While the Boston Celtics are battling for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, the Portland Trail Blazers are watching their Western Conference play-in berth hopes gradually evaporate.
When the Portland Trail Blazers take on the Boston Celtics on Friday, they will be trying to get out of a slump in which they have lost nine of their last 12 games and four games in a row.
The second game in a series in which Portland (31-38) hosts eight of nine games is at home. The Trail Blazers suffered another setback when they lost 123-107 to the visiting New York Knicks despite having led by as many as 16 points on Tuesday night.
The defeat left Portland two and a half games behind the Los Angeles Lakers in the race for the last play-in berth. With just 13 games remaining, the Trail Blazers are in 13th place and trail the Utah Jazz and New Orleans Pelicans by two games.
Damian Lillard, an All-Star guard, is dissatisfied with Portland’s play at a crucial time.
Six games against teams in playoff position as the top six in the West are on the Portland opponent list, including the defending East champion Celtics, two games against the Los Angeles Clippers and Sacramento Kings, and one game each against the Memphis Grizzlies and Golden State Warriors. In addition, the Trail Blazers face the Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder, and New Orleans Pelicans in the play-in battle.
Portland was outscored 74-52 in the second half against the Knicks after failing to maintain a significant lead.
On a six-game road trip, Boston (48-22) is 2-1, including a stunning 111-109 defeat to the worst-in-the-West Houston Rockets.
On Wednesday, the Celtics came back to defeat the Minnesota Timberwolves 104-102. Boston was able to escape thanks to 35 points from Jaylen Brown, who also made five 3-pointers.
In the race for the second seed, Boston is one game ahead of the Philadelphia 76ers and two and a half games behind the Milwaukee Bucks, who lead the East.
Jayson Tatum, the winner of the All-Star Game, scored just 22 points for the second straight game and missed all eight of his attempts at a 3-pointer against the Timberwolves, going 4 of 16 overall. After making 17 of 41 attempts in the previous three games, he has made just 2 of 18 attempts from 3-point range over the past two games.
Tatum had four 30-point trips – – two of at least 40 – – in a five-game stretch before the rut.
It is likely that Boston forward Robert Williams III will miss his seventh consecutive game due to a hamstring injury.
Jerami Grant, a forward for the Trail Blazers, may miss his second game in a row due to quadriceps.
On March 8, the Celtics defeated Portland at home by a score of 115-93, led by Tatum, who made six 3-pointers and scored 30 points. The Trail Blazers were led by 27 points from Lillard.