Celtics-Trail Blazers Preview
By ALAN FERGUSON
(AP) -- After what Doc Rivers deemed an uplifting victory, the Boston Celtics will try to deliver a strong finish to their western road trip. A matchup with the slumping Portland Trail Blazers would appear to help their cause.
While seeking to even their record on their five-game trek, the Celtics will try to send the Blazers to their longest losing streak in seven seasons Sunday night.
Despite playing in its third city in four nights, Boston gave a refreshing performance Friday in a 113-88 victory over Phoenix. The Celtics scored the first 13 points, and Jeff Green led five players in double figures with a season-high 31 while starting in place of veteran Kevin Garnett, who was given the night off.
"I just tried to make a statement early and that's what I did by attacking the rim and getting to the free throw line," said Green, who sat out last season after undergoing surgery to fix an aortic aneurysm.
Boston (29-26) also got 10 points off the bench from Jordan Crawford in his first game since being acquired from Washington on Thursday. The Celtics' win was their first in eight road games against Western Conference teams and helped them improve to 9-3 since star point guard Rajon Rondo's season-ending knee injury.
"It's just a feel-good win," Rivers said.
Boston will try to earn another such victory while continuing its recent dominance over Portland (25-30). The Celtics have won 13 of 14 matchups and are 5-1 in their last six visits to the Rose Garden.
While Rondo was serving a two-game suspension, Green scored a team-best 19 points off the bench in a 96-78 rout over the visiting Blazers on Nov. 30. Boston is making its first visit to Portland since an 88-78 win on Jan. 27, 2011, and will face a team that's dropped seven in a row.
All but one of those losses, however, came on the road. The Blazers, who are starting a four-game homestand, had a four-game win streak at the Rose Garden snapped with a 102-98 defeat to Phoenix on Tuesday. They fell 111-107 at the Los Angeles Lakers three days later.
Portland held a one-point lead with four minutes to go Friday but made just two of its final seven shots and committed a pair of turnovers. J.J. Hickson and Nicolas Batum each finished with 22 points, but LaMarcus Aldridge had 15 while dealing with foul trouble.
"I was glad the way our team fought. We've had a rough stretch and came out and played aggressively, we pushed the tempo and did a lot of good things out there," coach Terry Stotts said. "I thought we played well enough to win the game but unfortunately we didn't."
The Blazers haven't lost eight in a row since dropping their final eight games in 2005-06.
Hickson will try to help his team snap its skid while extending his team-record streak of shooting performances. The post player has shot at least 50.0 percent in 18 straight games and was 11 of 15 Friday.
He went 3 for 7 (42.9 percent) and scored 11 against Boston in November, and has averaged 11.8 points on 50.0 percent shooting in six career starts against the Celtics.
Updated February 23, 2013
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