TUALATIN, Ore. — Wesley Matthews grows angry whenever he sees the Trail Blazers’ record. It’s not so much the number of losses they’ve endured, it’s the losses in games they’ve all but had.
Matthews believes that last December’s defeat at the hands of the Boston Celtics falls into that group. So tonight’s rematch isn’t about Portland showing it can play with the league’s elite, it’s about showing they can play better.
“We’ve proven we can hang with Boston,” Matthews said.
The first and only time these two teams met this season, Portland held a six-point lead midway through the third quarter. Then, the reigning Eastern Conference champs rallied, went up big midway through the fourth, and after Portland cut the deficit to one, Ray Allen knocked down a 3-pointer with 10 seconds remaining to ice the game.
Whether it’s Blazers coach Nate McMillan, Blazers center Marcus Camby, or anyone else on the squad, the consensus is that tonight’s game is going to be physical.
“Not always pretty, but physical,” Camby said.
And balanced. Well, at least on Boston’s side it will be.
The Celtics feature the league’s leading assister in Rajon Rondo, a former Finals MVP in Paul Pierce, nine-time NBA All Star Ray Allen, former NBA MVP Kevin Garnett, and this one guy — you may have heard of him — Shaquille O’Neal.
“Hey, it’s championship basketball,” McMillan said. “That’s a very talented team.”
LaMarcus Aldridge has a bruised hip and didn’t practice Wednesday, but is probable for tonight. Matthews also did not practice due to a tender right ankle. He will play against Boston.
As for Camby? He was walking around the Blazers practice facility and putting in some work in the weight room despite having surgery to repair a partial meniscus tear in his right knee last week.
He was projected to come back Feb. 9 — about three weeks after the procedure. Does he think that’s a reasonable estimate?
“I’m just trying to get back on the court … rehabbing twice a day,” said Camby, who said the knee feels better every day. “Other guys who have had surgery were out indefinitely. They put a timetable on me. … As soon as I can get back out there on the court, you guys will see me.”
Camby was also asked about the possibility of being put on the trading block, answering with his usual, “It’s always nice to be wanted,” but expressing that he’d like to finish his career in Portland. It was later suggested that he wasn’t currently playing for a title contender, to which he didn’t outwardly agree.
After all, his Knicks went all the way to the Finals as a No. 8 seed in 1999.
“That’s always going to be in my mind, that anything is possible,” Camby said.
Wesley has vision
McMillan couldn’t help but smile halfway through his meeting with reporters.
“Wesley,” he said grinning.
Catching his attention was Matthews wearing shaded glasses while shooting 3-pointers after practice. At first, people assumed these were the much ballyhooed “3 Goggles,” which he and other Blazers pretend to put on when ever they hit a 3-pointer during games.
But these actually served a practical purpose. The glasses, when turned on, give the viewer a strobe-light-like visual, forcing them to concentrate on the rim amid a distraction.
“It’s a chance to get better,” Matthews said.