Courtesy of Realbookies.com
The NBA has returned to action in the bubble of the Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando, Florida, where hopefully a full slate of games takes place and a champion is crowned. One of the earliest games we’ll see takes place on Sunday afternoon, when the Portland Trail Blazers take on the Boston Celtics.
Here is a preview for Sunday’s showdown, along with a free pick from Gameadvisers.
Trail Blazers Outlook
If the regular season was considered over, the Trail Blazers’ season would be over. But the hiatus gave them new life, where now they will have eight games to fight for a playoff spot in the loaded Western Conference. As it stands, Portland is 29-37, three-and-a-half games behind the Grizzlies for the eight-seed in the West.
Portland was one of the better offensive teams in the league, finishing ninth in offensive rating. They have the third-highest three-point percentage in the league with the fifth-fewest turnovers on average per game. But the Blazers’ defensive rating is the fourth-worst in the league, and they snatch the second-fewest steals per game in the NBA.
If the Blazers are going to sneak into the playoffs, they will be carried by Damian Lillard. The All-Star point guard averaged just shy of 29 points per game and eight assists, continuing his run as one of the best offensive players in the NBA. His running mate in the back court is CJ McCollum, who also averaged 22.5 points per game. Center Hassan Whiteside averaged 16 and 10 in his first season in Portland, while the ageless Carmelo Anthony averaged over 15 points in his first season with the Blazers. Melo and other players on the wing like Rodney Hood will play an important role for the team, especially with Trevor Ariza opting out of playing in the bubble.
Following Kyrie Irving’s departure, the Celtics recovered and put themselves in position to contend for a title once again. Boston finished the regular season at 43-21 and is in Orlando as the three-seed in the East. They will use the next few games to not just tune up for the playoffs, but also to potentially pass the Raptors, who heading into the new season held a three-game lead.
The C’s have plenty of balance, evident by their offensive rating that is sixth in the league and their fourth-best defensive rating. For offense, Boston is decent when it comes to three-point shooting and offensive rebounding, but are bottom-five in assists per game. They are also pesky on defense, thanks to averaging the seventh-most steals in the NBA.
Boston has the distinction of being one of the few teams with three different players all averaging 20 points or more. Their leading scorer is Jayson Tatum, the third-year forward who is averaging 23.6 points per game to go along with seven rebounds. New acquisition Kemba Walker is also averaging 21 points and a team-high five assists, while Jaylen Brown is also scoring just over 20 a night. Gordon Hayward and Enes Kanter are a couple of the other role players who are capable to helping Boston get back to the NBA Finals for the first time in a decade.
Playing in separate conferences, these are two teams who don’t see each other very often. However, they did play once this year, a game in Portland near the end of February. The hero of the night was Tatum, who had 36 points including a career-high eight threes, as the Celtics won 118-106. Boston was without Walker but still managed to win thanks to Tatum as well as Brown’s 24 points. The Trail Blazers, however, didn’t have Lillard due to an injury, as McCollum scored a team-high 28 points and Whiteside had 18 points and 19 rebounds.
Realbookies.com Prediction: The Celtics enter the game with a playoff spot secure, while the Trail Blazers are fighting to get in. Perhaps the motivations for each team play a part in this contest, so I think Lillard and McCollum are going to shine and help the Blazers pull off the early upset.
Head to our favorite pay head bookie site at RealBookies.com and bet the money line Trail Blazers over the Celtics.
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