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Thursday, January 27, 2011
Game 45: Celtics vs. Blazers

By Chris Forsberg

(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