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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Boston Celtics Preview

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The Blazers hope their luck continues against the Celtics.

Portland Trail Blazers v Boston Celtics Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

Portland Trail Blazers (26-32) vs. Boston Celtics (39-17)

February 25, 2020 - 7:00 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Damian Lillard (out), Rodney Hood (out), Zach Collins (out), Jusuf Nurkic (out)
Celtics injuries: Kemba Walker (out)
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW
How to stream: Blazer’s Edge Streaming Guide
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: CelticsBlog

The Portland Trail Blazers take on the Boston Celtics following a win over the Detroit Pistons 107-104. With Damian Lillard out due to a groin injury, CJ McCollum led the Blazers with 41 points, 12 assists, and nine rebounds, while Carmelo Anthony tipped in 32 points. McCollum’s 12 assists marked a career-high, while the 32 points from Anthony were a season-high.

The Boston Celtics arrive in Portland following a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers 114-112. Jayson Tatum had 41 points to lead the Celtics, while Jaylen Brown contributed 20 points. The Celtics were missing Kemba Walker, who has sat out with left knee soreness.

What to watch for

Battle of the Benches. The Celtics’ bench has struggled to piece things together, and they were held to a total of 11 points against the Lakers after only scoring five in the first three quarters. Similarly, the Blazers’ bench only contributed 10 points against the Detroit Pistons. The bench could be a key difference for either team.

CJ McCollum. McCollum made his mark in Damian Lillard’s absence against the Detroit Pistons with 41 points, just nine shy of his career-high of 50. He came very close to securing a triple-double with nine rebounds. It is possible that the game versus Detroit marks something of a breakout for McCollum.

Defense, defense, defense. Both Hassan Whiteside and Trevor Ariza are capable of putting pressure on opposing offenses in different ways. That said, the defense looked sloppy against the Pistons, and the Blazers need to clean up those mistakes if they want to contain Jayson Tatum and the Celtics.

What they’re saying

Chad Finn of the Boston Globe thinks the Celtics should face the Lakers in the Finals, renewing their storied rivalry:

No one was readier than Tatum, the 21-year-old forward and Bryant disciple who has emerged as a top-tier star over the last few weeks, attacking tirelessly on offense like an elongated version of Paul Pierce.

The similarities don’t end there. Pierce, famously, got his nickname “The Truth” from expert nickname bestower Shaquille O’Neal after dropping 42 points on the Lakers in a March 2001 game.

After Tatum scored 41 points on the Lakers Sunday — doing most of his damage against Davis — James took to Instagram to express his respect for the growth in Tatum’s game, referring to the Celtic as an “absolute problem.”

Hunter Felt at Forbes contemplates whether Jayson Tatum is the most valuable player on the Celtics:

Kemba Walker is Boston’s most important player. He’s an accomplished All-Star point guard who essentially heads the offense. The Celtics season wouldn’t be as successful as it is without him filling in the leadership vacuum left by the departure of Al Horford and replacing a good chunk of the production that Kyrie Irving took with him to Brooklyn. That being said, Tatum’s improvement in all aspects of the game—including his underrated defense—has created a growing sense that he could be Boston’s best player.