The 48-23 Boston Celtics and 44-27 Portland Trail Blazers aren’t too far away in terms of their records, though they do play in opposite conferences. However, they will approach today’s matchup against each other in different circumstances (9 p.m. ET Friday on NBA TV).
Boston’s record since January 11 is a very average 13-12. The squad has been inconsistent on both ends and is currently suffering a rash of injuries to key contributors, including Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Daniel Theis.
Portland has won 13 of its last 14 games. The only loss was a four-point road defeat to the Houston Rockets on Tuesday. The Rockets have the best record in the NBA. Center Jusuf Nurkic and forward Evan Turner are questionable to play today, but those injuries don’t compare to what Boston is dealing with.
So this game pits a very depleted team against arguably the hottest squad in the NBA. Will Portland capitalize or will Boston somehow upset the Blazers? Read on for our preview’s analysis of this game along with concluding betting predictions and picks.
Can Blazers’ Starting Forwards Keep Producing?
Generally, Portland’s starting forwards, Maurice Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu, are seen as the team’s weaker links in its first unit. Both are defense-first players with somewhat inconsistent offensive games.
However, both guys have absolutely killed it as of late. In the last four games, Harkless is averaging 16.3 points per game on an 84.9 true shooting percentage. Aminu is putting up 14.8 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.5 steals per contest in that same stretch with a 66.6 true shooting percentage.
Boston starts Marcus Morris and Al Horford next to Aron Baynes when Jaylen Brown is injured, as he is now. Those two are a better pair than Harkless and Aminu, but that’s not true if the Blazers’ forwards keep producing as they have been in the past week or two.
Can Terry Rozier Stay Competitive In Matchup With Damian Lillard?
Rozier has had a breakout campaign with the Celtics this season. The 24-year-old combo guard has been a massive spark off the bench for the team with his strong defense, good rebounding and much improved three-point shooting.
With Kyrie Irving out, Rozier will continue to start for Boston. He has slumped a bit from the field recently, shooting no better than 38.5 percent from the field in his last five contests.
Meanwhile, Blazers point guard Lillard is a top-five MVP candidate this season with his well-rounded offensive game and improved defense. Recently, he has been firing away with accuracy and frequency from three-point range while also getting to the free-throw line at will.
Rozier needs to submit more than something like a 12-point performance on mediocre efficiency, or Lillard will likely win the matchup in a landslide.
Will Trail Blazers Move The Ball Enough?
The Trail Blazers rank last in the NBA in assists per game (19.4). This isn’t usually a problem for them, though, because Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum are so talented as scorers that they usually create their own shots.
However, the Celtics are a team that thrive when they force teams into one-on-one play. Boston is 13-2 when it holds teams to 17 or fewer assists, but just 5-8 when its opponent has 26 or more dimes.
Indeed, Boston has young, athletic one-on-one defenders like Rozier, Jayson Tatum and Semi Ojeleye that thrive in on-ball situations. If the Blazers can force those young players to pay more attention off the ball with crisp passes and timely cuts, they will have a better chance at scoring on the Celtics’ strong defense.
Our Preview’s Boston Celtics at Portland Trail Blazers Betting Picks & Predictions
Boston is basically guaranteed the No. 2 seed at this point. The team will play hard, but Portland has much more motivation and momentum in this contest. The Blazers are still in danger of falling out of the No. 3 spot in the Western Conference.
I also expect the Blazers’ questionable players to attempt to play this game, since it is a home contest and the team has so much mojo right now. Here are this preview’s Celtics vs Trail Blazers predictions with betting picks:
- Sportsbooks are giving Portland a 7-point edge in this matchup. Bet on the best odds of Trail Blazers -7pts @ -110 with Bovada or Intertops. The odds are worse with the other firms.
- These are two defensive-minded teams, at least as of late. Boston also goes with a big lineup when Jaylen Brown is out, which usually means a slower pace. Expect a defensive struggle that doesn’t feature many transition buckets. So for the total points prediction, take the under 203pts @ best odds of -107 with BetOnline.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.