Good news, Boston Celtics fans: Rajon Rondo is planning on playing NBA basketball this season!
The bad news is, his time frame on when he might return is “before the All-Star break,” which means the Celtics won’t have his skill set at their disposal tonight as they finish off their five-game road trip against the second-best team in the Western Conference, the Portland Trail Blazers.
Following last night’s heartbreaking, last-minute loss to Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors, Boston must now try to snap a seven-game losing streak against a Portland Trail Blazers team that already beat-down the Celtics, 109-96, in Boston. The Blazers lead the NBA in points per game at 109.1 per game, 3-point shooting percentage (39.5%) and 3-pointers made in a game (10.3), and are the fifth-best team in the NBA at protecting the rock, as they only turn the ball over around 13 times per night.
Oh, and the Trail Blazers also boast two of the top 20 scorers in the NBA: LaMarcus Aldridge (23.7) and Damian Lillard (21.6). Hell, even the Blazers’ THIRD-best scorer (Wesley Matthews, 16.5 PPG) scores more than the Celtics’ leading scorer, Jeff Green (16.1 PPG). Dammit!
So how are the Celtics going to pull off the upset?
1. Defend the three- ball.
Last night’s opponents, the Golden State Warriors, entered the contest as the third-best three-point shooting team in the NBA. The Celtics held the Warriors to 30.8% shooting from behind the arc (8-26), and lo and behold, the Cs had a chance to win that game in the closing seconds. If Boston wants to be within striking distance late tonight they will have to duplicate that effort on the defensive end. Instead of giving up wide-open looks from downtown, as Boston did against the Clippers, they have to have a hand, maybe two, in the face of every shooter tonight. If Portland’s going to nail 10 treys, Boston needs to make sure it takes 30 attempts for Portland to earn that many makes.
2. Protect the rock.
I’ve already told you how good Portland is at protecting the rock; have I told you how bad the Celtics are? Do you really want to find out? All right – but you’ve been warned. Boston turns the ball over right about 16 times per game, fourth-worst in the league. Last night they coughed it up 17 times to the Warriors, which helped the Warriors outscore Boston on the fast break, 18-12. Man, if only the Celtics had turned the ball over just a few less times . . . eh, would’ve, could’ve, should’ve. Boston can’t go back and fix the little things that may have cost them the game last night, but they sure can try to limit those same types of mistakes tonight.
Game time: 10:30. At least when I stay up until 2 a.m. tonight, though, I won’t have to worry about waking up for work tomorrow! Follow me on Twitter – @HardwoodHoudini, @theamazingMrS – check back in after the game for my recap, and hey: swing by my NEW fan picks thread, in which I ask you to make predictions during the game and determine which reader one afterward!