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Preview: Boston Celtics at Portland Trail Blazers Game #57

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The Celtics look to get back on track as they take on the Dame-less Trail Blazers.

Portland Trail Blazers v. Boston Celtics Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images

The Celtics third stop on their Western road trip is in Portland to take on the Trail Blazers. This is the first of 2 games between them this season. They will meet again in Boston on March 27. Portland is playing in the last of a 3 game home stand and then will head out on a 3 game road trip. The Blazers are 1-1 on their homestand and the Celtics are 1-1 on their road trip.

The Celtics are 67-47 all time against the Trail Blazers and they are 30-27 in Portland. The Trail Blazers swept the series 2-0 last season. This is the first game of back to back games for the Celtics. They will complete their road trip and the back to back set in Utah on Wednesday. The Celtics are 3-4 on the first night of back to back games so far and 0-1 when they are road/road.

The Celtics are 3rd in the East and have fallen to 2.5 games behind the 2nd place Raptors and they are 3.5 games ahead of the 4th place Heat. The Celtics are 16-12 on the road and 8-2 in their last 10 games. They are 1-1 on their road trip so far. They are 14-8 vs Western Conference teams.

The Trail Blazers are 9th in the West and are 3 games behind the 8th place Grizzlies and half a game ahead of the New Orleans Pelicans. They are 16-12 at home and 5-5 in their last 10 games. They are 1-1 on their home stand so far and are coming off a win over the Pistons on Sunday. They are 11-8 vs Eastern Conference teams.

Kemba Walker will miss is third straight since the All Star break with knee soreness. It’s possible he could play in Utah on Wednesday, but not likely. They are going to be careful with him with the long term in mind. Robert Williams is out for this game also. For the Blazers Damian Lillard (groin), Zach Collins (shoulder), Jusuf Nurkic (leg) and Rodney Hood (Achilles) are all expected to be out.

Probable Celtics Starters

Celtics Reserves
Carsen Edwards
Javonte Green
Semi Ojeleye
Vincent Poirier
Brad Wanamaker
Grant Williams
Enes Kanter
Romeo Langford

Injuries/NWT
Robert Williams III (hip) out
Kemba Walker (knee) out

Two Way Players
Tremont Waters
Tacko Fall

Head Coach
Brad Stevens

Probable Trail Blazers Starters

Trail Blazers Reserves
Wenyen Gabriel
Nassir Little
Anfernee Simons
Caleb Swanigan

Injuries/NWT
Damian Lillard (groin) out
Zach Collins (shoulder) out
Jusuf Nurkic (leg) out
Rodney Hood (Achilles)

Two Way Players
Moses Brown
Jaylen Hoard

Head Coach
Terry Stotts

Key Matchups

Marcus Smart vs CJ McCollum
McCollum has had to pick up his game with Lillard missing time with the groin strain. He is averaging 21.4 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 3.9 assists. He is shooting 45.4% from the field and 38.7% from beyond the arc. McCollum is coming off a 41 point game against the Pistons and so the Celtics need to defend him closely to keep him from going off in this game.

Jayson Tatum vs Carmelo Anthony
Carmelo Anthony has been a good addition for the Blazers. He is averaging 15.2 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 1.5 assists per game. He is shooting 41.9% from the field and 36% from beyond the arc. Jayson is coming off a career game against the Lakers and hopefully will pick up where he left off in that game.

Honorable Mention
Daniel Theis vs Hassan Whiteside
Whiteside is averaging 15.8 points, 14.0 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 3.1 blocks per game. He is shooting 61% from the field and 50% from beyond the arc. He has only shot 4 threes so far this season and made 2 of them. It will be important to keep him off the boards and out of the paint as much as possible.

Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is a key to winning every game. The Celtics have to continue to play tough defense in order to get a win. Both teams average 113.3 points per game. The Celtics are 3rd in the league with a defensive rating of 105.8 while the Blazers are 27th with a defensive rating of 113.5. The Celtics need to continue to make defense a priority if they want to get a win in this game.

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 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 on both ends of the court. They have to be aggressive in getting to the basket as well and not settle for outside shots, especially if they aren’t falling.

Bench Play - The Celtics starters have had to carry the bulk of the scoring in the past two games. Against the Timberwolves, the Celtics bench scored just 10 points and against the Lakers, they scored 11. If they hope to be contenders, they have to get more from their reserves.

X-Factors
On the Road - The Celtics are on the road and have to deal with travel, a hostile crowd, and an unfamiliar court. They have to block out all the distractions that playing on the road brings and concentrate on playing Celtics basketball. Young players especially seem to struggle on the road and so the veterans will need to keep the young players focused and playing the right way.

Officiating - I know that I say this every game, but the officiating really is always an x-factor in every game and after the end of the Lakers game, it should be even more evident. Every crew calls the game differently whether they call every little ticky tack foul or they let a lot of contact go and let the teams play. Some refs favor the home team and some not so much. The Celtics have got to adjust to the way the game is being called and not let themselves get frustrated by the officiating.