Boston (43-31) at Portland (39-36)
When: Thursday, March 31st 2016
Where: Moda Center, Portland, OR
Time: 10:05 ET | TV: CSN New England, CSN Northwest
The Portland Trail Blazers put their five game home winning streak on the line Thursday night when they host the Boston Celtics in a key game for both clubs. Portland starts the night in sixth place in the Western Conference playoff race just two games behind Memphis for 5th, but only two games clear of being out altogether. The Blazers have won three of their last four games overall including the last two at home against the lowly Kings and Sixers. All-Star guard Damian Lillard, who is fifth in the NBA in scoring (25.4), is averaging just 15.7 points over his last three games. When it was brought up that Lillard might be getting tired, the guard responded, “Honestly, I don’t even care to really talk about it. I’m going to play, that’s the bottom line. Our team is winning games when we need to win games and that’s all that matters.” C.J. McCollum, who averages 20.7 points is also mired in a little slump. McCollum has scored over 20 points just once in the last four games. The Blazers will get five of their remaining seven games at home where they have won 14 of their last 16.
The Celtics are in a battle with a few teams for the coveted fourth spot in the East which gives that team home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Boston is currently tied with Miami and Charlotte for that fourth spot with eight games to go. The Celtics will get both Miami and Charlotte at home to finish the season, but will have to face a tough Portland team tonight and Golden State tomorrow night. All-Star guard Isaiah Thomas has 13 consecutive games of scoring 20 or more points and is averaging 26.2 points in March. He his now just three games shy of Paul Pierce’s franchise record. Thomas scored 30 points as the Celtics rolled to a 116-93 home victory over the Trail Blazers on March 2nd. Small forward Jae Crowder (high ankle sprain) will likely return from an eight-game absence tonight. Crowder is averaging 14.4 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.8 steals a game this season. Backup center Kelly Olynyk has been struggling since returning from a shoulder injury and has scored in single digits in five of the past seven games.
Portland is really tough at home right now and I expect Lillard and McCollum to get back on track really soon. I’ll take the Blazers tonight to win and cover.
Pick: Blazers -3