Game 45: Celtics vs. Blazers

January, 27, 2011
1/27/11
4:25
PM ET
(34-10, 12-7 away)     -- vs. --     (25-21, 16-6 home)
at Rose Garden, Portland, 10:30 p.m. | CSN, WEEI (850 AM)

GAME PREVIEW (via Stats Inc.)
The Boston Celtics received a nice boost off the bench as center Kendrick Perkins returned from injury. The Portland Trail Blazers can't afford to be without the lift LaMarcus Aldridge provides.

The Eastern Conference-leading Celtics open a four-game western swing when they go for their fourth consecutive win over the Blazers on Thursday night.

Playing for the first time since tearing his right anterior cruciate ligament in the NBA finals last season, Perkins had seven points, six rebounds and three assists in a 112-95 victory over Cleveland on Tuesday. He played 18 minutes to help Boston (34-10) rebound from an 85-83 loss at Washington on Saturday.

"It felt good to be on the floor," Perkins said. "I know I can do better. I can do more. ... I was a little winded and a little off-key. I can get better."

The Blazers' hopes of a third straight postseason appearance may hinge largely on Aldridge, as star guard Brandon Roy and center Marcus Camby are out with knee injuries.

Aldridge, the reigning Western Conference player of the week, underwent an MRI on his right hip Tuesday after managing nine points in a 96-81 home loss to Sacramento on Monday. The defeat ended Portland's season-high five-game winning streak.

The exam did not show any tear or cartilage damage and Aldridge should be available Thursday.

With Aldridge at less than full strength, center Chris Johnson, who signed a 10-day contract earlier this week, could see extended minutes off the bench. Aldridge and Joel Przybilla will likely need help in the frontcourt against Kevin Garnett, Glen Davis and Perkins along with rookie big men Luke Harangody and Semih Erden.

Read the full preview HERE.

FORSBERG'S THREE THINGS TO WATCH
  • Eyes on Perk, Night 2: Kendrick Perkins' return to the court Tuesday was undoubtedly fueled (in part) by adrenaline. It'll be interesting to see how he and that surgically repaired right knee respond the next couple games as he settles in. As he joked after his first action of the 2010-11 season, Perkins will "fight" coach Doc Rivers for more playing time. Even coming off the bench, Perkins is going to give that second unit a lift until he's fit to elevate back to his starting role.
  • Starting trip out right: Rivers contends the first game of a road trip is actually the last home game because the mind has already started to wander. But there's still something to be said for taking care of business Thursday night, particularly on the front end of a back-to-back. Boston is 10-1 in those first games this year, a nice cushion considering its 6-5 on the back end.
  • Expect Portland's best shot: Yes, the Trail Blazers are decimated (as usual) by injuries. This time around that means no Brandon Roy, no Greg Oden, no Marcus Camby and a dinged-up LaMarcus Aldridge (hip). Alas, due to an odd scheduling kink, Portland plays only this game during an eight-day stretch (Doc Rivers would kill for that sort of lull). The Blazers can empty the tank and have plenty of time to recuperate.

Chris Forsberg

Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Isaiah Thomas
PTS AST STL MIN
21.8 5.8 0.8 28.0
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Sullinger 8.1
AssistsI. Thomas 5.8
StealsM. Smart 1.3
BlocksT. Zeller 0.7