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Celtics look to bounce back as they visit the Blazers

The Celtics continue their Western road trip as they get back on the court to take on the Portland Trailblazers.

Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

Boston Celtics (33-19) at Portland Trailblazers (23-30)
Thursday, February 9, 2017
10:30 PM ET
Regular Season Game #53, Road Game #26
Radio: 98.5 Sports Hub, Rip City 620 AM
Moda Center
Referees: Scott Foster, Gedminas Petraitis, Leroy Richardson

The Celtics' western road trip didn't start out very well as they lost to the short handed Kings. They continue the trip against the Portland Trailblazers who beat them 127-123 in Boston on January 21. They split the series 1-1 last season with each team winning on their home court.

The Trail Blazers have won two straight and 6 of their last 8 versus the Celtics. The Celtics are 7-3 in their last 10 while the Blazers are 5-5 in their last 10. The Celtics had their 7 game win streak snapped by the Kings and so both teams are coming off one loss. The Celtics are 14-10 on the road while the Blazers are 14-11 at home.

Former Celtic Evan Turner broke a bone in his hand in their last game and is expected to be out 5-6 weeks. Festus Ezeli is also out with a knee injury. Avery Bradley didn't make the trip with the Celtics and isn't expected back until after the All Star break.

Probable Starting Matchups
Point Guard
Isaiah Thomas vs Damian Lillard

Shooting Guard
Jaylen Brown vs CJ McCollum

Small Forward

Jae Crowder vs Maurice Harkless

Power Forward
Al Horford vs Noah Vonleh

Amir Johnson vs Mason Plumlee

Celtics Reserves
Gerald Green
Terry Rozier
Jonas Jerebko
Kelly Olynyk
Demetrius Jackson
Tyler Zeller
Jordan Mickey
James Young
Marcus Smart


Avery Bradley (Achilles) out

Head Coach
Brad Stevens

Blazers Reserves
Pat Connaughton
Allen Crabbe
Ed Davis
Jake Layman
Meyers Leonard
Shabazz Napier
Tim Quarterman
Al-Farouq Aminu

Festus Ezeli (knee) out
Evan Turner (hand) out

Head Coach

Terry Stotts

Key Matchups
Isaiah Thomas vs Damian Lillard
Isaiah will have his hands full guarding Damien Lillard who is averaging 26.0 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 5.8 assists per game. Lillard scored 28 in the Blazers OT win over the Celtics in Boston and slowing him down will be a key to getting a win.

Jaylen Brown vs CJ McCollum
While Isaiah is working to guard Lillard, Jaylen will have a challenge of his own trying to stay with CJ McCollum, who is averaging 23.5 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.6 assists. The Celtics will need to play tough defense to try to control Portland's high scoring back court duo.

Honorable Mention

Amir Johnson vs Mason Plumlee
Plumlee is averaging 11.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists and is capable of putting up big numbers. In the first game against the Celtics this season Plumlee led the team with 11 rebounds and 8 assists.

Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is a key to winning every game. The Celtics have not been playing the tough defense this season that they were known for last season. Against the Kings, the Celtics' defense was not good at all. The Blazers are 7th in the league with 540 three pointers this season. The Celtics must especially defend the 3 point line much better than they did against the Kings, or the Blazers will make them pay. The Blazers average 107.6 points per game, good for 8th in the league and so the Celtics must step up their defense because they won't win in a shoot out on the road.

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 Celtics were out-rebounded by 10 by the Blazers in their first meeting. The Celtics are 14-1 when they out-rebound their opponents. The Celtics simply must work harder on the boards if they want to win this one.

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 obviously didn't play as hard as the Kings and they lost the game. They simply must be the team that plays harder and wants it more.

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. The home team also tends to get some home cooking from the officials. lRegardless of how the game is called, the Celtics need to play through it and keep their focus.

Fatigue on the Road - The Celtics are playing in the second of back to back games on the road after a tough loss the night before. The Celtics are 8-3 on the second night of back to back games. Hopefully they can use their depth and youth to play hard right to the final buzzer and not run out of gas down the stretch.

Focus Factor - The Celtics weren't focused against the Kings at all and allowed the Kings to out play them in spite of being short handed. The Celtics underestimated their opponent and if they underestimate the Blazers and let them out play them, they will have another loss. The Celtics turned the ball over 17 times and shot only 39.7% and that indicates that the Celtics weren't focused on playing the right way. They must come out focused and play hard from the opening tip to the final buzzer if they want to win this game.

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