They certainly need him.
Garnett is expected to return Friday night to try to help the Celtics avoid their first four-game losing streak in more than a year, hosting a Portland Trail Blazers team that will be without Brandon Roy(notes).
Boston (27-13) was rolling through the Eastern Conference at 23-5 after a convincing win in Orlando on Christmas Day, but Garnett hurt his right knee in a game two days later. He tried to play through it the following night, Dec. 28 at Golden State, but coach Doc Rivers didn’t like the way he looked.
Garnett hasn’t played since that game due to a hyperextended knee and the Celtics have been extremely shaky without the 2007-08 Defensive Player of the Year. They’re 4-6 since he’s been out and have yielded 99.4 points per game, a steep rise from the league-best 91.9 points they allowed before the injury.
Boston was 18-7 without Garnett last season.
“It is going to be huge to get him back, but we can’t just rely on that,” guard Eddie House(notes) said. “We were pretty good without him last year, so we know we can do it. We just have to play harder.”
A lack of offense has hurt the Celtics during their three-game losing streak. They’ve averaged 86.3 points, and totaled 30 after halftime Wednesday in a 92-86 loss at Detroit.
Boston, which also dropped three in a row to close December, hasn’t lost four straight since Jan. 4-9, 2009.
“Our guys are frustrated right now, but I told them that we have to do something about this,” Rivers said. “I think we think that we’re a better team than we really are, and we’re trying to win games on cruise control.”
For the second game in a row, Rasheed Wallace(notes) will be facing one of his former teams. Though he’s often been inconsistent - he’s made 10 of 26 shots his past two games - some extended playing time seems to have helped. Wallace was averaging 9.3 points and shooting 39.2 percent when Garnett went down, but has averaged 15.0 points on 45.3 percent shooting since.
Garnett’s defensive presence might not be needed quite as much against the perimeter-oriented Trail Blazers (26-17), who are last in the league in points in the paint (34.2 per game) with centers Greg Oden(notes) and Joel Przybilla(notes) lost for the season.
Now, Portland will be without one of the league’s best guards due to a strained hamstring. Roy sat out two games with that injury before returning Wednesday at Philadelphia, but he tweaked the hamstring in the Blazers’ 98-90 win.
“This was a sad game for Brandon,” Blazers coach Nate McMillan said of his star, who’s averaging 23.1 points, 4.6 rebounds and five assists. “The other guys stepped up and played well. What we have to do is keep our heads up and let each other play the game.”
Portland also will be looking for another big game from LaMarcus Aldridge(notes). The fourth-year forward has averaged 20.0 points and 11.3 rebounds in his last four contests, and he’s averaged 21.8 points in his last five road games - including four Blazers wins.
Portland has lost five straight in Boston and fell 93-78 on Dec. 5, 2008, as Aldridge and Roy were held to 25 combined points. Ray Allen(notes) has averaged 27.0 points and Garnett 20.0 in the Celtics’ past two home wins in the series.