Originally written February 24, 2013 on NorthWest Sports Beat:
Not getting easier The Portland Trail Blazers have lost seven straight games, and while the Boston Celtics aren’t what they used to be, they’re still a tough opponent for a young Rip City squad. Matchup: Portland (25-30) vs. Boston Celtics (29-26) Venue: Rose Garden  Time: 6:00 PM PT Date: Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013 The playoffs are becoming less and less likely with each grueling loss, which means something needs to change quickly before the season spins out of control. Composure will be key Sunday night against the Celtics. (Photo: AP) Game Notes/How They Match Up The Celtics will be without Rajon Rondo Sunday, which would appear to give Portland the edge coming in. Unfortunately, the team was without their floor general last time they played the Blazers, and they came away with an 18-point win back on Nov. 30. Boston and Portland are moving in different directions at this point in the season. While the Blazers are in the midst of their longest losing streak of the year, the Celtics have won nine of their last 12. Both teams are looking for a late-season push, and the Celtics appear to be the ones that have found it. That being said, you can’t deny the power of home-court advantage. The Blazers are 17-9 on the year in front of their own crowd, while the Celtics have won just nine of their 26 road games. If Portland can use the crowd to its advantage, its young legs should create an advantage against the veteran C’s. What to Watch: Portland The Blazers are getting to a point in the season where they can see things falling apart. A hard-fought game against L.A. resulted in a loss, and when they weren’t getting the calls they deserved, they let their emotions get the best of them. This game is going to be all about composure. If Portland lets the referees and the trash-talking Celtics control the contest, it’s going to be a tough outing. The team needs to play their style of basketball, and simply put, that means they need to have fun. It seems like forever ago, but remember when the Blazers came back to beat the Dallas Mavericks? That was one of the more resilient performances of the season, and it ended with all smiles by a team pushing toward the playoffs. This is a young team, and they need to smile. Getting down on yourself—or the refs—doesn’t help anybody, and it’s certainly not going to help should they make the postseason. What to Watch: Boston The Boston Celtics have been an interesting team to follow this season. They’ve been both great and awful throughout different stretches, and a big reason for that is the fact that they’re a defensive-minded team that doesn’t rebound. Just 28th in the league in rebounding, the team doesn’t have anybody pulling down more than 7.6 rebounds per game. They’re also just a middle-of-the-road team when it comes to protecting the paint. When this team succeeds, they’re slowing down opposing offenses and sticking to their defensive ways of the past. They may be getting older, but they’re still tough to score on when they lock down and commit to defense. LaMarcus Aldridge and Kevin Garnett are familiar foes at the PF position. (Photo: David Butler II) Portland has struggled mightily on defense during their losing streak, so if Boston’s D takes over, the Blazers will have to match intensity from start to finish. Key Matchup When LaMarcus Aldridge matches up against Kevin Garnet, things get intense. While it’s safe to say that LaMarcus Aldridge has surpassed Garnett as one of the premier power forwards in the game, it’s also safe to say that Garnett simply doesn’t care. He’s as ornery as it comes in the NBA, and he’s never going to back down from a challenge. Although Garnett is playing the center position for Boston this season, it’s almost a guarantee that these two will face off throughout spurts of the contest. The last time these two met, the Celtics won the game, but Aldridge won the battle down low. He scored 23 points on 8-of-16 shooting, while collecting eight rebounds along the way. Garnett was efficient, making five of his eight attempts, but the offense was moving through the guards, and he only managed to score 10 points in 23 minutes. These two players have a history of getting physical, and you should expect nothing less come Sunday. Injury Report Portland: N/A Boston: N/A Prediction Portland needs a statement win to boost morale, and a close victory over the Celtics could prove to be just that. Blazers 95 – Celtics 94 CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT THE BLAZERS BLOG IN OUR CLUBHOUSE TODAY AT NWSB!
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