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

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The Celtics continue their West Coast trip as they take on the Portland Trail Blazers. This is the second and final game between these 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. The Celtics have won the last 3 meetings in Portland.

This is the 4th game of a 6 game road trip for the Celtics. They won the first game on the trip 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 6-4 so far in the 10 back to backs this season. They are 2-3 when the first game is on the road. The Celtics head to Utah for the second game of the back to back on Saturday. The Trail Blazers are playing in the 2nd game of a 3 game home stand.

The Celtics are 2nd in the East. They are 2 games behind the first place Bucks, who lost to the Pacers on Thursday. They are 1 game ahead of the 76ers, who were idle on Thursday but play at 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 behind the 10th place Lakers and the final spot in the play in tournament. They are 4.5 games behind 6th place Golden State and the final 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 the heel injury. Robert Williams III remains out with the hamstring injury. Danilo Gallinari remains out with the ACL injury. Late additions to the injury list are Marcus Smart, who is questionable with a non covid illness, Malcolm Brogdon, who is probable with Achilles soreness and Jayson Tatum who is questionable with hip soreness. For the Trail Blazers, Justise Winslow is out with an ankle injury. Jerami Grant is questionable with a quad injury.

Probable Celtics Starters

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

2 Way Players
JD Davison
Mfiondu Kabengele

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

Head Coach
Joe Mazzulla

Probable Trail Blazers Starters

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

Two-Way Players
Ibou Badji
John Butler, Jr

Out/Injuries
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 is shooting 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 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.

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

Honorable Mention
Al Horford vs Jusuf Nurkic
Nurkic is averaging 13.2 points, 9.1 rebounds,and 2.9 assists. He is shooting 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.

Keys to the Game
Defense – I know I say it every game, but defense is the key to winning every game. The Blazers average 114.4 points and the Celtics average 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 tough defense their priority and identity. We have seen their defensive identity in spurts but they must make defense their identity consistently in every minute of every game.

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 scoring 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. They have been allowing teams to get offensive rebounds in recent games and they have to work harder on the boards, especially in the 4th quarter.

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. The Celtics have lost games they should have won by not playing as hard as their opponents. 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 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 play. Lack of focus results in those horrible 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 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 in some of them. The Celtics must play hard for all 48 minutes and not let up for any period of time during the game, especially down the stretch in the 4th quarter.

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

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. The Celtics have got to adjust to the way the game is being called and not let themselves get frustrated by the officiating.

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