Portland catch fire as they down Boston in thriller

The Celtics would continue their West Coast road trip against the Portland Trailblazers. A quite important game for Boston if they want to have home court first round of the playoffs after the Lakers beat the Heat yesterday. Boston would be boosted by the return of Jae Crowder.

The Celtics jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead before McCollum got the Blazers on the board. Thomas’s 6th point of the quarter had the Celtics leading 12-4 but back to back 3’s by Portland got the momentum swinging on their side. Portland went on to hit another 3 triples in a row to take a 25-19 lead. Olynyk continued his hot 3 point shooting, scoring 2 of them in quick succession before a steal & another basket by Kelly had him up to 8 points. The Celtics finished the quarter on a 7-2 run to take a 31-30 advantage into the 2nd.

Evan Turner started the quarter with 4 points, a steal, which was already his 4th of the game & a block that led to a Crowder 3 as Boston went up by 8. Portland answered with their own 9-2 run to force a Boston timeout. Vonleh tied the game at 41 apiece after Crowder went 1-3 from the line, continuing Boston’s struggles this game (8-14 at this stage). Boston answered with an 11-0 blitz, going 4-4 from the line during the run. For the 3rd time this quarter, a timeout sparked a run, as Portland, courtesy of Aminu & Plumlee, went on a quick 5-0 run. The Blazers finished the quarter with 6 straight free throw attempts as Boston took a 58-54 lead into the break.

Avery Bradley started the 3rd quarter on fire, scoring 8 of Boston’s first 10 points as the Celtics went on top by 10. Aminu knocked down his 3rd & 4th triples of the night to keep Portland close but another basket by Avery had Boston back up 11. Portland again closed the quarter much better than Boston, finishing the quarter on a 10-2 run as Boston’s lead was cut to 2.

Aminu started the 4th with another pair of 3’s before Henderson also scored 6 straight as Portland started the 4th on fire. The Blazers were able to stop Boston & keep scoring themselves as a 21-6 start to the 4th had them leading 89-102 with just over 7 minutes left. 4 quick points by Boston had the lead back into single digits as Portland took a timeout. The Celtics continued the run & an offensive rebound off a missed free throw led to an Isaiah 3 that had Boston within 2. McCollum put Portland up 5 but another 2 free throws by Isaiah & Boston went to Hack-a-Plumlee who split the free throws. The Celtics then got 2nd chance points on back to back trips to take a 1 point lead after a Jae Crowder 3. CJ scored to put Portland back on top before an Isaiah turnover led to another 2 for Aminu. Portland held on in a thriller, beating Boston 109-116.

Holding steady: Boston Celtics @ Portland Trailblazers preview

Present alternate logo since the 2002–03 Season
Present alternate logo since the 2002–03 Season (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1-2 on the road trip so far, two more games to go. Will the C’s be able to clinch the remaining two games and come out with a 3-2 this road trip?

Stat check: The Blazers are on a 7 game losing streak, the latest being a close loss to the Lakers on the road, 107-111.

Game time: 25 Feb 2013, 1300hrs AEDT

Watch it on: NBA League Pass

Roster changes:

  1. Rajon Rondo is out for the season with a torn ACL on his right knee.
  2. Jared Sullinger is out for the season after his back operation.
  3. Leandro Barbosa is out for the season with a torn ACL on his left knee.
  4. Wesley Matthews (ankle, day-to-day) participated in shooting drills on Saturday, but did not attend full practice.

Top enemy performers:

  1. Scoring: LaMarcus Aldridge (20.8 PPG)
  2. Rebounds: JJ Hickson (10.4 RPG)
  3. Assists: Damian Lillard (6.5 APG)

Keys to the game:

  1. Containing Aldridge: With an especially depleted front court for our guys in green now, LaMarcus Aldridge’s offensive impact will be keenly felt. His ability to hit shots in the post and the long two makes him especially dangerous; expect KG to be going at Aldridge hard.
  2. Lillard, period: Potential Rookie of the Year candidate Damian Lillard is a potential threat on the perimeter. With the poise that has allowed him to make countless big shots this season, defensive stopper Bradley will definitely be on the job, all ready to stifle the surging young guard.
  3. Bench scoring: New signings Terrence Williams and Jordan Crawford did an excellent job in the Suns game, giving immediate impact. Williams was very handy with the assists and made good passes with his excellent court vision, while Crawford scored right off his first game (10 points), telling the team he can and will continue to score. Expect the duo to continue producing in good form.
  4. The Green Machine: Jeff Green proved his ability as a starter last game, with a huge stat line of 31 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals and 5 huge blocks, while keeping the uglies away with only one TO and one foul. The question comes: do you play Green to start once more, or revert to the usual lineup of KG-Pierce-Bass-Bradley-Lee? I’d like to think that Pierce could do with coming off the bench and save his legs, while giving Green the opportunity to give the team what it needs.

I do not see this game as an impossible win, but the key lies in defense. Do not give the Blazers a chance to rally, keep our new pieces running and keep the foot on the pedal. Call me green-goggled, but I have a relatively good feel about this game – expect the C’s to take this one and prepare for the tough Utah game ahead.