Celtics-Blazers preview: Still stingy on 'D'

Celtics-Blazers preview: Still stingy on 'D'
February 24, 2013, 2:30 pm
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Chris Wilcox is thankful for the second chance Boston gave him after his heart surgery and is repaying the community through charitable work.

(USA Today Sports)

PORTLAND, Ore. — This season has been one in which the Celtics have had to evolve on the fly, making do of late with a series of patchwork lineups.

But the one constant with the C's, regardless of who is on the floor, has been the team's defense.

This season, Celtics opponents have averaged 96 points per game which ranks ninth in the NBA. During the last 10 games, eight of which have been won by the C's, that number is relatively the same at 95.3 points per game which also ranks ninth in the league during that span.

Even with Kevin Garnett sitting out Friday's game at Phoenix, the Celtics still limited the Suns to just 88 points in a 113-88 victory.

Chris Wilcox was among those to pick up the slack in Garnett's absence.

"Once we're all on the same page, it's easier to play defense," said Wilcox, who had 14 points and eight rebounds off the bench. "When one man goes, another man rotates and then we're all on the same page. That's what we need."

The latest challenge to Boston's defense comes tonight against Portland, which has lost seven straight.

Continuing to play well defensively will be among the factors contributing to tonight's outcome. Here are some other factors heading into tonight's game.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: After having been given the night off on Friday, it'll be interesting to see if it was enough time to revive Kevin Garnett. Although he had been playing decent basketball most of this season, Celtics coach Doc Rivers sensed fatigue was starting to set in since Boston's triple overtime win against Denver on Feb. 10. "Since that game, you can see he's been tired," Rivers said.

MATCHUP TO WATCH:  Avery Bradley vs Damian Lilliard. One of Lilliard's worst games in what has been a brilliant rookie season came against the Celtics on Nov. 30. Minus Bradley, who was still out recovering from shoulder surgeries, the C's pressured Lillard into a 2-for-8 shooting night with as many turnovers (3) as assists.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Chris Wilcox had arguably his best game of the season on Friday with 14 points and a team-high eight rebounds. Wilcox has always had that ability, but doing it consistently has been the issue.

STAT TO TRACK: Bench scoring will indeed be a factor tonight, with the Celtics and Blazers at opposite ends of the bench scoring spectrum. In the last 10 games, the C's have averaged 38.4 points per game, which ranks ninth in the NBA. Meanwhile, the Blazers bench has averaged 17.6 points per game in that span which ranks dead-last in the NBA.