The Celtics host the Portland Trail Blazers for the 2nd and final regular season game this season. The Celtics won the first game 116-115 in Portland on April 13. Jayson Tatum hit a 3 with 8.5 seconds left in the game to put the Celtics up for good in the win. The Blazers ended a 5 game losing streak by winning the first 3 games on this 6 game road trip.
The Celtics swept the series last season 2-0. The Celtics lead the series all time 70-47 and they lead the series in Portland 39-20. For the second game in a row, the Celtics will play a team that has a better road record than home record. The Trail Blazers are 16-16 at home but 19-12 on the road. They have won the first 3 games on their road trip by an average of 20.3 per game. They are averaging 130 points per game and 50+ rebounds per game over their 3 wins on the road trip so far.
The Celtics are 6th in the East. They are tied with the 7th place Heat. They are half a game behind 5th place Atlanta. They are 1.5 games behind 4th place New York and they are 2.4 games ahead of 8th place Charlotte. The Celtics are 6-4 in their last 10 games and 21-12 at home. They are 15-13 vs Western teams and have on their last 2 games.
The Trail Blazers are 7th in the West, and playing hard to climb out of the play in tournament range. They are half a game behind 6th place Dallas and 1 game behind the 5th place Los Angeles Lakers. They are 2.5 games ahead of 8th place Memphis. They are 4-6 in their last 10 games and they are 19-12 on the road. They are 17-10 vs Eastern teams and they have won their last 3 games.
Kemba Walker has missed the past 3 games and will also miss this game with a strained oblique. Evan Fournier has started the past two games at shooting guard while Marcus Smart slides over to the point and I would expect that to be the plan for this game as well. I also expect Robert Williams to once again start at center. Jaylen Brown was a late addition to the injury list with a sprained ankle. His status will be a game time decision. If he can’t play, it’s possible that Aaron Nesmith will be rewarded for his recent play with a start. If not, maybe Semi or Grant again? For the Blazers, only Zach Collins (ankle) is out.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Marcus Smart
SG: Evan Fournier
SF: Jaylen Brown
PF: Jayson Tatum
C: Robert Williams III
Kemba Walker (oblique) out
Jaylen Brown (ankle) questionable
Probable Trail Blazers Starters
PG: Damian Lillard
SG: CJ McCollum
SF: Norman Powell
PF: Robert Covington
C: Jusuf Nurkic
Trail Blazers ReservesCarmelo Anthony
Harry Giles III
Derrick Jones, Jr
Zach Collins (ankle) out
Marcus Smart vs Damian Lillard
Lillard is always a tough matchup. He can shoot from pretty much anywhere on the court and is always a threat to find the open man as well. Marcus Smart’s defensive abilities will be challenged as he tries to keep him from taking over the game. Lillard is averaging 28.3 points, 4.2 rebounds and 7.5 assists. He is shooting 43.5% from the field and 37.8% from beyond the arc. Lillard put up 28 points and 10 assists in the first game against the Celtics. The Celtics need to slow him down to have a chance at winning this game.
Evan Fournier vs CJ McCollum
McCollum is averaging 22.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per game. He is shooting 45.3% from the field and 39.4% from beyond the arc. Both Lillard and McCollum are capable of big games and both need to be well defended wherever they are on the court. Hopefully Fournier will have the size to slow him down a bit.
Jaylen Brown vs Norman Powell
Powell is averaging 18.7 points, 3.0 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game. He is shooting 44.3% from the field and 31.4% from beyond the arc. He had 20 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 steal in the first game against the Celtics. The Celtics need Jaylen Brown to come up big on both ends of the court.
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 they are capable of playing good defense and we have seen it in spurts this season. The Blazers are 5th in the league with an offensive rating of 116.2. The Celtics are 13th in the league with a defensive rating of 111.6 while the Blazers are 29th with a defensive rating of 115.6. The Blazers win with their offensive game and the Celtics need to make defense a priority if they want to win 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 since they are first 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 this season. 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. At times, the Celtics get careless and turn the ball over in bunches. The Celtics must move the ball and look for the open man and play as a team but they also have to take care of the ball and not give the Blazers extra chances to score off turnovers.
Be Aggressive - The Celtics have to be the team that works harder and wants the win more. They are coming off the perfect game to illustrate that fact. In the first half against the Spurs, the Celtics were lethargic and the Spurs played harder and hustled on every play and the Celtics were down by 32 points. In the second half, the Celtics were the team that played harder and were more aggressive and they came all the way back to win the game. 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 came back in the game against the Spurs, it was with layups and not just threes.
Play Hard for 48 Minutes -It goes without saying that when you start off slow and get down by 20+ points in the first quarter, it is very hard to come back and get a win. I doubt that the Trail Blazers will be kind enough to allow the Celtics to come back if they allow themselves to get down big in this game. 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 play hard right from the beginning of the game.
Focus - The Celtics need to come in focused and stay focused throughout the game. They need to focus on their shots and shot selection. They need to focus on taking their free throws. They need to focus on playing defense and making the right switches. They need to focus on making good passes and not turning the ball over. And they need to focus on sharing the ball and making the right play. Lack of focus results in those horrible shooting nights and high turnover games.
Home Game - The Celtics are once again at home. Against the Spurs, they were booed at half time but cheered wildly as they came back to win the game. Several players mentioned that the fans were motivation for their comeback. They should get a boost from playing at home in front of a small but vocal crowd. The Blazers area good road team and so the Celtics need to stay focused and not give them any confidence or help by turning the ball over or shooting poorly.
Revenge Factor - The Blazers lost a tough one on their home court when the Celtics beat them 116-115 in their meeting in Portland. That was a tough loss for them and I’m sure they will remember it and play a little harder as they look to avenge that earlier loss. The Celtics have to be ready for them to play hard and come at them with a vengeance.
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 and sometimes they just make a bunch of head scratching calls. The Celtics have got to adjust to the way the game is being called and not let themselves get frustrated by the officiating.