Blazers, Celtics enter matchup after thrilling games

Kerry Eggers, The Sports Xchange
Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers face off with the Boston Celtics on Friday. Pool photo by John G. Mabanglo/UPI
Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers face off with the Boston Celtics on Friday. Pool photo by John G. Mabanglo/UPI | License Photo

PORTLAND, Ore. -- One team is smarting from a down-to-the-wire loss while the other is coming off a comeback victory for the ages.

That's the scene when the Portland Trail Blazers host the Boston Celtics Friday night at the Moda Center.


The Trail Blazers (44-27) fell 115-111 to the high-flying Houston Rockets Tuesday night, ending a 13-game win streak.

On the same night, the Celtics (48-23) rallied from a six-point deficit with 24 seconds left to beat Oklahoma City 100-99 in regulation for one of the most miraculous comebacks in the franchise's long, storied history.

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"Basketball is a strange game," said Boston's Terry Rozier after teammate Marcus Morris buried a game-winning 3-pointer with 1.2 seconds remaining.

"It's almost hard to believe," Boston power forward Al Horford told reporters. "We were just going to keep playing until the last second of the game. We didn't panic. I'm proud. This is a big win."

The injury situation is foremost on the minds of the Celtics, with point guard Kyrie Irving the biggest concern. His backcourt mate, Jaylen Brown (concussion) will miss his sixth straight game, and reserves Marcus Smart (thumb) and Daniel Theis (knee) are both lost for the rest of the regular season.

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Irving, meanwhile, will be out for his fifth consecutive game with a lingering knee injury.

"There is opportunity for other players now to prove they can contribute," said Danny Ainge, Boston's president/basketball operations. "There are big opportunities for Marcus Morris and Terry Rozier. Their minutes and roles will increase, and there will be opportunities for Abdel Nader and Guerschon (Yabusele) and Greg Monroe and Shane Larkin."

Boston coach Brad Stevens left open the possibility that Irving could rejoin the team at some point on a trip that has stops at Sacramento on Sunday, Monday at Phoenix and Wednesday at Utah. Without him, Rozier becomes the starting point guard, with Jayson Tatum sliding over from small forward to shooting guard and Morris joining Horford and Aron Baynes on the starting front line.

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Portland will be a difficult opponent for Boston, especially at Moda Center, where the Blazers have won 18 of their last 20 games.

"I've watched them play on TV late on the East Coast a few nights recently," Ainge told the Portland Tribune. "They're well-coached. They're playing good defense and they're still a dynamic offensive team. They'll be a fun team to watch in the playoffs."


The Blazers, fighting for the No. 3 playoff spot in the Western Conference, weren't down after taking the Rockets to the wire on Tuesday.

"We played a good game against the best team in the league," Portland coach Terry Stotts said. "There are no moral victories. We all felt we had a good chance to win it, and it's disappointing to lose. Now we have to play Boston, and we need to win that game."

"(The Celtics) have dealt with injuries all year long, and they have had a lot of guys step up and play a lot of minutes and just be ready," Portland point guard Damian Lillard said. "They play with confidence. They beat OKC -- that's a big win -- and they beat us short-handed in Boston (97-96 on Feb. 4). We have to be ready to play a sharp game and get back going in the right direction."

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