Trail Blazers-Celtics Preview

The Associated Press

The Boston Celtics saw their five-game winning streak come to an end in embarrassing fashion their last time out.

If their recent efforts against Portland are any indication, the Celtics should feel good about getting back on track with the Trail Blazers coming to town.

Boston tries for a 12th win in 13 meetings with road-weary Portland, which seeks just its third win in 11 games away from home Friday night.

One night after matching their longest run of the season with a 97-92 overtime win over Houston, the Celtics (20-18) came out flat in Wednesday's 103-71 rout at Philadelphia. Boston, which also went to OT during Sunday's 115-111 win over New York, shot a season-worst 35.0 percent in suffering its most lopsided defeat in more than six years.

"I really can't explain. Just chalk it up as one of those nights from playing with tired legs," Paul Pierce, who had averaged 30.3 points in his previous three games before scoring 16 against the 76ers, told the Celtics' official website.

"We know this team isn't 30 points better than us. We are coming off two games, straight back-to-backs traveling. I don't like to make excuses, but we know we are a better team than what we showed."

Sitting in seventh place in the Eastern Conference and two games behind Philadelphia for the Atlantic Division lead, the Celtics open a crucial eight-game road swing Sunday against the Los Angeles Lakers.

A visit from Portland (19-20) could help Boston carry some momentum into its longest trek of the season.

In addition to taking four straight and 11 of 12 from the Blazers, the Celtics have won seven in a row in this series on their own court. Portland hasn't prevailed in Boston since a 105-98 win March 31, 2004.

The Blazers, whose five road wins are tied for the second-fewest in the West, kicked off a seven-game trip with Wednesday's 106-94 loss at Minnesota.

"You never want to start a road trip like this, with a loss," Jamal Crawford said. "You want momentum and start off with a win. Mood's pretty down for sure."

Portland shot just 3 of 23 (13.0 percent) from 3-point range and was outrebounded 47-37 in dropping to 1-4 over its last five games overall.

The Blazers find themselves in 11th place and could have a hard time making up ground with upcoming visits to Washington, Indiana, New York, Chicago and Oklahoma City following this contest.

"We're searching. I just don't know what we're searching for," said Gerald Wallace, who had 13 points, nine boards and a season-best nine assists Wednesday. "I don't know what to say.

"(We) can sink real fast on this road trip. This was a must-win game for us. We go and we've got to play some tough teams."

Ranking near the top of the league with an average of 103.6 points at home, Portland has managed just 91.7 per game as a visitor. Points could come at a premium against the Celtics, who are holding opponents to 89.8 points per contest.

Boston has won nine of 11 at home. Three of its four straight victories there have come by six points or fewer.

Celtics center Jermaine O'Neal, who spent the first four years of his career with the Blazers, is likely to miss an eighth consecutive game with a sprained left wrist.

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