Game Preview: Celtics at Trail Blazers
With LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum leading the way, the Portland Trail Blazers got back on track in the opener of a short but favorable homestand.
Now the Trail Blazers appear to have a good chance to keep it going as they try to hand the Boston Celtics their eighth straight loss Saturday night.
After dropping four of six in their worst stretch of the season, Portland bounced back with a 110-94 victory over Orlando on Wednesday - the first of three straight at home against Eastern Conference teams with losing records.
Aldridge, averaging 29.7 points over his last three games, stepped up with his second- highest point total of the season. He scored 36 on 16-of-25 shooting to help the Blazers pull even with Oklahoma City atop the Northwest Division.
Batum also came up big with 14 points, 10 rebounds and a career-high 14 assists for his fourth career triple-double. The small forward has pulled down 31 boards in his last three games despite breaking his finger in a loss to Philadelphia on Jan. 4.
"I've said it many times about Nic - he's very versatile and he does a lot of things," coach Terry Stotts said. "When he stays aggressive, good things happen."
After allowing a season-high 123 points in Tuesday's loss at Sacramento, Stotts' club held an opponent under 40.0 percent shooting for the first time since Nov. 22.
The Blazers seek their third straight win over the Celtics before they face Cleveland on Wednesday.
Boston, which is 0-4 on a five-game trip, could be getting help soon. All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo, who is rehabbing his surgically repaired right knee, said Friday that he hopes to make his season debut before the All-Star break.
In the meantime, the Celtics are trying to avoid their longest losing streak since an 18-game skid during the 2006-07 season after Stephen Curry hit a go-ahead jumper with 2.1 seconds left Friday to give Golden State a 99-97 victory.
Jeff Green finished with 24 points and 11 rebounds, Jared Sullinger scored 21 with 11 boards, and Kris Humphries added 16 and 14 in the defeat.
"Lost seven straight and guys are still fighting out there," Sullinger said. "Guys are still trying to make plays. Guys are still together. It's not like we're pulling apart."
Green, averaging a team-high 16.1 points, scored 14 with four 3-pointers but shot just 4 of 12 from the field in a 109-96 loss to the visiting Blazers on Nov. 15.
Sullinger, who had a career-best 26 points and eight rebounds in that meeting, had scored 6.3 per game on 8-of-25 shooting through the first three games of the trip.
Aldridge and Batum played key roles in Portland's win at Boston, combining for 45 points and 17 rebounds. Batum has totaled 36 points in his last two against the Celtics.
Damian Lillard will try to regroup after finishing with 11 points on 4-of-12 shooting in Wednesday's win. He's averaged just 12.3 points while shooting 13 for 39 in three career games against Boston.
The Celtics limited high-scoring Golden State to 41.3 percent shooting after allowing 119.7 points per game and a 49.8 field-goal percentage in their previous three.
They've dropped 13 straight road games to West opponents by an average of 12.2 points.