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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Boston Celtics Preview

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Portland will try to build momentum against a very good Celtics team.

NBA: Boston Celtics at Portland Trail Blazers Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (30-37) vs. Boston Celtics (43-22)

Sunday, August 2 - 12:30 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Rodney Hood (out), Trevor Ariza (opted out), Caleb Swanigan (opted out), Jaylen Adams (questionable)
Celtics injuries: None
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW, ABC
How to stream: Blazer’s Edge Streaming Guide
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: Celtics Blog

After losing all three warm-up games in the bubble, everything since has come up roses for the Blazers. Portland won an exciting game over the Memphis Grizzlies by a score of 140-135 in overtime on Friday, and the Sacramento Kings and New Orleans Pelicans are winless in the bubble so far. The only problem is that the remaining schedule for the Blazers is rough. The Rockets, Nuggets and Clippers are all on the horizon, but first up is the Boston Celtics.

Boston started their bubble campaign losing a close one to the Milwaukee Bucks by a score of 119-112. The Celtics didn’t shoot particularly well, but they hung around because they were able to get to the free-throw line. The key moment of the game came when Giannis Antetokounmpo was called for a charge on a made basket, but the call was overturned and changed to a blocking foul on Marcus Smart. Instead of fouling out and the Celtics getting possession, Antetokounmpo was awarded the basket and converted the three-point play. Smart’s comments about that play after the game earned him a cool $15,000 fine.

What to watch for

  • A better third quarter. The Blazers outscored the Memphis Grizzlies in three out of four quarters on Friday, but it took overtime to decide the game. Portland gave up 36 points while scoring only 25 in the third, letting Memphis back into a game that the Blazers looked to have a handle on. Sometimes it seems like the worst stretch of every game comes in the third quarter for the Blazers. While this is demonstrably not true, there have been an uncomfortable number of times over the past few seasons where the third quarter has been difficult. If the Blazers can manage to get a leg up on Boston in the first half, they absolutely can't afford to squander their good work by letting momentum swing in the third quarter.
  • Whiteside's body language. Hassan's line against Memphis of seven points and four rebounds in 18 minutes of play is reasonably respectable. There were moments, however, when his focus didn't seem to be there, and you'd be forgiven for thinking that he's sulking now that he's not the primary big man on the court for the Blazers. The leading example of not being mentally sharp was at the end of regulation when he received the ball with 15 seconds left on the shot clock, 35 seconds left on the game clock and a five-point lead. Whiteside immediately shot and missed with no other Blazers under the basket, setting the table for Memphis to storm down the court and score. They would tie the game shortly thereafter. All's well that ends well, and it's not unreasonable for a player to have some issues finding their way when their place in the scheme of things changes. Still, a game full of positive energy from Hassan against Boston could be massive boost for the Blazers’ chances irrespective of his box score.
  • Fewer fouls. Portland racked up 36 fouls against Memphis, a total that could have decided the game but didn't. While Blazers fans might have some issues with how the game was officiated, being that far over their average of 21.6 per game and having 10 more than the Grizzlies can’t be completely blamed on the referees. Energy and aggression is great, but at times Portland didn’t straddle the line all that well. Boston shoots 80.1% from the line and shot 34 free-throws against the Bucks, so they are capable of drawing fouls and making teams pay. The Blazers must keep their foul total closer to their average if they want to win against Boston.

What they’re saying

Kemba Walker may not be on the injury report, but he is on a minutes restriction. Greg Walker of Celtics Blog looks at Kemba's limited minutes against the Milwaukee Bucks:

Walker didn’t seem hampered by his knee, able to cut and drive past defenders while also able to create separation to get off not only his strong mid-range jumper, but also his shot from beyond the arc. All five of Walker’s field goals came from at least 13-feet away from the basket.

“It felt very normal. It felt good,” Walker said. “I felt very comfortable out there.”

Jason Taytum had a bad shooting night against the Bucks, but that isn't bothering him as reported by Marc D’Amico of Celtics.com:

“It’s just all about watching film. Watch about what I could have done better yesterday and implement into the next game,” said Tatum. “That’s what I’m going to try to do tomorrow. We play every other day, so you always have a chance to bounce back and forget about the last game.”

What's at stake for the Celtics? Not as much as you would think according to Tim Bontemps of ESPN:

What’s at stake?
Oddly, not a lot. Boston is good enough to make a deep playoff run and could even reach the NBA Finals for the first time in a decade. But for a team with a young core under contract through next season and beyond, this should be far from Boston’s final shot at making noise in the postseason.