Game Time: 7:30 p.m. TV: TNT
In TNT's Buyer's Remorse game of the night (yes, they made the schedule pre-injuries) the 25-21 Portland Trail Blazers face the 34-10 Boston Celtics in Portland's Rose Garden. The Blazers will be hard-pressed to make themselves a thorn in Boston's side. The Celts are on a 9-3 run this month and there's plenty of bad news to go around.
The Celtics lead the league in shooting percentage at 50.3% per game. They post an impressive 5th-overall league ranking in points in the paint combined with a 4th-overall ranking in three-point percentage. They're legit inside and out, as you'd expect any team fielding Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen to be. They're a middling fast-break team, largely because they don't need to hurry when they run such a high-percentage offense. They're poor offensive rebounders, but again the high shooting percentage offsets this. They are a skilled, professional, and polished offensive unit, less intimidating than inexorable.
Though they got off to a shaky start this season, the Celtics' defensive form has returned as the year has progressed. They're second only to Chicago in defensive efficiency. They're second in fast break points allowed and best in the league in points in the paint allowed. They're 5th in opponent shooting percentage, 8th in opponent three-point percentage, 10th in defensive rebounding percentage. If they're not the league's best overall defense they're close.
If there's anywhere the Celtics can be had it's the foul line. They don't draw foul shots and they give up more than average. But it's hard to close the gaps between your team and theirs on either end of the court with single-point shots.
A couple of developments give the Blazers hope, though.
1. Portland has been decimated by injuries but the Celtics have suffered their share too. Shaquille O'Neal and Jermaine O'Neal are out. Kendrick Perkins has one game under his belt this season, their last outing. Delonte West is out with a wrist injury. Marquis Daniels sat out the last game for personal reasons. Forward Glen Davis and guard Nate Robinson are the only two reliable players they field. Granted, either would be more than welcome on Portland's roster right now but still, this is not the bulldozing prospect it would have been were Boston completely healthy.
2. The Celtics lose odd games sometimes. Their last five losses have come against Detroit, New Orleans, Houston, Chicago, and Washington. Almost without exception those were low-scoring affairs, which may give the Blazers a clue how to approach this game: slow, ugly, and keeping the margin between the teams low.
Kevin Garnett has long been a bully to the Blazers. One of the strong keys to Portland's game tonight will be how the new LaMarcus Aldridge fares against him. Pull KG's teeth, make his bark empty, and the Blazers are a large step ahead. If Aldridge folds, though, his teammates won't be able to bail water fast enough to save the ship.
If Boston comes in disinterested, the Blazers could certainly make this a tough outing. Boston's margin of victory was only 4 in the game played on December 1st. If the Blazers can keep the gap that small again, making the game turn on the last couple of plays, they'd be happy.
CelticsBlog has your Boston angle covered.
Enter tonight's Jersey Contest form here.