Game Preview: Celtics at Trail Blazers

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BOSTON – The Boston Celtics (29-26) in position to even up their record on their current five-game road trip when they take on the Trail Blazers (25-30) at 9 p.m. tonight in Portland. The C’s dropped the first two games of the trip before dominating the Suns Friday night in Phoenix.

Friday’s win was a true momentum builder for this team. The Celtics crushed the Suns despite giving Kevin Garnett the night off to rest all while integrating two new additions, Jordan Crawford and Terrence Williams, into the lineup.

Boston jumped on the Suns early while Garnett watched from the team’s hotel. Jeff Green, who slid into the starting lineup in place of Garnett, scored 13 points in the first quarter and finished the contest with a season-high 31 points. Crawford (10 points) and Williams (nine points, four rebounds, four assists) also played well during Boston’s impressive performance.

The Celtics are hoping that those players can showcase a similar effort tonight. Although Green will be back on the bench to begin this game, history tells us that there’s a great chance of him putting up big numbers yet again.

Green played a major role in the Celtics’ domination of the Trail Blazers on Nov. 30 in TD Garden. He scored a team-high 19 points in that game as Boston rolled to a 96-78 victory.

Portland had no answers for Green on that night and truly had no answers in general. The Blazers shot just 34.8 percent from the field and accumulated only 12 assists. The Celtics, meanwhile, hit nearly half of their shots en route to the blowout win.

The Trail Blazers haven’t been great on offense of late but its their defense that has them slumping. They have lost seven consecutive games while allowing opponents to score an average of 108.9 points a night. That type of defense won’t win many games, and it certainly won’t beat the Celtics. Boston is 16-4 this season when it scores at least 100 points.

One of those 16 victories arrived Friday night as the Celtics got back on track. Momentum is back in their favor, and it’s pushing them into tonight’s matchup with the Trail Blazers.

Similar Circumstances

This game has very similar circumstances surrounding it compared to the previous meeting between these two teams.

First of all, Portland was playing terrible basketball when it entered November’s matchup with the C’s. The Blazers had lost four of their last five games prior to that contest, including a defeat at the hands of the dismal Washington Wizards. That poor play continued in TD Garden.

Secondly, the Celtics played that game without Rajon Rondo just like they will tonight. Rondo missed that contest due to a league suspension and he’ll be out of tonight’s game as well due to a season-ending knee injury. Boston overcame his absence in November with a starting backcourt of Courtney Lee and Jason Terry.

Continue the Integration

Crawford and Williams played Friday’s game as if they had been members of the Celtics since training camp back in October. They didn’t miss a beat while playing their first major minutes as members of Boston’s team.

In order for the C’s to maintain the momentum they built Friday night in Phoenix, they’ll need Crawford and Williams to continue their seamless integration. Ever since Rondo went down with his injury, Doc Rivers has been preaching to his players to take a shot if they’re open and pass the ball if they aren’t open. Crawford and Williams followed that direction perfectly in Phoenix, which played a major role in Boston’s win.

A Fresh KG

Garnett hasn’t played a game since Wednesday night thanks to Rivers’ decision to rest him Friday night. That’s not a good thing for Portland.

Garnett will be well rested and he typically plays well under those circumstances. While playing after three or more days of rest, Garnett averages 9.4 rebounds per game. That’s nearly two more than he averages on the season.

Rebounding numbers are a great indication of how Garnett feels physically. Our guess is that he’ll feel pretty good tonight after three days off.