The Celtics return home after a 3 game road trip to face the Portland Trailblazers. This is the second and final game between them this season. The Celtics lost 100-94 in November when they faced each other in Portland. The Portland Trailblazers are forever linked with the Celtics by the trivia question: “What was the only team to beat the Celtics at home in the 1985-86 season?”
The Celtics are playing on the second night of back to back games. They played a tough game on the road on Tuesday as they faced the Toronto Raptors. The Celtics are 4-5 in the second game of back to back games and are 1-0 when the games are road/home. The Blazers last played on Monday when they beat the Cavaliers.
The Blazers beat the Warriors at home before embarking on a 7 game road trip. They won their first 3 games of the road trip, beating the Nets, the 76ers, and the Cavaliers for 4 straight wins. The Celtics are heading in the opposite direction, losing all 3 games since the All Star break. In spite of the losing record on the road, the Blazers are not an easy team to beat. They did spend 30 minutes trapped in an elevator at Emerson College, which may or may not affect their psyches going into this game.
The Trailblazers are 4th in the Western Conference, 6 behind the first place Warriors. They are 7-3 in their last 10 games and 12-15 on the road. They are 16-4 vs Eastern Conference teams and have won their last 4 games. The Celtics are 5th in the East 2 games behind the Sixers. They are 24-8 at home and 10-11 vs Western Conference teams. The Celtics have lost all 3 games on their recent road trip.
Aron Baynes is getting closer to a return but will miss this game and will hopefully be back next week in time for the West Coast trip. Brad Wannamaker is questionable with an illness and Terry Rozier is questionable with knee soreness. The Trailblazers will be without former Celtic Evan Turner who will miss the game with a knee injury.
Aron Baynes (foot) out
Brad Wanamaker (illness) questionable
Terry Rozier (knee) questionable
Two Way Players
Gary Trent, Jr
Evan Turner (knee) out
Kyrie Irving vs Damian Lillard
Kyrie will have his hands full guarding Damien Lillard who is averaging 25.9 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 6.4 assists per game. Kyrie will need to play defense as both of Portland’s backcourt players are a tough cover. In their meeting in Portland, Lillard put up 19 points, 5 rebounds, and 12 assists. Kyrie finished the Raptors game with just 7 points and 5 assists, far from an All Star performance. The Celtics need more than that from their star if they want to win this game.
Marcus Smart vs CJ McCollum
While Kyrie is working to guard Lillard, Smart will have a challenge of his own trying to stay with CJ McCollum, who is averaging 20.9 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.3 assists. In their first meeting, McCollum had 14 points, 2 rebounds and 1 assist. The Celtics will need to play tough defense to try to control Portland’s high scoring back court duo.
Al Horford vs Jusuf Nurkic
While the Celtics backcourt is working to cover the Blazers talented backcourt, Al Horford will have his hands full guarding Jusuf Nurkic. Nurkic is averaging 15.4 points, 10.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists. Al has said that he is feeling the best he has felt and he has been playing very well and should be up to the task of matching up with Nurkic. He will especially need to keep Nurkic off the boards as in their first meeting he finished with 18 points, 17 rebounds and 3 assists.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is a key to winning every game. In the Celtics losses, it’s usually the effort on defense that is suspect in the loss. The Celtics are 5th with a defensive rating of 105.9 while the Blazers are 16th with a defensive rating of 109.3. The Celtics have to continue to play tough defense in order to get a win.
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 pull down 47.8 rebounds per game while the Celtics average just 45 rebounds per game. 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 need to outwork the Blazers who should be feeling some effects of travel.
Play Hard and Play as a Team - Last year’s team was so much fun to watch because they always played hard and they played together. The Celtics just haven’t had that consistent effort this season. They also haven’t played as a team as much as they have as a group of individuals doing their own thing. In their recent losses, they have allowed teams to out play them. They have to reach down deep and find that extra gear and start to play with heart and fight every minute of every game or their season may be over much quicker than they expect.
Home Game - The Celtics are back at home after a 3 game road trip. They should get a boost from playing at home in front of what should be a loud crowd. The Blazers aren’t a great road team with just a 12-15 record on the road. Can the Celtics take advantage of playing on their home court after losing 3 straight on the road?
Back to Back - The Celtics played on Tuesday night in Toronto and then had to travel back to Boston after the game. There may be some fatigue and jet lag still hanging around from the game and travel, even though it can be said that no one played especially hard in that game. Can they shake that off and outplay the Blazers?
Contenders - The Portland Trailblazers have to be considered as contenders in the West. They are 4th right now in the West, just 6 games behind the Warriors and 2 games behind the Thunder. They are also 2 games ahead of the Rockets. The Celtics have tended to play best when playing contenders, other than Tuesday’s Raptors’ game. Can they continue that trend and play up to the Blazers?