BOSTON – If you listen to Brad Stevens and his players, there’s little said inside the locker room at halftime.
If they’re winning, the focus becomes on what’s working and how to build off that for a couple more quarters of play.
But if they are playing from behind, often the source of their problems is self-evident which is half the battle when it comes to making it right.
As we’ve seen this season, how Boston plays in the third quarter is a major indicator of the game’s outcome.
Boston has a winning record when trailing after the first quarter (12-7) and second quarter (13-10) of games this season, but they're just 7-10 when trailing after three quarters of play.
Strong play in the third quarter certainly played a major role in Boston’s 119-110 win over Atlanta on Friday, a game in which the Celtics outscored the Hawks 41-20 in the third.
And it’ll certainly be something to keep an eye on today when the Celtics host the Portland Trail Blazers.
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While the 41 points scored stood out, even more significant was the Celtics defense which has been pretty good all season in the third quarter of games.
Boston averages 26.5 points scored in the third quarter which ranks 15th in the NBA, while allowing teams to score 24.2 points in the third which is second only to Memphis (24.1) in the NBA. The +2.3 point differential ranks third in the NBA. Other impressive third quarter stats for Boston include opponent field goal percentage (.431, 3rd in the league) and opponent 3-point percentage (.336, 2nd).
Here are five under-the-radar story lines heading into Boston’s matchup against the Portland Trail Blazers.
CONQUERING THE WEST
Facing teams from the Western Conference has been a good thing for the Boston Celtics this season. Boston has a record of 14-5 against Western Conference teams which is tops among all teams in the East against their Western Conference brethren. A Brad Stevens-coached team has never won more than 17 games (2015-2016) against the West in a single season.
Both Boston and Portland have won four of their last five games. They have each done well in several areas which includes rebounding. The Celtics have been solid during the last five games, grabbing 51.5 percent of available rebounds which ranks 10th in the league during that span. Unfortunately, they’re facing a Blazers team that has been killin’ it during the last five games when it comes to rebounding, evident by them having a league-best .542 rebounding percentage.
Terry Rozier has seen a noticeable spike in his minutes played this season and should surpass his total minutes played a year ago, today. During the 2016-2017 campaign, Rozier played 1,263 minutes in the regular season. This season, he is up to 1,250 minutes.
The TD Garden will have a few more fans cheering for the visiting team today, than usual. And the reason? The Portland Trail Blazers have a roster filled with players from the state of Massachusetts, a group that includes Pat Connaughton (Arlington, MA), Shabazz Napier (Roxbury, MA), Jake Layman (Norwood, Ma) and Noah Vonleh (Haverhill, MA).
When you’ve won as much as the Celtics have this season, success comes in just about every scenario one can think of. But the weekends have been particularly good for Boston this season. They come into today’s game with an impressive 11-2 record in games played on Saturday and Sunday. The lone losses were to Orlando (103-95) on Jan. 21 and Golden State (109-105) on Jan. 27.