The Portland Trail Blazers (27-9) will host the Boston Celtics (13-24) tonight at 7:00 p.m. in the Moda Center. The Trail Blazers have had three days rest since boosting their morale with a much-needed win over the Orlando Magic. Though rookie guard CJ McCollum was shaky in his debut that night, some time to rest and process his latest milestone will do him good. Portlanders who missed it will get a chance to watch him play tonight, as the game will be broadcast locally on KGW.
That is, if head coach Terry Stotts keeps him in rotation. Stotts has been playing with the lineup for the duration of Portland’s slump. We’ve seen Meyers Leonard replace Thomas Robinson, Will Barton replace Dorell Wright, CJ McCollum replace Will Barton, and Thomas Robinson re-replace Meyers Leonard—all in a nine game stretch that the Trail Blazers have split 5-4. Who will we see on the court tonight?
This matchup is going to be a coaching battle more than anything else. Talent-wise, the Trail Blazers have the Celtics severely outmatched, but Brad Stevens is earning a reputation as the NBA’s most notorious tinkerer with regard to his lineup. You never quite know who will see minutes in his crowded frontcourt, and after trading for former Trail Blazer Jerryd Bayless earlier this week, the backcourt has its own question marks.
Portland Trail Blazers: Nothing. Nicolas Batum will continue to play through a fractured finger on his non-shooting hand, and CJ McCollum has rejoined the team with a clean bill of health. The Trail Blazers are healthier than they’ve been all year.
Boston Celtics: Rajon Rondo remains sidelined as he recovers from ACL surgery and has denied reports that he planned to return on January 17th. Rondo has no timetable for return and the Celtics will play on with Jordan Crawford for the time being.
Keys To The Game
- Corralling rebounds. When the Trail Blazers faced the Celtics in Boston on November 15th, they allowed only four offensive rebounds and won 109-96. The Celtics are one of the worst offensive teams in the league, so stifling their second chance opportunities robs them of their best work-around for inefficiency. The Celtics require a significantly higher volume of shots to outscore the Trail Blazers.
- Preventing Turnovers. This one may end up being even more important. If I see one more lazy bounce pass at the top of the key get picked off for an easy bucket, I’m going either fetal or feral. With excessive turnovers, Portland has given away close games to Miami (17), Philadelphia (14), and Sacramento (16) in the past two weeks. Any guesses how Boston could sneak in a win as well? It’s that volume business I’m talking about.
- Containing Jeff Green. This job falls on the shoulders of Nicolas Batum and Robin Lopez. Green lives for that corner three, but is equally talented at the rim, if not more-so. Batum cannot let him spot up unattended, and Lopez has to be prepared to contest some of the most vicious dunks the NBA has to offer. Jeff Green leads the Celtics in scoring with 16.1 points per game, but has been known to break 30+ against weaker defenses.