The Boston Celtics (23-23, 21-23-2 ATS) are looking to bounce back tonight as they take on the Portland Trail Blazers (18-26, 17-27 ATS). Boston is coming off an ugly loss to the Charlotte Hornets, while the Blazers are looking for their third win in four games.
According to the online sports book Betonline.ag, the Boston Celtics are 8.5-point favorites:
- Point Spread: Boston Celtics -8.5
- Over-Under: 212 points
- Money line: Boston Celtics -350, Portland Trail Blazers +280
Two players remain on Boston’s injury report ahead of the Friday night contest. Both Marcus Smart (reconditioning) and Aaron Nesmith (sprained right ankle) are questionable. Robert Williams is not listed on the report, but he has missed Boston’s last two games due to the birth of his second child.
Portland, on the other hand, has a lengthy injury report. Dennis Smith Jr. (right ankle) is probable, Nassir Little (right knee) is questionable, and four players are out – Damian Lillard (core muscled recovery), Norman Powell (personal reasons), Larry Nance Jr. (right knee), and Cody Zeller (right patellar fracture).
G: Dennis Schroder
G: Jaylen Brown
F: Jayson Tatum
F: Al Horford
C: Robert Williams
Portland Trail Blazers
G: Anfernee Simons
G: CJ McCollum
F: Ben McLemore
F: Robert Covington
C: Jusuf Nurkic
Boston Celtics Breakdown
The Celtics lost to the Hornets in their last game, in large part due to terrible shooting nights from both Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Tatum shot 0-for-7 from deep while Brown shot just 2-for-11. Despite this, 16 of Boston’s 24 fourth-quarter shots came from behind the arc. Most of them were good looks, with 14 of the 16 shots being either open or wide open. But of those 14 shots, the Celtics only made three. (Ironically enough, Boston made the only two contested shots they took in the fourth.)
This has sparked much debate amongst fans – should the Celtics take fewer threes? And more specifically, should Jayson Tatum take fewer threes? Tatum is in the midst of his worst shooting year by far. Numbers are down across the board around the league (with Blazers star Lillard also being affected), but at this point, it’s hurting the team. That’s where the debate lies – should he keep shooting because they’re good shots and he’s a good shooter, or should he stop taking them because they’re not falling this season?
Regardless of that debate, the Celtics are still in a solid spot. They have won five of their last seven games and actually moved up in the standings after their loss to the Hornets. They now sit at ninth with a 23-23 record. They are 2.5 games out of the seventh seed and four games back of the sixth seed. With 36 games left, they still (theoretically) have time to make up some ground.
Portland Trail Blazers Breakdown
Portland’s season has been even more of a mess than Boston’s. They fired GM Neil Olshey, reports surfaced of a rift forming between Chauncey Billups and the team, and now Lillard is slated to miss extended time. Plus, they just got CJ McCollum back after he suffered a collapsed lung. Not exactly how they wanted their season to pan out.
Despite this, things have actually been going well for the Blazers as of late. They’ve won two of their last three games and four of their last six. This has been mainly due to the amazing play of Anfernee Simons. The 22-year-old guard is averaging 25.0 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 8.4 assists while shooting 48.4 percent from the field and 40.0 percent from deep over Portland’s last six games. With Lillard and McCollum out for most of those contests. Simons has been carrying the Blazers.
This doesn’t mean that Portland won’t be active at the trade deadline, though. This team is still far from a championship contender, and as their front office remains loyal to building around Lillard, big changes could be incoming. In fact, recent rumors revealed that no one on the roster is safe except for Lillard. That should make for a very interesting next few weeks.
Keys to the Game
First and foremost, the Celtics just have to shoot the ball better. It’s hard to win games when their stars are shooting that poorly. Other guys played well against Charlotte – Dennis Schroder, Al Horford, Romeo Langford – but it didn’t matter. Tatum and Brown need to either make their open looks or search for shots that they can make. Simple as that.
The turnovers also need to stay at a minimum. Boston only turned the ball over 14 times against the Blazers, but it’s been a rough battle all year long. When the Celtics start getting sloppy with the basketball, things get ugly very fast. When it rains, it pours, as they say. Making good plays and taking care of the ball will be essential.
Lastly, the C’s absolutely have to crash the boards against Portland. Jusuf Nurkic is a beast of a center, and he won’t hesitate to play bully ball. If Williams returns it would be a huge help, but regardless, Boston has to get on the boards as a unit. Nurkic will dominate in the paint if the Celtics don’t put pressure on him.
Despite their loss to the Hornets, the Celtics have been playing good basketball lately. They look a lot better than they did earlier in the year, and even though the Blazers are also hot, it feels like a bounce-back game is in order for the C’s.
Boston Celtics 107, Portland Trail Blazers 101
TIP-OFF: 7:30 p.m. @ TD Garden
RADIO: 98.5 The Sports Hub
TV: NBC Sports Boston