Preview: Blazers at Celtics
|12.01.10 at 10:12 am ET|
For all the attention Greg Oden‘s knee injuries have received consider the case of Brandon Roy. Just two seasons ago, Roy averaged 22 points and right around five points and five assists per game for a team that won 54 games. He was a second-team All NBA selection and the general feeling around the league was that he was on the verge of attaining superstar status.
There’s a good chance that version of Roy is gone and never coming back. He avoided having knee surgery, but as the Oregonian’s Jason Quick pointed out, that was only because he has no cartilage left to fix. Roy’s doctors told him he had “arthritic knee,” bone on bone. He’s only 26 years old but he’s already on anti-inflammatory medication and playing under a time limit of 35 minutes a night.
This isn’t potential we’re talking about, like with Oden. This is a great player on the brink of becoming something truly special. Roy is still good, but like the Blazers as a whole there’s a sense of missed opportunity and bad luck.
Roy played 33 minutes in a loss to the Sixers Tuesday night, and the Blazers scored just 11 points in the fourth quarter, which has been a disturbing trend. They held a team meeting after a loss to New Jersey Sunday night and they have lost four games in a row.
The Celtics may be catching them at the right time or they may be dealing with a desperate team. It would be dangerous to take Roy, or the Blazers, lightly.
TRAIL BLAZERS (8-9, 3-7 last 10)
Offensive Rating: 106.7 (14)
Defensive Rating: 107.8 (17)
Pace: 88.7 (29)
Likely Starters: Andre Miller, Brandon Roy, Wesley Matthews, LaMarcus Aldridge, Marcus Camby
Injuries: Joel Przybila (Doubtful, knee), Greg Oden (Out, knee), Elliot Williams (Out, knee), Sean Marks (Ankle, questionable)
CELTICS (13-4, 7-3 last 10)
Offensive Rating: 108.9 (9)
Defensive Rating: 100.3 (2)
Pace: 90.9 (22)
Likely Starters: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Shaquille O’Neal
Injuries: Jermaine O’Neal (Knee, out), Delonte West (Wrist, out), Kendrick Perkins (Knee, out)
KEY MATCHUP: Paul Pierce vs. Wes Matthews
It’s time to appreciate the season that Pierce is putting together. He leads the team in scoring at 19.7 points per game. He’s shooting over 50 percent from the field and over 40 percent from 3-point range. He is rebounding better than he did last season and turning it over far less.
Could it be that age 33, Pierce has found a rhythm to his game that will allow him to continue playing at a high level? If there is a concern it’s that he’s not getting to the free throw line as often as he once did, but as long as Pierce can continue to shoot this well, he should be able to maintain his skills deep into his new contract extension. In the Basketball Prospectus annual, Bradford Doolittle wrote, “He’s earned the right to be overpaid, but Pierce is aging so well, his contract may turn out to be a solid value.”
Matthews has taken over the starting small forward spot from Nicolas Batum in a move designed to shake things up, but while he’s big for a guard at 6-5, he’s undersized for the three-spot, especially against a player like Pierce.
KEY NUMBER: Possessions
The Blazers are one of the slowest teams in the league and have been since Nate McMillan took over as coach. That doesn’t mean they’re not athletic, but they annually average among the fewest possessions per game in the league.
The Celtics aren’t much faster in terms of overall possessions, but contrary to popular belief they do like to play fast when the opportunity arises. That owes much to Rajon Rondo’s ability in the open court, and against this team the Celtics will look to run whenever possible.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
After a steady diet of also-rans, the Celtics get a chance to flex their muscles against some quality opposition this week. First up is the Blazers and then a rematch with the Bulls on Friday. For all of Portland’s issue, the Blazers remain a dangerous team. They have too many good players, and McMillan is too good of a coach, for it all to fall apart.
Doc Rivers was able to rest his starters Tuesday night in a blowout win over the Cavs, so they should be rested and ready to go in the second game of a back-to-back.