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.