The Portland Trail Blazers were supposed to be a breakthrough team this year, but has recently struggled to stay above .500 and remain one of the eight playoff-eligible teams in the West. The Celtics overcame a brutal start to the season and is in the hunt for the playoffs, but it dealing with trade rumors swirling about their best overall player. A team that has had issues on the road visit a team that only recently has gotten got at home, as the Blazers continue a season-long seven-game road trip with a visit to Beantown to face the Celtics. Here’s a look at what to expect from both teams, plus my final score prediction to help you make your NBA picks tonight.
Portland Trail Blazers (19-20) @ Boston Celtics (20-18), 7:30 p.m. ET
The Blazers have been hampered this year by their lack of success away from the Rose City. Wednesday’s 106-94 loss at Minnesota Wednesday to kick off this road trip was the Blazer’s third straight road loss and fourth in the last five outings. Overall, Portland has lost eight of its last 12 games, and the recent trend has been on defense – in six of the losses, Portland has allowed 100 or more points and three of the four wins came from holding teams to 91 or fewer. With Boston’s overall offensive struggles, Portland may be in a better position to get a win on the road than it has had in a while. LaMarcus Aldridge (21.6 ppg, 8.2 rpg) leads a balanced team with six double-figure scorers on a squad that ranks fifth in the league in scoring (98.1 ppg), though it is an average 13th in scoring defense (94.3 ppg), which is more a by-product of Portland’s tempo.
Boston started this season rather slow, but has come on of late. After a 4-8 start overall and a 4-5 opening to the home schedule, Boston has gone 16-10 overall and 11-3 at home since, though it fell hard Wednesday night at Philadelphia, 103-71, to snap a five-game win streak. Boston is 9-2 in its last 11 home games, including a win over Chicago. The team has succeeded despite the rumor mill swirling about point guard Rajon Rondo (13.8 ppg, 10.1 apg) being traded by next week’s trade deadline. But as long as Boston continues its current roll, it’s unlikely there will be a major deal – and certainly not one involving the teams’ best player. The Celtics rank a stout third in the league in scoring defense (89.8 ppg) despite being dead last in rebounding (39.1 pg). For Boston to overcome its offensive difficulties (90.5 ppg, 26th in the league), it will have to crash the boards hard against an athletic but physical Portland team. That is likely the best way, also, to slow down Portland’s tempo and rhythm on offense.
Looking at the latest NBA odds, Boston is favored by 3 points, while the total has been set for 183. The Celtics have been hamstrung by their offensive issues all season, which has placed a tremendous emphasis on the defensive intensity. Boston seems to do pretty well against Eastern teams, but it has trouble against West teams – especially those who are disciplined and can dictate the tempo of the game. Portland knows what it wants to do due to its experience, but Boston is equally experienced in holding to its defensive philosophy. It will be imperative for Boston to command the flow of the game at home, and probably to an extreme. If Portland can get the game into the 90s, it will have a strong chance of winning. Boston must keep the game in the 80s or lower, and Portland has had the propensity to get sucked into those kinds of games, despite its high-scoring average. Boston will manage to keep Portland in a half-court and that will be enough to eke out a close, competitive game.
Final Score Prediction: Celtics 93, Portland 87