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Portland Trail Blazers at Boston Celtics Preview

The Blazers and Celtics open Super Bowl Sunday with a morning tip-off.

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Atlanta Hawks v Boston Celtics Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

Portland Trail Blazers (29-23) vs. Boston Celtics (38-15)

Sunday, February 4th - 9:00 a.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Evan Turner (probable), Shabazz Napier (questionable)
Celtics injuries: Kyrie Irving (out), Marcus Smart (out), Marcus Morris (out), Shane Larkin (out), Gordon Hayward (out)
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

After a 130-105 beat down at the hands of the Toronto Raptors on Friday, the Portland Trail Blazers are back in action with an early tip-off against the depleted Boston Celtics. Boston, the top seed in the Eastern Conference, will be missing Kyrie Irving, Marcus Smart and Marcus Morris; they are a combined 47 points per game worth of production.

That doesn’t mean the Celtics will roll over easily, however. Still active are Al Horford, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, a trio that makes up one of the better frontcourts in the NBA.

For the Blazers, Evan Turner and Shabazz Napier are both battling minor lower body injuries, which may explain why they looked a step slow all night long against the Raptors on Friday.

What to Watch For

Big time athleticism from Boston’s forwards. Tatum and Brown make one of the more explosive forward combinations in the NBA. At 19 and 21 years old, respectively, both players have incredibly bright futures but are already a high-contributing combination; they average 28 points a night together. Tatum and Brown can both get to the rim easily and are shooting the 3-ball extremely well. Managing just one is a tall order. Stopping both, especially with Turner nursing a strained calf, is going to prove tough for Portland’s forwards.

Close out on open shooters. The majority of Boston’s offense comes from spot-up shooters getting good looks, with Irving getting into the lane and causing defenses to collapse around him. With Irving out, the Celtics may not be able to get as many wide-open looks but they can still knock them down. Horford, Brown, Tatum, Terry Rozier and even Aron Baynes are able to consistently hit from 16 feet out. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum need to stay in front of guard penetration to give the rest of Portland’s defenders ample opportunity to close out on jump shots.

Boston’s defense. The Celtics are the best defensive team in the league. More troubling for Portland, they defend the pick-and-roll ball handler (Lillard and McCollum in Portland’s most-run set by far) at an elite level, allowing only 0.74 points per possession in that scenario. Portland is the second-best offensive team in that situation, so something’s going to give. Hopefully for the Blazers, Marcus Smart’s defense will be missed.

What They’re Saying

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports on the Celtics’ recent signing of talented big man Greg Monroe:

In Boston, Monroe might be best used in a reserve role. Coach Brad Stevens has leaned heavily on Aron Baynes in a starting spot given the toughness he adds alongside Al Horford. Boston’s defensive rating is a team-best 95.5 when Baynes is on the court, and his offensive limitations are offset when running him alongside starters like Kyrie Irving. Boston’s defensive rating spikes to a team-worst 102.2 when Baynes sits.

The Celtics have desperately needed an offensive threat when Irving goes to the bench, and Monroe could see plenty of touches with reserve units. His biggest competition for minutes will come from Daniel Theis, an offseason import from Germany who has slowly emerged as a key rotation player. For January, Theis averaged 6.3 points and 5.1 rebounds over 16.4 minutes per game. He also shot 47.6 percent beyond the 3-point arc in January and gives maximum effort on both ends.

Taylor Snow at discussed Terry Rozier’s historic first NBA start:

This week Terry Rozier appeared in 164 regular-season games before finally earning his first career start Wednesday night, but it was more than worth the wait.

With Kyrie Irving, Marcus Smart and Shane Larkin all sidelined with various injuries, Rozier took the reigns as the Boston Celtics’ starting point guard for the first time. The third-year guard delivered with his first career triple-double performance, all while leading his team to a blowout win over the rival New York Knicks.

Rozier logged 17 points, 11 rebounds and a career-high 10 assists during 33 minutes of play, as he helped pave the way for a 103-73 Celtics win. He joined Tony Wroten as the only other NBA player to log a triple-double in his first career start since the 1970-71 season when the NBA began listing starters in box scores.

“That was the plan,” Rozier joked after the game. “It just worked out perfect for me. I got to knock down shots at the beginning of the game, hit the open man, I’m always going to get in there and rebound. It was just a great night.”