The Boston Celtics (4-5, 2-2 home) host the Portland Trail Blazers (6-2, 2-1 away) on Friday night at TD Garden (7:30 p.m., CSN). Here's what to watch for:
COACH'S TAKE: LOTS OF FIREPOWER: The Portland Trail Blazers own the third highest offensive rating (107) in the league and are averaging 102.4 points per game. Said Celtics coach Brad Stevens: "They are very impressive on film. Obviously, very very very skilled, can really shoot the basketball, really up and down their lineup. They shoot it extremely well off the bench. The guys in the starting lineup are explosive shooting and cutting. [LaMarcus] Aldridge is a matchup nightmare at the 4, for almost every team in the league. And [Robin] Lopez is really playing great for them right now at the 5. They are a good basketball team. I haven’t watched a ton of the teams in the West, but I think they are in the upper tier of the teams we’ve played from that side of the ball."
SKILLED BACKCOURT: Stevens might have singled out the frontline, but much of Portland's success this season can be traced to a skilled backcourt of Damian Lillard and Wesley Matthews. Lillard's averaging 19.9 points, 5.8 assists, and 5.1 rebounds per game, while Matthews is one of the most efficient offensive players in the league. According to Synergy Sports data, Matthews is averaging a whopping 1.297 points per play. Aided by shooting 51.7 percent beyond the 3-point arc this season, Matthews sits in the 98th percentile among all offensive players.
FOR CELTICS, IT'S ABOUT EFFORT: The Celtics didn't come with the right intensity on Wednesday night against Charlotte and paid the price. The Bobcats started fast and built a big enough lead to keep Boston at arm's length the rest of the game while snapping the Celtics' four-game winning streak. Boston has been prone to lulls this season, but will need a 48-minute effort against a team as talented as Portland.
WHAT ELSE?: Jared Sullinger (knee) is expected back in the lineup for Boston. He's been maybe Boston's most consistent performer this season. ... The Celtics are playing the first night of a back-to-back that closes Saturday in Minnesota. Tonight's game closes a three-game homestand, while Saturday's visit to Timberwolves opens a three-game road trip.