Ah, Boston Celtics fans, I admit it – I got carried away.
Sorry – but can you blame me? I mean, the Celtics were riding a four-game winning streak that involved a thrilling last-minute victory on the road against the Miami Heat, and a 15-point blowout of the Orlando Magic. They were playing with intensity, confidence, and solid defensive pressure. I was damn-near certain that they would make it five in a row and push their record above .500 for the first time this season.
Then, reality slapped me in the face, and the Cs went down to the Charlotte Bobcats in Boston.
One of the problems that plagued the Celtics against the Bobcats had a name: Al Jefferson. Jefferson killed his old team by pouring in 22 points, grabbing 11 rebounds, and just generally making life miserable in the paint for Boston on both ends of the court. The Celtics’ interior should be fortified by the return of Jared Sullinger tonight, who missed the game against Charlotte due to a bruised right knee. The Cs managed only 38 points in the paint against Charlotte – this after averaging almost 50 in the paint during their four-game streak. Those extra 12 points could have come in handy Wednesday night, and will be appreciated if they could make a return to the garden tonight.
Shooting the ball was also a piece of the Celtics’ game that apparently shared a seat on the bench next to Jared Sullinger against the Bobcats. Connecting on just 38% of your shots won’t get it done tonight, Boston, and if you’re going to take 21 shots from behind the arc like you did on Wednesday, you better make more than seven of them! I’m fairly certain coach Brad Stevens reminded you of that in your practice yesterday – he’s a pretty savvy guy – but I figured you might want to hear that again. I’m here to help!
So yeah – scoring the ball a bit more is going to help Boston’s cause tonight, but as always, the Cs are going to rely on their defense to stifle the Trail Blazers’ scorers, create turnovers, and get the fast break going to the tune of around 15-20 points. It sure wasn’t their D that let them down against Charlotte – the Bobcats actually shot worse from the field and behind the arc than Boston did! Even so, the Trail Blazers, led by LaMarcus Aldridge’s 21 and 8 per game, pose a bit of a stiffer challenge for the Celtics. If their response to losing four straight to start the season is any indication of the team’s mindset, we should see another dose of aggressive, in-your-face, annoying D being dished out by Boston tonight.
I feel pretty good about this game. Even though Portland is 6-2 and riding their own four-game winning streak, it took a last-second layup to propel them over Phoenix Wednesday night, and two of those victories have come at the expense of Sacramento and Detroit, who have a combined record of 4-10. If Boston can continue to swarm the ball and shoot a percentage that isn’t absolutely abysmal, I think the Cs will be the ones to put an end to the Trail Blazers’ winning streak tonight.
And if I’m wrong, I’ll blame the refs.
Tonight’s game is set to kick off at 7:30 tonight. Make sure you follow us on Twitter @HoudiniCeltics for our witty and fairly-knowledgeable observations, and check back in here for our post game coverage!