Celtics news: Brad Stevens on Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum
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Brad Stevens gives ultimate praise to Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum after Celtics’ narrow win

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The Boston Celtics narrowly defeated the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday, and although Boston came away with the win, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens was effusive in his praise for Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, saying it is a “joke” how good Portland’s backcourt players are.

Boston cruised to an early lead, taking a 19-point advantage into the break. But the Blazers stormed back into the contest. Portland outscored the Celtics by 11 in the third quarter, and the Blazers opened the final period on a 12-4 run to tie the game.

Blazers point guard Damian Lillard took over at the start of the fourth, drilling a trio of three-pointers, including one from 30 feet. Fellow Portland guard C.J. McCollum had a slow start to the contest, but he also began to heat up in the fourth quarter and scored nine points in the period.

Lillard finished the game with 30 points and tied his career-high with 16 assists on the afternoon, though he struggled to shoot from beyond the arc, making just 5 of 14 attempts.

McCollum also had an off shooting night (7-for-17), though he added eight rebounds and four assists.

Regardless of their respective performances, however, Lillard and McCollum showed tremendous fight. Stevens acknowledged as much in his postgame comments after the Celtics’ close victory.

In fact, both Lillard and McCollum pose tough challenges for Stevens and his Celtics, who pride themselves on terrific team defense.

Boston had to make adjustments numerous times throughout the game, including meeting Lillard at the timeline as soon as he crossed the half-court mark.

Dame and C.J. gave the Celtics a run for their money on Sunday, and perhaps Boston will be better for it going forward.