Portland Trail Blazers (31-34) vs. Boston Celtics (45-21)
The Portland Trail Blazers have their work cut for them today, facing a Boston Celtics team that fancies themselves as competitors for a title. With Jayson Tatum presumably back, nothing less than an emphatic win for the Celtics will be good enough for Boston fans who have had their faith shaken by recent losses.
The Celtics have lost three in a row and are a pedestrian 10-9 since January 23rd. Discontent is starting to rumble in the press with performances not living up to expectations, and a loss to the Blazers would be seen in Beantown as a disaster of epic proportions. Not the worst situation for the Blazers to come in with nothing to lose and some bad vibes in the building.
Portland Trail Blazers vs. Boston Celtics - Wednesday, March 8 - 4:30 p.m. PT
How to watch on TV: Root Sports Plus, NBA League Pass
Blazers injuries: Justise Winslow (out), Ibou Badji (out), Ryan Arcidiacono (out), Anfernee Simons (out), Jusuf Nurkic (questionable)
Celtics injuries: Danilo Gallinari (out), Robert Williams III (out), Payton Pritchard (questionable)
SBN Affiliate: Celtics Blog
- Sow seeds of doubt early. One of the disadvantages of playing in a massive basketball media market like Boston is that every misstep is amplified and repeated ad nauseum. After losing three in a row the atmosphere in Boston is a bit tense, and the home crowd might just get a bit antsy if the Celtics don’t get off to a good start against the Blazers. The home crowd will lose their ever-loving minds if they lose to Portland. There might not be a great time to play the Celtics in TD Garden, but this moment is about as good as it gets. A quick start could set the stage for the Blazers in a very advantageous way.
- Back from injury? Both teams could benefit from a return to the court for a player or two. Jusuf Nurkic is listed questionable, while Al Horford and Jayson Tatum are not on the injury report and look set to be back on the court after absences. For the Blazers, an out of form Nurkic is probably helpful just to give the valiant Drew Eubanks a bit of a breather. For the Celtics, they are certainly looking for Tatum’s return to be a difference-maker that can reverse the recent skid. Maybe the Blazers can catch a bit of a break if Tatum isn’t quite up to speed yet, but don’t count on it.
- Protect the three-point line. The Celtics attempt the second most three-pointers and make the second most in the NBA. This is bad news for the Blazers who have often struggled to chase opponents off of the arc. This has to be a priority, as Boston is more than capable of making this a laugher quickly if they are allowed to establish an outside rhythm.
What Others Are Saying
Conor Ryan of boston.com examines some worrying trends for the Celtics.
Mazzulla’s faith in his team clearly hasn’t been shaken. But there are still some concerning trends that have followed Boston over this extended malaise.
Recent losses have Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe wondering if head coach Joe Mazzulla it up to the job.
Is he truly prepared to lead the Celtics to their first championship in 15 years? Is his inexperience, especially against veteran coaches, being exposed during these late-season matchups?
Time for Celtics fans to panic? Not really according to TrevorHass of Celtics Blog.
Teams go through slumps, and this slump isn’t really a traditional slump in a sense. It’s more about inconsistency. They’ve played to their potential in stretches; it just hasn’t been enough good basketball at the right moments.