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Celtics continue their West Coast trip with a stop in Portland to take on the Trailblazers

The Celtics look to sweep the season series from the Blazers for the first time since the 2010-11 season.

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Boston Celtics (43-31) at Portland Trailblazers (39-36)
Thursday, March 31, 2016
10:00 PM ET
Regular Season Game #75, Road Game #38
TV: CSNNE, CSNNW, NBA-LP 756(DTV), 75757(Xfinity)
Radio: 98.5 Sports Hub, Rip City 620, Sirius 2
Moda Center

Referees: Ken Mauer, Derrick Collins, Josh Tiven

The Celtics West Coast road trip continues with a stop in Portland to face the Trailblazers for the second time this season. The Celtics won the first meeting in Boston 116-93. Isaiah Thomas was the high scorer in that game with 30 while Lillard added 20 for the Blazers. They finished last season tied with each winning on the road. The last time the Celtics swept the series from the Blazers was in 2010-11.

The Celtics are playing in the first of back to back games with a game against the Warriors looming on Friday night. The Celtics are 9-8 on the first night of back to back games and 3-1 when those games are road/road. Portland is 24-12 at home while the Celtics are 18-19 on the road. Winning this game may be more challenging than the last one. The Blazers have been playing very well at home, winning nine of their last 10 contests at Moda Center but winning just one of their last nine in opposing arenas.

The Celtics briefly dropped to 5th in the East 1/2 game behind Miami. With losses on Wednesday by Atlanta and Miami, the Celtics have climbed back into 4th place. They are tied with Miami and Charlotte who are in 5th and 6th respectively because the Celtics own the tie breaker over both teams.The Celtics are just 1 game behind Atlanta, who are in 3rd. Portland is 6th in the West, 2 games behind Mamphis(5) and 2 games ahead of Houston(7). Games to keep an eye on - Friday: PHI@CHA, CLE@ATL, MIA@SAC, BOS@GSW.

Jae Crowder practiced with the team on Wednesday after being out for almost 3 weeks with a high ankle sprain. He is listed as questionable for this game. According to Danny on Toucher and Rich, Jae will play if he doesn't have a setback between now and then. According to Jae, he will play if he can really compete at a level he's capable of. He won't play if he feels that he will be a liability to the team. He wants to be as close to 100 percent as possible. Putting him into the starting lineup on the thread is my way of wishful thinking. For Portland Myers Leonard (shoulder) and Chris Kaman (upper respiratory) are both out for this game.

Probable Starting Matchups
Point Guard
Isaiah Thomas vs Damian Lillard

Shooting Guard
Avery Bradley vs CJ McCollum

Small Forward

Jae Crowder vs Al-Farouq Aminu

Power Forward
Amir Johnson vs Maurice Harkless

Jared Sullinger vs Mason Plumlee

Celtics Reserves
Evan Turner
RJ Hunter
Jonas Jerebko
Terry Rozier
Tyler Zeller
Marcus Smart
Jordan Mickey
Kelly Olynyk
James Young

Head Coach
Brad Stevens


Jae Crowder (ankle) questionable

Blazers Reserves
Cliff Alexander
Pat Connaughton
Allen Crabbe
Ed Davis
Maurice Harkless
Gerald Henderson
Luis Montero
Brian Roberts
Noah Vonleh

Head Coach

Terry Stotts

Meyers Leonard (shoulder) out
Chris Kaman (upper respiratory) out

Key Matchups

Isaiah Thomas vs Damian Lillard
Isaiah will have his hands full guarding Damien Lillard who has been playing with a chip on his shoulder after being left off the Western All Star team. He is averaging 25.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 6.9 assists per game. Isaiah out-played him in their first meeting scoring 30 points to 20 for Lillard.

Avery Bradley vs CJ McCollum
While Isaiah is working to guard Lillard, Avery will have a challenge of his own trying to stay with CJ McCollum, who is averaging 20.7 points, 3.3 rebounds and 4.2 assists. The Celtics will need to play tough defense to try to control Portland's high scoring back court duo. McCollum was held to 17 points in their first meeting.

Keys to the Game
Defense - The Celtics have had their most success when they dig in and play tough team defense. They have let their defense slip somewhat recently, allowing 109.9 points in their last 10 games They must play tough in your face defense especially to keep Lillard and McCollum from having big games. The Blazers have been playing very well at home, averaging 114.4 in their last 10 games at home. The Celtics need to play tough swarming defense if they hope to get a win in this one.

Rebound - The Celtics must make an extra effort to grab rebounds in order to give themselves extra possessions as well as to keep the Blazers from cashing in with second chance points. The Blazers are 5th in the league in rebounding with 45.7 per game and 4th in second chance points and so the Celtics are going to have to work hard to beat them on the boards.

Be Aggressive - The Celtics have to be the team that works harder and wants the win more. They have to dive for loose balls, go for every rebound and just hustle on every play. They have to be aggressive in getting to the basket as well and not settle for outside shots, especially if they aren't falling. They need to outwork the Blazers who will have the crowd behind them and be rested after having a couple of days off.

Move the Ball - The Celtics have to keep the ball moving. They have just 14 assists in each of their last two games. One on one and hero ball won't get them many wins. When they average under 20 assists they are just 13-13 but when they have over 20 assists, they are 40-18. They have to move the ball to find the open man and, of course, the open man has to make his shots.

Focus - The Celtics must keep their focus and not allow the distractions on the road to keep them from playing their best. They also have to focus on taking good shots and making them. If the 3's aren't falling they need to go to the basket and score or draw fouls. They have to focus on taking good shots and making them.

