Jaylen Brown drops in a layup against Portland

Pregame Post-Ups: Healthy Trail Blazers Are No Joke

Sunday, August 2 - Trail Blazers at Celtics

Pregame – Healthy Trail Blazers Are a Dangerous Opponent

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics will face an opponent Sunday afternoon that is currently 2.5 games out of the Playoffs and is seven games below .500 on the season. You wouldn’t know it based upon Brad Stevens’ pregame comments.

Stevens talked the Portland Trail Blazers up, and for good reason: they’re much healthier now than they have been all season, as big men Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins are back in the lineup.

“We’re not playing the ninth-place Portland team,” Stevens said. “We’re playing the Western Conference Finals team from last year.”

That team fell in four games to the Golden State Warriors but made plenty of noise before its season came to an end. It could potentially make similar noise during the NBA’s restart if it sneaks into the postseason. The additions of Nurkic and Collins to the frontcourt, in addition to the presence of Hassan Whiteside, is a big reason why, according to Stevens.

At the defensive end, the coach said, “Whiteside is tremendous, but now they’ve got 48 minutes of elite rim protection. They’re back in pick-and-rolls some like we played against the other day and struggled with at the rim.”

Stevens then described how their presence impacts Portland’s offense as well.

“The guards (Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum) are just so good,” he said, “and Nurkic’s screening and Collins’ screening gets them open.”

Don’t forget that Carmelo Anthony, a future Hall of Famer who scored 21 points during Portland’s critical overtime win Friday against Memphis, is also logging 30-plus minutes a night.

This Trail Blazers team is no joke. It is just as talented and dangerous as the one that made a run to the Conference Finals last season.

- Marc D'Amico

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