Portland at Boston
7:30 P.M. ET
Boston: 97.6 points/100 possessions (23rd)
Portland: 106.3 points/100 possessions (3rd)
Boston: 99.5 points allowed/100 possessions (9th)
Portland: 103.8 points allowed/100 possessions (24th)
Probable Trail Blazers Starters:
Damian Lillard (PG), Wesley Matthews (SG), Nicolas Batum (SF), LaMarcus Aldridge (PF) & Robin Lopez (C)
Thumbnail: The top two teams in offensive efficiency thus far in 2013-14 are the Heat and Clippers. That makes sense, but did anyone expect the Portland Trail Blazers to be third in that category this season? In his second year on the Portland bench, Terry Stotts has his team playing at a high level. After winning just 33 games last season, the Blazers brought in Robin Lopez, Mo Williams and Thomas Robinson this past offseason to mesh with the four returning starters. After losing on opening night in Phoenix, they have won six of their last seven games.
The Blazers began the season with two road contests, but then hosted the Spurs and Rockets. Most remember Portland’s victory over the Spurs for Nicolas Batum’s ‘accidental triple-double,’ but it was an impressive win nonetheless. The Rockets ended up beating the Blazers in Portland’s next game, but splitting those two games against Houston and San Antonio would be a great feat for Boston next week. As Brian Robb pointed out, the hard part starts now for the men in green.
Before the Celtics head to Texas for games on Tuesday and Wednesday against two championship contenders, they first have a back-to-back against two of the Western Conference’s surprise teams. Saturday will be the 6-3 Timberwolves, but Friday is against the 6-2 Blazers, a team that currently has the third-best record in the NBA. A bright spot for the Celtics heading into Friday night is the return of Jared Sullinger and his team-best 22.5 PER in 2013-14. After he suffered a bone bruise in his right knee on Monday, he will look to give the Celtics a jolt against the Blazers.
Prediction: Although the Blazers are not that strong of a defensive team, they bring their league-best 3-point defense into Boston on Friday night. The Celtics are percentage points behind as the third-ranked team in that category. The green bounce back from Wednesday’s poor shooting performance to get the big Friday night victory.
Celtics 99, Trail Blazers 95
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