Boston Celtics (48-22) at Portland Trail Blazers (31-38) Game #71 3/17/23

Boston Celtics (48-22) at Portland Trail Blazers (31-38) Game #71 3/17/23

The Celtics continue their journey on the West Coast as they make their way through the Portland Trail Blazers. This is the second and last game between the two teams. The Celtics won the first game 115-93 in Boston on March 8. These two teams split the season series 1-1 last season with each team winning on the road. Celtics have won the last 3 meetings in Portland.

This is game 4 of a 6 game road trip for the Celtics. They won the first game on the road in Atlanta then lost the second game in Houston and won the third game in Minnesota on Wednesday. This is the first of back to back games for the Celtics. They are now 6-4 in 10 back to back games this season. They are 2-3 when the first game is on the road. The Celtics head to Utah for the second game of a back to back on Saturday. The Trail Blazers are playing in the 2nd game of a 3 game home stand.

The Celtics are second in the East. They are 2 games behind the first place Bucks, who lost to Pacers on Thursday. They are 1 game ahead 76ers, which was idle on Thursday but plays in Charlotte on Friday. The Celtics are 22-13 on the road and 5-5 in their last 10 games. They are 19-6 against Western Conference teams and they won their last game.

The Trail Blazers are 13th in the West. They are 2.5 games back of 10th place Lakers and the last place to play in the tournament. They are 4.5 games behind 6th place Golden State and the last guaranteed playoff spot. They are 17-16 at home and 3-7 in their last 10 games. They are 10-18 against Eastern Conference opponents. They have lost their last 4 games.

The Celtics have the same 3 players on the injured list. Payton Pritchard remains out with a heel injury. Robert Williams III remains out with a hamstring injury. Danilo Gallinari remains out with an ACL injury. The latest additions to the injury list are Marcus Smart, who is questionable with a non-covid illness, Malcolm Brogdon, who may have Achilles soreness and Jayson Tatum who is questionable with a hip ailment. For the Trail Blazers, Justise Winslow is out with an ankle injury. Jerami Grant is questionable with a quad injury.

Most likely Celtics Starters

Celtics Reserves
Malcolm Brogdon
Grant Williams
Sam Hauser
Luke Cornet
Blake Griffin
Mike Muscala

2 Way Players
JD Davison
Mfiondu Kabengele

Danilo Gallinari (ACL) out
Payton Pritchard (heel) out
Robert Williams III (hamstring) out
Marcus Smart (non-covid illness) questionable
Jayson Tatum (hip) questionable
Probably Malcolm Brogdon (Achilles).

Head Coach
Joe Mazzulla

Likely Trail Blazers Starters

Trail Blazers Reserves
Ryan Arcidiacano
Drew Eubanks
Keon Johnson
Kevin Knox II
Nassir Little
Cam blushed
Shaedon Sharpe
Jabari Walker

Two-Way Player
Ibou Badji
John Butler, Jr

Jerami Grant (quad) questionable
Justise Winslow (ankle) out

Head Coach
Chauncey Billups

Key Matchups

Marcus Smart vs Damian Lillard
Lillard is averaging 32.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 7.3 assists per game. He shot 46.5% from the field and 37.6% from beyond the arc. Against the Celtics in the first game, he finished with 27 points, 5 rebounds, 8 assists, and 1 steal. He shot 43.8% from the field and 25% from beyond the arc. Lillard has amazing range on his shot and when he’s on the court, he’s a shooting threat. The Celtics should stick with him wherever he is on the court. Slowing him down will go a long way to getting a win.

Derrick White vs. Anfernee Simons
Simons is averaging 21.2 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game. He shot 44.9% from the field and 38.1% from beyond the arc. He missed the first game against the Celtics due to an ankle injury so this will be the first time the Celtics will see him this season. He is a good 3 point shooter and so the Celtics need to stick with him both on the perimeter and in the paint.

Honorable mention
Al Horford vs. Jusuf Nurkic
Nurkic averaged 13.2 points, 9.1 rebounds, and 2.9 assists. He shot 51.6% from the field and 35.8% from beyond the arc. In the first game against the Celtics, he finished with 5 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 assists. He shot 33.3% from the field and didn’t hit any threes. The Celtics need to box him out and keep him off the glass.

Game Keys
Defense – I know I say this every game, but defense is the key to winning every game. The Blazers averaged 114.4 points and the Celtics averaged 117.5 points. The Celtics are 4th in the league with a defensive rating of 111.1 while the Blazers are 27th with a defensive rating of 117.1. The Celtics need to fiercely defend their priorities and identity. We have seen their defensive identity in spurts but they must make their defensive identity consistent every minute of every game.

Rebound – The Celtics must make an extra effort to grab rebounds to give themselves more possessions as well as to prevent the Blazers from scoring second chance points. The Celtics must be the team that drives the boards hard if they want to win this one. Most rebounding is effort and desire and the Celtics need both to get a win in this game. They have allowed teams to get offensive rebounds in recent games and have had to work harder on the boards, especially in the 4th quarter.

Be Aggressive – The Celtics need to be the team that works harder and wants to win. They have to dive for loose balls, go for every rebound and hustle every play on both ends of the court. They should be aggressive getting to the basket as well and not confident outside shots, especially if they don’t fall. The Celtics lost games they should have won by not playing as hard as their opponents. They can’t let the Blazers be the team that tries harder if they want to win this game.

Focus – The Celtics need to come out 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 plays. Lack of focus results in terrible shooting nights and high turnover games.

Play 48 Minutes – Recently, the Celtics have played well for most of their games but down the stretch and in crunch time, they haven’t been able to do it and let their opponents not only erase the Celtics’ leads but to win as well . the game to some of them. The Celtics must play hard for all 48 minutes and not lag at any time during the game, especially down the stretch of the 4th quarter.

On the road – The Celtics are on the road and have to deal with travel, a hostile crowd, and an unfamiliar court along with the time change. They need to block out all the distractions of playing on the road and concentrate on playing Celtics basketball. The Moda Center has a great atmosphere for the home team and the Celtics will have to work hard to beat them there. With travel and jet lag, fatigue can be a factor in this one.

Officiating – I know I say this every game, but officiating really is always an x-factor in every game. Every crew calls the game differently whether they call every little ticky tack bad 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 need to adjust to the way the game is called and not let themselves get frustrated with the officiating.