Celtics-Blazers review: What we saw

Celtics-Blazers review: What we saw
March 10, 2012, 4:43 am
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BOSTON The Boston Celtics were involved in a second straight blowout.

But this time, it was the Green Team laying down the hammer as they easily defeated Portland, 104-86, on Friday night.

As decisive as the final score was, Boston's play was even more lopsided as Boston's lead peaked at 43 points about midway through the third quarter.

It was an impressive bounce-back performance by the Celtics after they were soundly beaten by 32 points at Philadelphia on Wednesday.

"It was just a good response, especially with the way we played down in Philadelphia," said Paul Pierce, who shared game-high scoring honors of 22 points with teammate Ray Allen. "For us to come out and be sharp early, take care of business before we head out west."

The blowout also allowed Boston's core guys a chance to rest, with Brandon Bass playing 31 minutes which was the most played by any of the Celtics starters.

In the Sixers loss on Wednesday, Rivers pulled his starters for the entire fourth quarter. That time off the floor, coupled with not having practice on Thursday, may have contributed to the C's having a bit more bounce on Friday.

"Maybe the other night, one of the smart things we did do is we pulled the plug early enough to have our legs for tonight," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "That may have been the best thing."

Here's a look at some other factors that were under consideration prior to the game, and how those factors played out in Friday's lopsided blowout win for the Celtics.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR - Establishing tempo will once again be important for the Celtics. They face a Portland team that averages 98.1 points per game which ranks fifth in the NBA. For Boston, keeping Portland's scoring down will likely mean forcing them to turn the ball over more than usual. The Blazers average just 14 turnovers per game which ranks fourth in the NBA.

WHAT WE SAW: The Celtics came out as the aggressor defensively. And the result was Portland committing an unusually high number of turnovers in the first quarter - nine in fact. For the game, the Celtics forced the Blazers into turning the ball over 28 times which led to 30 of their 104 points. "I thought it was Rondo's ball pressure," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "I thought Paul (Pierce) and Ray (Allen), everybody was up; Kevin (Garnett) forced (LaMarcus) Aldridge way out away from the bucket."

MATCHUP TO WATCH - Kevin Garnett vs. Marcus Camby: This will be one of the few games all season where you won't hear any mention of Garnett's age being an issue. Regardless of who has been at center, Garnett has been on a nice roll of late for the Celtics with seven double-doubles scoring and rebounding, in Boston's last nine games. Camby, who will be 38 years old later this month, doesn't score with the same level of efficiency as Garnett. But he does provide Portland with a similar defensive presence in the middle.

WHAT WE SAW: Camby had a moment or two where his presence was felt. But this matchup was won by Garnett, decisively. Camby finished with five points and a game-high 10 rebounds. Garnett had 10 points and eight rebounds in just under 22 minutes with the Celtics' bench gobbling up most of the minutes in the second half.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Nicolas Batum has the reputation of being a better-than-average defender, but he's slowly evolving into a reliable scorer as well. He's averaging a career-high 14.2 points this season, with 17 or more points scored in nine of Portland's last 11 games. With his size (6-8, 200) and length, Ray Allen will once again have his hands full getting free for good looks at the basket.

WHAT WE SAW: Batum, like most of the Blazers, never really found a flow or rhythm to his play. He finished with nine points on 3-for-8 shooting from the field. As for Allen, who missed all five of his field goal attempts in Wednesday's loss at Philadelphia, bounced back with 22 points on 8-for-12 shooting.

STAT TO TRACK: If tonight's game is close going into the fourth quarter, it becomes a virtual toss-up as to who will win. Boston has the NBA's best scoring defense in the fourth quarter, giving up a league-low 21.9 points per game. But Portland's scorers will challenge the C's in the fourth unlike few teams have thus far this season. The Blazers average 24.9 points scored in the fourth which ranks No. 2 in the NBA.

WHAT WE SAW: The fourth quarter was irrelevant in this game. Truthfully, the third quarter didn't matter that much, either. Boston used a 16-0 run to start the second quarter, followed by a 17-7 spurt which put the C's up 65-30, at the half.