Officiating Factor - The officiating is an x factor for every game. Every officiating crew calls games differently. Some call every little foul making it difficult to get any rhythm and some let the teams play. Some refs have an agenda and call the game for or against a particular team or player or to favor the home team. And there are always star calls no matter who the referees are. Regardless of how the game is called, the Celtics need to play through it and keep their focus.

Revenge Factor - As with the Clippers, the Blazers will be looking to avenge their earlier loss to the Celtics in Boston. The Celtics are going to have to match their intensity and work especially hard to get this win.

Jae Factor - It would give the Celtics a huge boost if Jae Crowder could return for this game. They miss his fire, his clutch shots and most of all, his defense. Granted he will be rusty when he comes back, but still having him return would give them a boost.

Official Report
Ken Mauer

Ken Mauer has officiated 1,666 regular season, 150 playoff, and 14 Finals games during his 28-season career. He was also a member of the crew that officiated the 1993 Europe Tour in London and the 2005 All-Star Game in Denver. Mauer’s resume includes six years of CBA officiating experience, nine years of collegiate officiating experience and 12 years of high school officiating experience in Minnesota. After spending most of his life in Minnesota, Mauer has settled in Ft. Myers, Fla. where he can still watch his cousin, Joe Mauer, with the Twins in spring training. Mauer was a three sport athlete in college at Minnesota where, in 1977, he recieved All Big 10 baseball honors. Mauer regularly supports the Salvation Army, as well as other organizations. He is often a guest speaker at basketball camps and clinics, church groups and officiating groups.

Mauer is very quick to call technicals and in one game, once ejected Doc Rivers less than 3 minutes into a game, and that was before the "Respect the Game" rules were instituted. In one Timberwolves game he might have set the record by calling 5 technicals in a 10 second span. The Celtics have to be on their best behavior with Mauer calling the game.

Mauer was one of the refs charged with tax evasion and obstructing federal tax laws for receiving substantial taxable income from 1989 through 1994 and failing to declare it. He was one of the refs in the controversial Miami/Dallas Finals where the foul calls were totally lopsided, giving the Heat the title. In a Suns/OKC game three seasons ago, Mauer told Zabian Dowdell not to be a bitch about the calls. Dowdell asked him if he'd say that off the court and Mauer ejected him from the game for it.

The Celtics are 0-1 this season and 6-4 in their last 10 games with Mauer officiating. In the 2012 ECF Game 2 vs the Heat, the Heat shot 47 free throws to 29 for the Celtics. He failed to call a foul on Wade for hitting Rondo in the head on a layup even though he was in position to see it clearly. He also failed to call a foul on Wade for kicking KG who was going up for a layup when he was again the ref in position to do so. He called a questionable clear path foul on Pietrus. Pierce fouled out on a very questionable call, joining Pietrus and Dooling with 6 fouls. LeBron James took 24 free throws himself and was called for just 1 foul in spite of dipping his shoulder or using his off arm to clear his way to the basket on almost every possession.

In a win 2 seasons ago vs the Raptors, the Celtics shot 35 free throws to 19 for the Raptors and the calls seemed to favor the Celtics. In 4 other games with Mauer last season, they let them play and the officiating was even. In the one game he called this season, the officiating was ok and they pretty much let them play. It's hard to tell which Mauer will show up, the one that lets them play and is fair or the one that tries to micromanage the game and make it about himself. The Blazers are 2-3 this season and 3-7 in the last 10 games with Mauer. He is a veteran official that isn't usually swayed by the home crowd. His home W/L record this season is 29-27.

Derrick Collins
Derrick Collins has officiated 871 regular season games and 16 Playoff games in 14 NBA seasons. Prior to joining the NBA, he officiated five seasons in the CBA where he worked two Finals, and three seasons in the WNBA, working three WNBA Playoffs and Finals. He has seven years of collegiate officiating experience in various conferences (Big 12, Sun Belt, Conference USA, Southland, SEC, TAAC, OVC and SWAC), and he officiated a Southland Conference semifinal game. Collins also officiated at the high school level in Louisiana.

There is very little controversy around Collins. In the Wolves game last season, most of the calls went their way and the Wolves shot 32 free throws to just 9 for the Celtics but Collins has been decent for the most part. In the Spurs game this season, the refs favored the Spurs a bit in the first half but were fairly even in the second half. They pretty much let both teams play for most of the game. Free throws were even at 22 for the game. The Celtics are 2-2 this season and 4-6 in their last 10 games with Collins while the Blazers are 2-2 this season and 6-4 in their last 10. His home W/L record this season is 31-25.

Josh Tiven

Joshua Tiven is entering his fifth NBA season having officiated 227 NBA games and one playoff game. Tiven has seven years of NCAA officiating experience, as well as two years of WNBA officiating experience and two seasons of WNBA Playoff experience. He also has worked three NBA D-League Finals, as well as the 2007-08 NBA D-League All-Star Game.

Tiven lives in Connecticut and he has a twin brother who is a big Celtics fan and who has been shown in the crowd at the Garden when Tiven was officiating. Tiven also has little controversy in his time in the league and has been fairly good in the games he has called for the Celtics. In the game this season vs the Spurs, however, the officiating was one sided toward the Spurs with the Spurs allowed a lot of contact and the Celtics called for any contact. In spite of the Celtics being aggressive with 52 points in the paint to 38 for the Spurs, the Celtics shot just 14 free throws to 25 for the Spurs. At the half the free throws were 14-3 in favor of the Spurs. He called a game against the Wizards that was terribly officiated at the end but most of the bad calls were made by Tony Brothers, who was the lead referee. The Celtics are 3-2 this season and 7-3 over their last 10 games with Tiven. The Blazers are 2-0 this season and 8-2 in their last 10 games with Tiven. He is a homer ref with a home W/L record this season of 39-21.

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