who sit in third in the Eastern Conference behind the first-place Milwaukee Bucks and the Toronto Raptors.
Tatum had 26 points in the second half alone as the Celtics built a 19-point lead in the fourth quarter. The Blazers, playing without All-Star Damian Lillard, couldn’t keep up.
All of Tatum’s points came from the floor, as he did not go to the line once in the game.
It was the third time in four games that Tatum has scored more than 35 points, and it was his 10th 30-point game this season.
“When really good players see the ball go in a couple of times then the tough shots become a little easier,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “He’s in a good rhythm, obviously.”
Brown was more emphatic about his teammate: “Right now he’s playing unreal. He’s playing the best ball of his career.”
CJ McCollum had 28 points and 10 assists for the Trail Blazers. Hassan Whiteside added 18 points and 19 rebounds.
“We have to be better than we were tonight against teams like the Celtics to win,” McCollum said. “That was the difference. They played better than us. They’re a deep team. They made shots, they got stops, they ran on our turnovers and they played like a playoff team.”
Portland, which went to the Western Conference finals last season, is in a group behind the Grizzlies wrestling for the eighth spot.
The Blazers were without Lillard for the third straight game because of a groin injury that kept him out of the All-Star Game. Lillard has said he expected to miss up to five games.
McCollum has been standing in for Lillard at point guard. In the first two games without Lillard, McCollum had a combined 68 points, 22 assists and 15 rebounds.
The Celtics (40-17) were without guard Kemba Walker for the third straight game. Walker, averaging 21.8 points and five assists, hasn’t played since the All-Star Game because of a lingering knee injury.
The Blazers (26-33) were coming off a 107-104 victory over Detroit on Sunday, after a three-game losing streak.
The Celtics, who rebounded from a 114-112 loss at the Lakers on Sunday, had split their last four games.
The Blazers jumped out to a 17-12 lead but the Celtics caught up quickly and went ahead on Tatum’s 3-pointer. Boston led 28-24 after the first quarter, led by Marcus Smart with three 3-pointers.
The Celtics stretched the lead to as many as 11 points but Portland closed the gap to 47-44. Brown answered with a 3-pointer and Tatum dunked to extend Boston’s lead.
The Celtics went into the half ahead 56-48, led by Brown with 15 points.
Tatum’s long 3-pointer put Boston up 98-79 in the final quarter. He had another 3 that made it 111-94 with just under 3 minutes left that sent the Moda Center crowd streaming to the exits.
After the game, Tatum exchanged jerseys with Blazers forward Carmelo Anthony. Tatum said earlier that he’s looked up to Anthony.
The feeling was mutual.
“He’s a guy that’s establishing himself, as we’re all witnessing, all watching,” Anthony said. “I mean, I love his game, I love watching him play.”
Celtics: Former Blazer Enes Kanter was greeted with warm applause when he subbed in early in the game. … The Celtics lost both games against the Blazers last season. … Robert Williams, who has been out since December with a left hip bone edema, could be close to returning, but will be evaluated in Boston when the Celtics return home later this week.
Trail Blazers: Portland big man Jusuf Nurkic, who has not played this season while he recovers from a broken leg, will accompany the Blazers on their upcoming three-game road trip. Coach Terry Stotts warned not to make too much about the trip: Nurkic’s return is not imminent.
Stotts said its unclear when Lillard would return. The coach also said the team was still discussing whether Lillard would accompany the team on the upcoming road trip.
Celtics: Boston plays the second of a back-to-back at Utah on Wednesday night.
Trail Blazers: Portland visit the Indiana Pacers on Thursday.