Thursday, January 27, 2011

Girls talk sports: looking ahead to Celtics-Blazers.

The Celtics, coming off a nice comfy home stand, have lost 4 of their last 6 on the road. The good news is, they're playing in Portland tonight, where they've won 7 of their last 10 visits. We all know the Celtics have been plagued by injuries, but no team has been more battered than the Blazers. All Star point guard Brandon Roy and veteran center Marcus Camby are both sidelined indefinitely with knee injuries. Nobody even mentions Greg Oden anymore. LaMarcus Aldridge (Western Conference Player of the Week) has stepped up big time for the Blazers, but has been bothered by an injury to his right hip. MRI results came back negative, but he managed only 9 points in a Portland loss to Sacramento on Monday.

Even with all of these injuries, the Blazers were riding a 5 game win streak before losing to Sacramento. Aldridge, as was aforementioned, has been playing quality basketball. He scored 37 points and pulled down 12 rebounds against Minnesota on January 17th, and followed that performance up with several more high scoring outings, with 23, 28 and 25 points. The Blazers have had several other people step up for them, as well.

Wesley Matthews has done an admirable job filling in for the injured Roy, averaging 22 points per game. He had a 28 point night against the Clippers during the Blazers win streak, and shot 40 percent from beyond the arc. When Andre Miller came to the Blazers, he was supposed to be the piece that brought them to the next level. That hasn't happened, but he has been playing solid basketball. He leads the team in assists, with 7 a game, and also leads the team in steals, with 72. After expressing his discontent in Portland all summer long, Rudy Fernandez has stepped his game up. With the Portland back court injury rattled, Fernandez has averaged 30 minutes a game, along with 8 points and 2 assists. Some other names that you might not be familiar with but should be on the look out for tonight are Nicolas Batum (can get it going from 3 point land) and Dante Cunningham (thrust in to more minutes and a starting role, due to all of the injuries).

What do the Celtics need to do to win this game?

Come out strong: Portland has been prone to slow starts as of late. They have trailed after the 1st quarter in 5 of their 6 last games, and opponents have averaged 27 points while shooting 52 percent from the field. The Celtics need to capitalize on this, and come out aggressive.
Attack the paint: The Blazers lost their premier shot blocker when Marcus Camby got injured, leaving LaMarcus Aldridge as the lone threat. The Celtics need to take advantage of their size and aggressively attack the paint.
Stay home on defensive rebounds: Portland ranks third in the league in offensive rebounding. Let's cross our fingers that the Celtics remain alert on the boards all night and make sure to keep a body on Aldridge and Batum.

Marquis Daniels will probably play tonight, having traveled to Portland to meet the team. Shaq is a maybe. Lastly, I'll be keeping an eye on Perk, to see how he plays in his second return to game action. Go big man!

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