Lots of mystery and intrigue in this one, chock full of storylines. Either that, or it just feels that way since I’m so familiar with each team. Whichever it is, it’s one of the best games of the year for me, and as a programming note, you can catch me over at Celtics.com doing a live game chat.
Obviously, Marcus Camby making his debut is the big story of the night, followed by Brandon Roy Hamstring Watch 2010. Camby should make a good impression despite having his hands full with some talented bigs, as he isn’t the type of player that needs to be slowly integrated into a system to find success. And between Kendrick Perkins and Glen Davis the past few weeks, there have been a plethora of blockable shots coming out of Boston’s end. The Celtics also help like Goodwill in the paint, so Camby’s awkward spiraling jumper should get plenty of exercise.
The danger is that one could argue the Celtics had their biggest win of the season last night in L.A. They haven’t been anywhere close to a 48 minute team this season, having blown the most double-digit leads in the second half of anyone in the NBA. They’ve also been, at times, slow, selfish, lazy, stagnant, grounded and confused, though rarely all at once. For all those reasons, statistics can be tossed out the window for this one. The Celtics could have gotten the boost they needed from finally pulling out a great game, or they could revert to former problems on the second night of a back-to-back.
They’ll probably fall somewhere in the middle. Kevin Garnett was getting up and grabbing retro-strong rebounds last night, which he’s shown flashes of here and there, but I can’t tell you with a straight face that he’s done anything this season to prove he has enough for two nights in a row. Maybe he does and the All-Star break was like one of Ra’s Al Ghul’s Lazarus Pits for him, but he didn’t look all that great on Tuesday in Sacramento. The more Lamarcus Aldridge can wear him down, well, the better.
Portland’s athleticism is its greatest asset tonight, despite Andre Miller having the best game when these teams met in Boston. The Celtics have trouble maintaining focus on the defensive glass, which means offensive boards a plenty. They know this, though, and in Boston they made up for it by sending Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo out on the wings for long outlets and transition buckets. Hopefully Nic Batum helps in that area.
The wild card is Nate Robinson, whose status is uncertain. Generally when offensive acquisitions like him get run before any significant practice time, they play loose and more often than not have a good offensive game. Steve Blake isn’t around now to worry about quick guards taking advantage of anymore, but we could see a few short stretches of back and forth with Robinson and Jerryd Bayless.
In the end, this should end up being a possession game. The Celtics cough up a bunch of turnovers, which Portland must take advantage of, and they are also prone to slow stretches of offense — hence the Robinson trade. There’s no telling which Boston team is going to show up, but the proof for them has been in the second half, so don’t react too strongly one way or the other if Portland is up or down 10 with six minutes left in the third.