The Celtics host the Portland Trail Blazers as they look to get back on track after 3 straight disappointing losses. This is the first of 2 games between these two teams this season. They will meet in Portland on March 17. These two teams split the series last season with each team winning on the road. The Celtics are 71-49 overall all time against the Trail Blazers and are 38-22 all time against them in Boston.
For the Trail Blazers, this is the 4th game of a 6 game road trip. They started the trip with a loss to the Hawks in Atlanta but then beat the Magic in Orlando and the Pistons in Detroit. They will finish the road trip in Philadelphia and New Orleans before heading back home for a 3 game home stand that will include the New York Knicks and the Boston Celtics.
The Celtics completed a 3 game home stand where they went 1-2 before playing the Cavaliers in Cleveland. They now have one game at home against the Trail Blazers before heading out on a 6 game road trip that will take them through Atlanta, Houston, Minnesota, Portland, Utah and Sacramento. The Celtics are hoping to beat Portland and break their 2 game home losing streak before heading out on the road trip.
The Celtics remain 2nd in the East, although the standings are getting closer with every Celtics loss while the other teams keep winning. They are now 2.5 games behind first place Milwaukee and 1.5 games ahead of 3rd place Philadelphia. They are 4.5 games ahead of 4th place Cleveland. The Celtics are 25-9 at home and 5-5 in their last 10 games. They are 17-5 against Western Conference opponents. They have lost their last 3 games.
The Trail Blazers are 10th in the West. They are tied with 9th place Utah and 2 games behind 7th place Dallas. They are 2.5 games behind 6th place Minnesota and the final playoff spot in the West before the play-in tournament spots. They are tied with 11th place Lakers and 12th place Pelicans and out of the play-in. The Blazers are 14-19 on the road and 4-6 in their last 10 games. They are 10-15 against East teams. They have won their last 2 games.
Jayson Tatum missed Monday’s game with a knee contusion and Al Horford missed Monday’s game with back tightness but both were off the injury list on Tuesday and are expected to play in this game. Payton Pritchard injured his ankle against Cleveland on Monday and is listed as questionable. He is a game time decision. Robert Williams (hamstring) and Danilo Gallinari (ACL) are both out for this game. I’m going to guess that Derrick White starts for Robert Williams and Brown, Tatum and Horford move up a spot.
For the Trail Blazers, Ryan Arcidiacano has been out since February 23 with a back injury and is expected to miss this game as well. Anfernee Simons is out with an ankle injury. Justise Winslow is also out with an ankle injury. Jusuf Nurkic has missed 14 games with a calf injury. He is listed as questionable and will be a game time decision.
Probable Celtics Starters
2 Way Players
Danilo Gallinari (ACL) out
Payton Pritchard (ankle) questionable
Robert Williams III (hamstring) out
Probable Trail Blazers Starters
- Damian Lillard Photo by Cameron Browne/NBAE via Getty Images
- Anfernee Simons Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images
- Matisse Thybulle Photo by Gary Bassing/NBAE via Getty Images
- Trendon Watford Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images
- Jusuf Nurkic Photo by Cameron Browne/NBAE via Getty Images
Trail Blazers Reserves
Kevin Knox II
John Butler, Jr
Ryan Arcidiacano (back) questionable
Jusuf Nurkic (calf) questionable
Anfernee Simons (ankle) questionable
Justise Winslow (ankle) out
Marcus Smart v Damian Lillard
Lillard is averaging 32.4 points, 4.6 rebounds and 7.2 assists per game. He is shooting 46.8% from the field and 37.7% from beyond the arc. Lillard has amazing range on his shot and if he is on the court, he is a threat to shoot. The Celtics must stay with him wherever he is on the court. Slowing him down will go a long ways toward getting a win.
Jayson Tatum vs Jerami Grant
Grant is averaging 20.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game. He is shooting 47.6% from the field and 40.2% from beyond the arc. He is a very good 3 point shooter and the Celtics need to stay with him especially on the perimeter. He also is a threat to drive as well so the Celtics need to stay with him wherever he is with the ball.
Derrick White vs Cam Reddish
Reddish is averaging 10.3 points, 2.1 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.0 steals per game. He is shooting 45.5% from the field and 35.0% from beyond the arc. If Nurkic is able to play in this one, he would be one of the key matchups.
Keys to the Game
Defense - I know I say it every game, but defense is the key to winning every game. The Trailblazers average 114.9 points per game (15th) and the Celtics average 117.7 points per game (4th). The Celtics are 4th in the league with a defensive rating of 111.2 while the Blazers are 27th with a defensive rating of 117.0. The Celtics need to make tough defense their priority and identity. If they struggle on offense but play tough defense, they can still 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 Celtics must be the team that works harder on the boards if they want to win this one. Much of rebounding is effort and desire and the Celtics need both to get a win in this game.
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. They can’t let the Blazers be the team that works harder if they want to win this 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 making 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.
Play 48 Minutes - Over the last 3 Celtics losses they have played well for most of the game and have built leads of 14 or more points in each of those games. However, down the stretch and in crunch time, they just haven’t been able to get it done and have allowed their opponents to not only erase the Celtics’ leads but to also win the game. The Celtics must play hard for all 48 minutes and not let up for any period of time during the game.
Home Game - The Celtics are once again at home but it is the last home game before a 6 game road trip. They should get a boost from playing at home in front of their home crowd. The Blazers have not been a good road team so far with a 14-19 road record and so the Celtics need to stay focused and not give them any confidence or help them by turning the ball over or shooting poorly.
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.