The Celtics continue their Western road trip with a stop in Portland to take on Damian Lillard and the Trail Blazers. This is the second game of a 3 game road trip for the Celtics. This is the 3rd game of a 3 game home stand for the Blazers. This is the first of 2 games between these two teams this season. They will meet again on May 2 in Boston.
The Celtics swept the series last season 2-0. The Celtics lead the series all time 69-47 and they lead the series in Portland 31-27. With their win against the Nuggets on Sunday, the Celtics have won 5 of their last 6 games. With their loss to the Heat on Sunday, the Trail Blazers have lost 4 of their last 6 games. The Trail Blazers are playing in their 3rd game in 4 nights after playing a back to back on Saturday and Sunday.
The Celtics remain in 7th place in the East. They are tied with Charlotte (6) and half a game behind Miami (5) and 1 game behind Atlanta (4). They are 1 game ahead of New York (#8) and 2 games ahead of Indiana (9). The Celtics are 7-3 in their last 10 games and 11-16 on the road. They have won 3 straight games. They are 10-12 against Western teams.
The Trail Blazers are 6th in the West. They are 2 games behind the Los Angeles Lakers, who are 5th and 3 games behind the 4th place Denver Nuggets. They are 1.5 games ahead of 7th place Dallas and 4 ahead of 8th place Dallas. They are 16-11 at home and 6-4 in their last 10 games. They are 15-8 vs Eastern teams.
Both teams are as close to full strength as teams get this time of year with each team missing just one player. For the Celtics, Evan Fournier remains out due to the league’s health and safety protocols. For the Trail Blazers, Zach Collins remains out after surgery to his left ankle.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Kemba Walker
SG: Marcus Smart
SF: Jaylen Brown
PF: Jayson Tatum
C: Robert Williams III
Evan Fournier (covid) out
Probable Trail Blazers Starters
PG: Damian Lillard
SG: CJ McCollum
SF: Norman Powell
PF: Robert Covington
C: Jusuf Nurkic
Trail Blazers Reserves
Harry Giles III
Derrick Jones, Jr
Zach Collins (ankle) out
Kemba Walker vs Damian Lillard
Damian Lillard is averaging 28.7 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 7.6 assists. He is shooting 44.1% from the field and 37.8% from beyond the arc. He is a threat to shoot from anywhere on the court and it is certain that Kemba will need some help slowing him down. Ordinarily, Marcus Smart or Jaylen Brown could cover Lillard, but they will have their hands full with CJ McCollum and Norman Powell.
Marcus Smart vs CJ McCollum
McCollum is averaging 23.5 points, 3,8 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.0 steals per game. He is shooting 44.9% from the field and 40.2% from beyond the arc. Both Lillard and McCollum are capable of big games and both need to be well defended.
Jaylen Brown vs Norman Powell
Powell was acquired from Toronto at the trade deadline and is a big addition to the Trail Blazers. He is averaging 19.0 points, 3.1 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.2 steals. He is averaging 16.3 points since he arrived in Portland but is still capable of putting up big numbers if not guarded closely.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is a key to winning every game. The Celtics haven’t been the toughest team on defense this season but we saw them show that they are capable of playing good defense when they held the Denver Nuggets to just 8 points in the 4th quarter on Sunday. The Blazers average 115.0 points and so the Celtics will need to play tough defense in this one as they won’t win a shoot out against them. The Celtics are 14th in the league with a defensive rating of 111.4 while the Blazers are 29th with a defensive rating of 116.0. The Celtics need 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 since they are 2nd in the league with 15.0 second chance points per game. This shouldn’t be a surprise since they have Enes Kanter, who is one of the best offensive rebounders in the season and who is coming off a 30 rebound game. The Celtics must work harder on the boards if they want to win this one.
Move the Ball Carefully - One of the keys to winning for the Celtics is to move the ball and find the open man. When they play hero ball, it usually doesn’t end well. While they have to move the ball, they also have to be careful with their passes. In their recent losses, the Celtics averaged 19 turnovers per game and they have to take better care of the ball, especially since the Blazers only turn the ball over 11 times on average per game. The Celtics must move the ball and look for the open man and play as a team.
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. When they got back in the game against the Nuggets, it was with layups and not threes.
Play Hard for 48 Minutes
In their last 2 wins, the Celtics started off slowly and dug themselves into a hole. Against the Timberwolves, they were down by 17 points and against the Nuggets, they were down by as many as 14 before they started playing hard and came back. The Celtics need to start off strong and then play hard for the entire 48 minutes. If they keep digging themselves a hole, it’s going to come back to bite them. They need to come out with energy and not play hard right from the beginning of the game.
On the Road - The Celtics are on the road and have to deal with travel, a hostile crowd (even though a smaller one), and an unfamiliar court along with a time change. 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. 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.