Starting Five: Trail Blazers at Boston Celtics, 4:30 p.m.


There will be no Rajon Rondo on the floor tonight and that bodes well for the Trail Blazers (6-9). Still, after losing games to the Detroit Pistons and Washington Wizards (combined record 6-23), the Blazers can’t rely on weakened rosters here. After three straight losses on this road trip, they’ll need to pull out a win in a place where wins are hard to come by. … which leads us to the Question of the Day.

When was the last time the Blazers won a road game in Boston?

While you’re pondering that, let’s start The Five, shall we?

1. Missing Rondo

Curiously enough, the Celtics are a stumbling Eastern Conference team this year with their playmaker Rondo in the starting lineup. However, recent history reveals that the Cs can win without him. When Rondo missed the Nov. 15 game against the Brooklyn Nets, Celtics lost 102-97. But last year when Rondo missed a stretch of eight games with a wrist injury, Boston played to a 6-2 record.

Of course, Boston still had its old, reliable Big Three in tact with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen. Jesus Shuttlesworth is now in Miami and so the talent filling around a Rondo-less lineup will just be even more drivers and shooters – not playmakers – like Jason Terry, Leandro Barbosa, and Courtney Lee. Boston should have no problem scoring but the loss of Rondo, who is in my opinion one of the top 5 point guards in this league, should have an impact tonight.

2. A little less conversation

Fifteen games in and the Blazers have already had two “Come To Jesus” meetings that we know of. The first happened when the team reunited after its “embarrassing” loss in Phoenix. That day, coach Terry Stotts gave them the business. Now, we’ve learned that after losing to the previously-winless Wizards on Wednesday, Wesley Matthews has challenged teammates.

Communication is key and whether it’s the coach getting in their grills or a player (who’s not even the captain, by the way) taking his teammates to task, these are good signs. But now, after the talk, it’s time to just shut up and play.

They can start by simply putting the ball in the basket. Through the three losses, the Blazers have not shot better than 44 percent from the floor. The 34.9% shooting from Washington D.C. was a new season low and these atrocious numbers are coming from the top scoring starting lineup in the NBA (85.1 ppg)

We all saw how the Blazers responded after the Stotts chat – guys took pride in their defense, played with such intensity that Stotts could see it in their faces and they walked off the Rose Garden court that night victorious. Soon enough, we’ll learn if they listened to Matthews’ message or forgot about it on the plane ride to Boston.

3. The Garnett Factor

Garnett sets hard screens on small guards, he throws elbows that go largely unseen by refs, he over exaggerates contact to draw fouls. In other words, Garnett is one crafty player (which is veteran code for “dirty sonofagun”). Aldridge doesn’t seem to be much of a fan. You can only imagine how Garnett will handle rookie Meyers Leonard once he comes in. The rook has already taken licks from the likes of Dwight Howard, Jermaine O’Neal and DeMarcus Cousins (… and really, just about everyone he’s faced these past 15 games), so someone better warn Leonard to watch for elbows.

4. This story still has legs?
Apparently, so. Notice the time stamp. That story was posted today.

5. That’s What He Said

Just as Stotts needed to call out his players after the Phoenix loss, Doc Rivers has publicly criticized his guys.

According to Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe, Doc’s not pleased.

“I mean, we’re getting mauled on the rebounds every night, so if I’m another coach, I have to tell my team, ‘Guys, they’re not very physical. They’re not blocking out. They’re not putting bodies on anybody. You can attack this team.’ And until we stop the attack, then they’re going to keep doing it.”

So, once again. When was the last time the Blazers won a game in Boston?

Beantown’s been rough for the Blazers, who have lost eight in a row on the parquet floor of TD Bank Garden. Blazers last won a road game in Boston on March 31, 2004.

Prediction: After tonight, the seven-game road trip will wind down on the back stretch. The sooner the Blazers make it back to Portland the better it will be for a young team that hasn’t shown the chops that it can win on the road. Damian Lillard has been slumping, and Matthews and Aldridge are coping through injuries. These aren’t the best indicators for a necessary win.

Boston 112, Portland 93

Tipoff: 4:30 p.m. Comcast SportsNet, 1190 AM/102.3 KEX

Officials of the night: Bennett Salvatore, Pat Fraher, Leroy Richardson.

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