Boston Celtics (33-19) at Portland Trail Blazers (23-30)
Feb. 9, 2017, 7:30 PST
Watch: TNT; Listen: Rip City Radio 620 AM
Blazers injuries: Evan Turner (out), Festus Ezeli (out)
Celtics injuries: Avery Bradley (out), Demetrius Jackson (questionable)
SBN Affiliate: Celtics Blog
After narrowly escaping Dallas with a victory on Tuesday night, Portland returns home to the Moda Center to host Boston. For the second game in a row, the Trail Blazers will face a team playing on the second night of a back-to-back, as the Celtics had their seven-game win streak snapped in Sacramento Wednesday night.
Poor shooting doomed Boston against the Kings, but that is far from the norm for the 5-foot-9 Isaiah Thomas. Since the former Washington Huskies guard last played against the Blazers, he has had five games in which he has crossed the 35-point threshold. Despite Thomas’ slight build, he is shooting a solid 58.7 percent within three feet of the basket.
On top of being carried by Thomas’ monster stats, Boston has changed up its starting lineup. Avery Bradley is still recovering from an achilles injury, and it will likely be Jaylen Brown in the starting lineup instead of Marcus Smart this time around. Brown, the No. 3 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, is a solid defender with a 7-foot wingspan. He isn’t known for his offense, but he was able to put together back-to-back double-digit scoring outputs before the wheels came off in Sacramento.
If Brown keeps his starting job, he will be joined by another defense-first wing in Jae Crowder. Crowder was one of six Celtics players in double figures the last time Boston played Portland. He is coming off one of his worst performances of the season - four points in 32 minutes - so he should be eager to get back in action against the Blazers.
The biggest question facing Portland in this contest won’t be how they’ll slow down Boston’s attack, but rather, how will they adapt to Evan Turner’s absence? Love him or hate him, Turner was the Blazers’ sixth-leading scorer and averaged the fourth-most assists per game on the squad.
Al-Farouq Aminu, Maurice Harkless, and Allen Crabbe are the likely candidates to fill the void left behind by Turner’s injury. Aminu and Harkless have provided coach Terry Stotts’ bench unit with some defensive intensity, and Crabbe is usually the first person off the pine when either Damian Lillard or CJ McCollum need a breather. A change must be made to the bench rotation, and tonight’s contest will give everyone an idea about how it will unfold.
With a limited amount of ball-handlers available outside of Lillard and McCollum, Mason Plumlee should see an increased role on offense. Outside of Plumlee, Shabazz Napier could creep into Stotts’ good graces with Turner sidelined for the next five to six weeks.
A home game against an Eastern Conference team on the second night of a back-to-back should make tonight’s game a winnable one for Portland. The Blazers are on the cusp of reclaiming the eighth seed, but the Celtics are a sizable obstacle to overcome in the process.