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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Boston Celtics Preview

The Blazers take on a Celtics team that is nearing the end of a disappointing road trip.

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Boston Celtics v Phoenix Suns Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Portland Trail Blazers (9-3) vs. Boston Celtics (7-5)

Sunday, November 11 - 6:00 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Maurice Harkless (out)
Celtics injuries: Daniel Theis (out), Kyrie Irving (probable - personal)
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW, NBA League Pass (outside of Portland)
How to stream: YouTube Live TV, Playstation Vue, Hulu Live TV, FuboTV, NBA League Pass (outside of Portland)
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: Celtics Blog

The Portland Trail Blazers are looking for their fourth win in a row as they take on the Boston Celtics at Moda Center. The Blazers weren’t great last time out, but they had enough to rise above the Los Angeles Clippers by a score of 116-105. Damian Lillard led the way with 25 points, while CJ McCollum added another 23.

The Celtics are on the last game of a bad road trip, having lost three out of four so far. Most recently, Boston fell to the Utah Jazz, 123-115. Kyrie Irving missed that game to attend his grandfather’s funeral, but he is expected to return for Sunday’s contest.

What to watch for

  • Can the Celtics make open shots? The Celtics are 24th in the NBA in points scored at 106.1 per game, and 29th in the league with a 42.9 field goal percentage. Conventional wisdom says that this anemic output won’t last forever. Unless they suddenly find their shooting form, the Blazers would do well to protect the paint and contest the three-point line. Mid-range? Yes please.
  • The Blazers need to take advantage when the reserves are on the court. A real highlight for Portland has been the productivity from their bench. The subs are scoring 40.9 points per game, and are playing the second-most minutes in the league. Boston’s bench is producing 36.1 points per game. If Portland can get four or five points more from its bench than Boston — the Blazers will be tough to beat.
  • Will Kyrie Irving be ready to play? Kyrie missed the Celtics’ last game against Utah to attend his grandfather’s funeral in Washington state, but he is expected to play against the Blazers. Players react differently when returning from events like this; some come out motivated, while for others, the stress and travel catch up to them. Kyrie leads his team in scoring with 21 points per game, and he is shooting 41.9 percent from deep. To say that he is important to Boston’s chances for success would be an understatement.

What they’re saying

The big news in the Eastern Conference is the trade that is sent Jimmy Butler to the Philadelphia 76ers. Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe looks at how that deal might impact the Celtics:

It remains to be seen how outsized personalities such as Butler and Embiid will mesh, but the talent level is undeniable. Through the first month of the season it had appeared that the Raptors, Bucks, and Celtics — despite some early struggles — were likely to emerge as the top three teams in the East.

Now the 76ers will be viewed as more of a threat. The Celtics and 76ers will face each other three more times during the regular season, with the next matchup coming on Christmas Day at TD Garden.

With high expectations coming in to the season, are the Celtics worried about their sluggish start? Not really reports Tim Bontemps of ESPN:

Although the season is only a few weeks old, the Celtics are already facing a gap between themselves and the two teams at the top of the Eastern Conference standings: the Toronto Raptors and Milwaukee Bucks.

”Long season, man,” Kyrie Irving said with a smile. “Long season. I just try to enjoy it as much as possible, even through the pain or [when] we’re not looking as great.

Boston has struggled so far on the offensive end, but the pick-and-pop has been a bright spot according to Andrew Doxy on Celtics Blog:

Boston’s struggles on the offensive end have been well documented over the last few weeks. They’re terrible! For now, at least, but terrible nonetheless. For some context, they’re 27th in the NBA in offensive rating as of November 9th. They’re ranked 19th in pace and 25th in points per game. The defensive numbers are a lot more forgiving, but offensively? Shield the eyes of the children.

However, in the depths of despair, Boston has found one go-to play in times of need. After a slow start to the season, Kyrie Irving has emerged as the de facto first option. I’ve come to this conclusion on the strength of the fact that he’s literally the only one who will make open shots at this point.