Celtics-Blazers preview: Bench will be counted on

953103.jpg

Celtics-Blazers preview: Bench will be counted on

BOSTON With Rajon Rondo serving the first of his two-game suspension for fighting Brooklyn's Kris Humphries tonight, Boston has no choice but to turn to its bench.

Against the Portland Trail Blazers, that can be a good thing ... a very good thing.

The Blazers (6-9) come into tonight's game on a three-game losing skid that includes a loss to then-winless Washington.

Portland's struggles are in large part due to an ineffective bench which is averaging a league-low 12.3 points per game.

Boston's second unit is averaging 30.7 points per game which ranks 21st in the NBA.

However, the C's reserves will not be at full strength - and some might not even play tonight.

Chris Wilcox has been under the weather and was unable to finish Wednesday's loss to Brooklyn. Also, Jeff Green has a sprained right knee injury that may sideline him as well.

"I don't care who doesn't play," said Celtics head coach Doc Rivers. "The guys that play have to be ready to play and ready to win."

Bench play will indeed play a prominent role in tonight's matchup. Here are some other keys as the Celtics look to snap a two-game losing skid and avoid falling below-.500 at home this season.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR:  Boston and Portland are the two most rebounding-challenged teams in the NBA. The C's are dead-last (out of 30 teams) at 37.1 boards per game while the Blazers are just ahead of them at No. 29, bringing in just 39.4 boards per game.

MATCHUP TO WATCH:  Kevin Garnett vs. LaMarcus Aldridge: Garnett's ability to stretch the floor won't do him much good against Aldridge who brings that same skillset to the floor. Both have strong all-around games, although Garnett's defense is better.

PLAYER TO WATCH:  Without Rondo, Courtney Lee will have more opportunities to score. That's exactly how things played out in the lone game Rondo missed this season. Lee had a season-high 13 points which is his only double-digit scoring game this season.

STAT TO TRACK: The second quarter has seen the Celtics at their worst far too often. They average an NBA-low 21.9 points per game in the quarter. That wouldn't be that big a deal if opponents weren't scoring an average of 24.8 points per game.

Julien: 'A lot of problematic things' in Bruins loss to Avalanche

Julien: 'A lot of problematic things' in Bruins loss to Avalanche

BOSTON – The Bruins simply weren’t ready to play on Thursday night when the puck was dropped against the Colorado Avalanche at TD Garden. 

They fell down quickly by a 2-0 score, had a couple of completely inept power plays in the first period that sucked all the game’s momentum away from them and received some subpar goaltending from Anton Khudobin on the way to a 4-2 loss to the lowly Avs. About the only B’s person above reproach in this one was David Pastrnak after scoring a pair of goals in the second period to get Boston back into the game, but it all fell short in a very frustrating, lackadaisical loss to a Western Conference team that isn’t very good. 

MORE: 

Needless to say B’s coach Claude Julien wasn’t too happy after a loss where the Bruins might have had more success with a smarter approach to holding the puck. 

“There were a lot of problematic things [in the loss]. No doubt that the power play could have helped us in the first period, and failed to do that. They’ve got to be better,” said Julien. “We needed some saves tonight, and we didn’t get them. [Anton Khudobin] has got to be better. 

“A lot of things here that we can be better at, and take responsibility [for]. But at the same time, you got to move on here.  It’s one of those nights that had we been smarter from the get go, we would have had a chance.”

Clearly it was about a lacking group effort when dissecting the loss, and the minus-3 for David Krejci on Thursday night marked back-to-back negative performances from the playmaking Czech center in big spots. The goaltending was shoddy with Anton Khudobin allowing four goals on 22 shots for Colorado, and unable to make plays on a couple of Colorado shots from outside the painted area that built up the Avs lead in the first place. 

But it was also very much about the inability of the Bruins to generate consistent offense outside of David Pastrnak’s offensive burst in the second period, and the complete breakdown of the Boston power play in the opening 20 minutes. The Bruins struggled to enter the zone in their first PP possession of the game, and then allowed a Nathan MacKinnon shorthanded goal after Torey Krug futilely dove at the blue line to try and keep the puck in the offensive zone. 

The Krug misplay at the offensive blue line gave MacKinnon a clear path the net, and he buried a wrist shot past Khudobin to get the one-sided loss rolling. Beyond the costly mistakes that ended up in the back of the net, the Bruins looked sloppy and slow-reacting in their breakouts and more than willing to settle for outside perimeter shots.

That doesn’t exactly make for a winning combo even when it comes against a flawed, underachieving team like Colorado, and especially when it comes less than 24 hours after a hard-fought road game in Washington DC. 

“I think we were still sleeping there early in the game and they were able to capitalize on their opportunities. We couldn’t claw our way back,” said Brad Marchand, who picked up an assist on David Pastrnak’s second goal of the night on a perfect dish for the one-timer. “I think it was definitely a mental [block]. You’re able to battle through that physical fatigue. It was more the mental mistakes and not being prepared right off the hop of the start of the game. Again, that’s kind of where we lost it.”

The sleepwalking Bruins lost Thursday night’s valuable two points as soon as the opening puck was dropped against the Avalanche, of course, and the Bruins never got out of lollygag mode at a time when intensity should have been automatic. 

THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Chiefs hold off Raiders 21-13 to take control of AFC West

raiders_chiefs_derek_carr_120816.jpg

THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Chiefs hold off Raiders 21-13 to take control of AFC West

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Tyreek Hill had touchdowns receiving and on a punt return, Kansas City's defense made life miserable for Oakland quarterback Derek Carr, and the Chiefs beat the Raiders 21-13 on a frigid Thursday night to take control of the AFC West.

Charcandrick West also had a touchdown run for the Chiefs (10-3). They moved into a first-place tie with Oakland (10-3) but holds the tiebreaker with two wins over their longtime divisional rival.

Click here for the complete story