Believe it or not, Monday night's matchup at the Staples Center was a matchup of two of the hotter teams in the Western Conference. With that in mind, it was the most consistent star who stepped up to lead his team, as Damian Lillard scored 19 of his 39 points in the fourth quarter to lift the Portland Trail Blazers over the Los Angeles Lakers, 108-103. Lillard shot 12-of-25 from the floor and added six assists for Portland, who has now won 15 straight over the Lakers. Overall, their win streak is at seven games, as they have also won nine of their last 10 games to jump up to the third seed in the Western Conference. C.J. McCollum added 22 points, while Jusuf Nurkic added 16 points and 16 rebounds on the night. Part of Lillard's amazing final 12 minutes saw him score 15 straight points after his team trailed by 11 with 5:26 to play. He gave his team the lead for good by going 1-for-2 at the free throw line with 1:08 remaining. The loss snapped the Lakers' five-game win streak, despite them getting 21 points and nine rebounds from Julius Randle. Isaiah Thomas added 19 points and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope finished with 16 in the loss. Thomas had a chance to tie it late, but turned the ball over, ending the Lakers' hopes. They will be back at it on Wednesday when they play host to the Orlando Magic. The Blazers look to stay hot when they return home on Wednesday to take on the New York Knicks.
Celtics Crush Bulls Without Irving
Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens joked before Monday's game that Kyrie Irving's failed attempt to intentionally miss a free throw during Saturday's loss at Houston was the reason for his benching in Chicago. The real reason is knee soreness for the Celtics' star, but Boston still cruised on the road without him. Jaylen Brown stepped up and scored 21 points to power the Celtics pass the lowly Chicago Bulls, 105-89. Brown was an efficient 9-of-13 from the field at the United Center, as the Celtics led by as many as 37 en route to their fifth win in six games. Other contributors included Jayson Tatum's 14 points, while Al Horford and Terry Rozier added 13 points apiece. This avenged a blowout loss in Chicago earlier this season, a game that Irving also sat out due to a bruised quadriceps. Denzel Valentine led the Bulls with 20 points and four three-pointers, but his team fell for the 14th time in the past 17 games. Zach LaVine was understandably frustrated after the game, saying his team was "terrible all around" and that "there is no excuse for what we did out there." They will hope to find some type of groove on their home floor Wednesday night against the Memphis Grizzlies. The Celtics hope to have Irving back when they head to Minnesota to battle the Timberwolves on Thursday.
Gonzaga Advances, Saint Mary's Falls in WCC Tourney
The West Coast Conference Tournament features two teams that are expected to do big things within the tournament bracket. One of those teams followed through with that expectation, the other, not so much. First, sixth-ranked Gonzaga got 26 points from Killian Tillie on 10-of-11 shooting in their 88-60 rout of San Francisco in the conference semi-finals on Monday. The Bulldogs shot 53 percent on the night after putting up a 61 percent mark in their quarterfinals matchup with Loyola Marymount. Tillie stayed hot from beyond the arc by going 5-for-5 from three-point range on the night, and has made all 10 three-point attempts in the tournament. Gonzaga is now one step close to their sixth straight WCC Tournament Championship, as they are entering their 21st straight conference tournament final. Meanwhile, 20th-ranked Saint Mary's was expected to match up with the Bulldogs, but fell to BYU in Monday's semi-finals, 85-72. Yoeli Childs went off for a career-high 33 points, as BYU shot an impressive 61 percent in the upset win. That made it so that the Gaels making half of their shots was not enough on this night. Childs was 13-of-18 from the floor, hit all three of his three-point attempts, and added six rebounds, Elijah Bryant led the Gaels with 25 points, going 8-for-13 from the floor and a perfect 8-for-8 at the free throw line. The Cougars are now entering their first tournament final in three years, as they look for their first WCC Title on Tuesday night.