The Boston Celtics (45-21, 34-31-1 ATS) take on the Portland Trail Blazers (31-34, 32-32-1 ATS) tonight at home. The Celtics dropped their last three in dramatic fashion to the Nets, Knicks and Cavs, and desperately need a win to get back on track before a lengthy west coast road trip. The Trail Blazers also need every win they can get, as they sit tied with two other teams for the final play-in spot in the West. They come into tonight winners of their last two. Tonight is the first matchup between these teams this season.
Robert Williams III (hamstring) is out, and will sit through at least Sunday. Payton Pritchard (ankle) is questionable. Both Jayson Tatum (knee) and Al Horford (back) are set to return to the starting lineup after missing Monday’s contest.
Portland will be without Justise Winslow (ankle), Anfernee Simons (ankle), and Ryan Arcidiacono (back). Jusuf Nurkic (calf) is questionable. This would be a massive return for the Blazers, as the starting center has missed the last month of game action.
Celtics Projected Starters
PG: Marcus Smart
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Derrick White
PF: Jayson Tatum
C: Al Horford
Trail Blazers Projected Starters
PG: Damian Lillard
SG: Matisse Thybulle
SF: Cam Reddish
PF: Jerami Grant
C: Drew Eubanks
Boston Celtics Overview
Boston’s recent stretch of blowing big leads can be attributed to a number of things, one of them being inconsistent play on the offensive end. As any old school coach would preach: they gotta keep moving the ball around. On Monday, the Celtics got out in front and maintained their lead by making the extra pass and finding the open man. When the team attempted more pull up shots and one-on-one drives to the hoop in the 4th quarter, it both exacerbated their three point struggles and made it easier for the Cavs to stuff the Celtics at the rim and force turnovers. Tatum’s return makes playing iso ball more
Another reason why the Celtics have been losing these games, to put it simply, is they went against some really talented teams on the defensive end, particularly the Knicks and Cavs. The team should face much less intensity against a porous Blazers defense that ranks 27th in the NBA overall and has lost the most games after leading by double digits (15). As John Schumann put it, “Damian Lillard can’t score 71 points every night, especially because he never gets to play against the Portland defense.”
Portland Trail Blazers Overview
The Blazers run one of the top offenses in the NBA, and that all starts with Damian Lillard. Lillard has turned in another spectacular season, averaging 32.4 points, 7.2 assists and 4.6 rebounds per game. Over his last five, he’s upped his numbers a little more, increasing his points and rebounds per game to 34.2 and 7.4. The Blazers had a rough month of February, but Lillard is on fire, and has the capability to completely take over a game, evidenced by his 71 point performance two weeks ago.
Portland struggles in other facets of the game, especially rebounding. This is mostly due to Jusuf Nurkic missing so much time. The Celtics on Monday were only outrebounded by one against a lengthy Cleveland team, all while down Tatum, Horford and Williams III. If Nurkic isn’t ready to play big minutes tonight, or if he isn’t ready to play at all, the Blazers may get worked on the glass once again.
Under most circumstances, the Celtics would be locks, but with their inconsistent play as of late, there’s some uncertainty. Still, I think the full-strength Celtics get it done against an inferior defensive team. They may not hit their shooting stride tonight, but some way or another they’ll be able to generate consistent offense. If they drop this one, it may be time to hit the panic button, but I think Boston will head into the road trip with a win.