On paper the Portland Trail Blazers are capable of beating the Rajon-Rondo-less Boston Celtics. Will their logical advantages prevail or will momentum and discouragement make this game a laughable defeat?
The Portland Trail Blazers carry a four-game road losing streak into TD Garden today to face the 8-7 Boston Celtics. The game will be televised locally on CSNNW.
How well the Blazers fare tonight may depend on which trends prevail, those of the head or those of the heart.
Analytically speaking, the Celtics don't appear all that intimidating. 8-7 doesn't strike fear in opponents, especially since the Celts have already lost 4 home games this year. Their last loss, to Brooklyn, featured All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo getting ejected for dumping Kris Humphries on his teakettle faster than Kim Kardashian did. Rondo has been suspended for this contest, a massive bonus for point-guard-phobic Portland. Boston allows opponents generous shooting percentages from the floor and from the three-point arc, right up Portland's alley. They have no interior defense to speak of and no true big man or post scoring threat...another huge relief. They don't offensive rebound, leaving Portland free to grab and run. On paper this matchup looks good for Portland. Maybe it is, says the head.
On the other hand the Blazers have been playing with all the enthusiasm of soggy toast lately. They held the infamous "team meeting" after losing to the Wizards in their last game. Team leader LaMarcus Aldridge apparently said nothing when Wesley Matthews and Jared Jeffries tried to rally the troops. Games following this kind of meeting generally go one of two ways. Sometimes the players show an extra burst of effort. Sometimes they fall apart completely, playing worse than they did previously. The Blazers could go either way tonight.
Boston also presents some unique problems. Kevin Garnett used to be intense and fiery. Now he's best described as a salty old [insert archaic word for child of dubious parental lineage here]. Some guys, when they see another guy limping down the street in the snow, will take their arm and ask if they can call them a cab. Garnett would kick him in the crotch and laugh about it. (Or at least the on-court version of Garnett would.) Boston's not going to be in the mood to empathize with the Blazers' struggles. KG is going to want to knock them down and clog dance on their forehead. Paul Pierce is yet another veteran small forward with the potential to make Nicolas Batum run and hide. Jason Terry can score in droves when needed. It's a sure bet he'll be taking many of Rondo's touches. Plus Boston shoots amazingly well from the field and passingly well from the three-point arc under normal circumstances. Their 47.4% shooting clip could double against Portland's defense if the Blazers are going through the motions.
In short, even if the Blazers match up stronger and younger (and with a reasonable approximation of talent with Rondo out) against Boston's best starters, Portland is also capable of leaving a rancid mess of a game all over the parquet floor. Thus the heart worries about a game in which the head says the Blazers could perform better than expected.
One thing's for sure: the Blazers will need their heads and hearts working in conjunction to win this game. Boston is too experienced, too talented, and have too much to prove themselves for Portland to back into a victory. This game has all the hallmarks of your classic 2-point win or 20-point loss for the Blazers. It'll be interesting to see which one actually happens.
It will also be interesting to see how this game affects tomorrow night's game in Cleveland. Will Portland play starters big minutes and drain their capacity to play on Saturday? Will the Blazers get blown out so badly that momentum will push them into more losses regardless? Both of these games are critical to turning around this road trip. Stay tuned.
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