Celtics-Blazers review: Role players shine for Portland

Celtics-Blazers review: Role players shine for Portland
February 25, 2013, 12:45 am
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PORTLAND, Ore. —  LaMarcus Aldridge is a two-time NBA All-Star and Damian Lillard is the runaway leader for this year's Rookie of the Year award.

As good as those two are, the Blazers have other weapons that can hurt teams - something the Celtics know all too well following Sunday's 92-86 loss.

Wesley Matthews led all scorers with 24 points which includes a back-breaking 3-pointer in the game's final minute.

Portland also got a strong game from Nicolas Batum (18 points, six rebounds) and J.J. Hickson (11 points, 11 rebounds).

Prior to tip-off, Celtics coach Doc Rivers pointed out all three as being instrumental in Portland's success.

He was right.

"When they win, those three play well," Rivers reiterated after the loss. "We did a terrific job on Lillard without trapping. Aldridge had a good game, but not a dominant game. But you have to stop the other guys."

Portland's role players certainly provided plenty of support in handing the Celtics their third loss in the last four games. Here are some other factors outlined prior to the game, and how they actually played off as the C's look to close out their West coast trip with a win at Utah on Monday night.

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.

WHAT WE SAW: Garnett looked a lot more active at both ends of the floor, delivering the kind of performance he and the Celtics are used to. Garnett finished with 20 points and nine rebounds while shooting 9-for-19 from the field - all better than his season averages in those respective categories.

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 surgeriers, the C's pressured Lillard into a 2-for-8 shooting night with as many turnovers (3) as assists.

WHAT WE SAW: Bradley picked his pocket for an uncontested dunk and for the most part, stuck to Lillard most of the night. Still, even on an off night it's clear that Lillard is a really good player - not a good rookie, but a good NBA player. He still finished with 12 points, six assists and six rebounds.

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.

WHAT WE SAW: Wilcox didn't have as big a game numbers-wise as he did at Phoenix, but he was fairly active most of the night even if his final box score suggests otherwise. He had two points, one rebound and two steals in less than 16 minutes of court time.

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.

WHAT WE SAW: Boston's backups in a lot of ways symbolized the kind of night it was for the Celtics as a whole. At no point did their second unit seem to take over the game the way we have seen them in recent weeks. Jeff Green had 11 points while the rest of the C's backups combined for just 8 while missing 11 of their 14 shots from the field.