Trail Blazers vs. Celtics Preview: Can Boston Cover at Home?

Action Network Senior NBA Writer Matt Moore previews Friday's matchup between the Portland Trail Blazers and Boston Celtics.

Trail Blazers vs. Celtics Odds

Trail Blazers Odds +8
Celtics Odds -8
Over/Under 212
Time 7:30 p.m. ET
TV NBA League Pass
Odds via Caesars. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

The Portland Trail Blazers, without Damian Lillard and with CJ McCollum only recently back, have somehow won four of six. They’ve gotten huge contributions from Anfernee Simons, averaging 23 points and seven assists over the last 10 games.

The Boston Celtics have won five of seven and seem to have turned the corner, which means they are clearly due for an unforgivably bad loss.

Below I’ll preview the matchup between both teams and how I plan to bet this game. In addition, you can watch the NBA BetStream of this game with me, my fellow Action Network analyst Raheem Palmer and Chirag Hira from DraftKings Sportsbook on NBA League Pass.

Let’s dig into the recent play of both teams.

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Matchups Could Neutralize Portland’s Offense

Portland is severely undermanned at the moment. Not only is Damian Lillard out with his abdominal injury, but Norman Powell, Larry Nance Jr., and Cody Zeller are about, and Nasir Little is questionable.

Portland’s defense on average is horrendous — they rank 28th in the league in adjusted defensive rating. However, they’ve been better over the past six games, with a 106.7 defensive rating.

The Trail Blazers have an offensive matchup problem here. The Celtics switch more than any other team, and the Blazers, whose strength is their offense, rank 17th vs. switching defenses.

Portland has been switching more themselves, but Boston ranks eighth in scoring against switches. This doesn’t project as a favorable matchup, with Al Horford and Robert Williams able to battle Jusuf Nurkic down low and Boston’s perimeter guards equipped to defend Simons.

That said, Portland’s been surprisingly pesky and is easy to overlook with their missing talent.

Celtics Strong Defensively, Questionable Offensively

Marcus Smart and Aaron Nesmith are questionable ahead of this game. Smart missed Wednesday’s game due to conditioning after returning from health and safety protocols. Typically players have needed at least one game for conditioning before returning to the lineup.

The Celtics have to get out of their own way. That’s really all that’s standing between this team and a playoff spot. The Celtics have lost 11 games this season with a double-digit lead, including five losses with a lead of 15 or more points.

Their overall profile is better: They rank fifth in defense but just 21st in adjusted offense. The C’s are just 9-16 in clutch games this season. Late in games, they have a distinct lack of organization.

Boston’s defense bogs down opponents with switches and has great rim protection with Williams down low. Even with the switching scheme, the Celtics give up the third-fewest points to centers this season, so they should match up well with Nurkic.

This is a battle of two struggling bench units — Portland struggles because of injuries and the Celtics because their second unit just hasn’t been what they needed.

The larger problem for the Celtics is Jayson Tatum who is shooting 41.5% from the field and 31.7% from 3-point range. Even still, the Celtics are +4.2 per 100 possessions with Tatum on the floor. They win those minutes even with him playing poorly, so if he can turn it around, there are better days coming for Boston.

Boston should win this game. Their problem has been their underperformance in games they should win this season. Boston is 13-16 against the spread as a favorite, 8-13 as a home favorite.

Trail Blazers-Celtics Pick

The Celtics are 10-3 straight up with a +4.3 spread differential vs. bottom-10 defensive teams, per Cleaning The Glass.

There’s a risk in betting the Celtics, but I don’t think the matchup is good for the Blazers. Norman Powell’s absence, in particular, is a problem, and ultimately the Celtics logically should stabilize over the course of the season.

I project this at Celtics -10.7, giving a significant edge to Boston.

Pick: Celtics -8