Celtics-Bucks preview: What to look for

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Celtics-Bucks preview: What to look for

BOSTON For years, the Boston Celtics have been a confident bunch that believes they can win regardless of where a game is played.

But there's little doubt that the pathway to success is always a lot smoother when they take care of business at the TD Garden.

And the need to not just do well - but dominate - at home is not lost on the players as they prepare for their home opener tonight against the Milwaukee Bucks.

"We're excited to be at home, especially after taking a loss in the first game," said C's Captain Paul Pierce. "Hopefully we can come back home and establish ourselves. That's going to be the emphasis this year, establishing ourselves at home."

Last season, simply getting an opportunity to play games was the primary objective for most teams after the lockout forced the league to play a condensed 66-game schedule that did not begin until Christmas Day.

Boston finished a respectable 24-9 at the Garden, good enough for the third-best record in the Eastern Conference, sixth overall in the NBA.

The Celtics know they will need to do better than that in order to have a home court edge when it counts - the playoffs.

Last season's team advanced all the way to the Eastern Conference finals. But they were unable to finish with a good enough record for home court in their series with the Miami Heat, a series that ended with the C's losing Game 7 in Miami.

That series included the Heat winning Game 6 in Boston.

"No team should be able to come in here and get any wins," Pierce said. "Our goal is to keep our home court clean so it can be an intimidating factor when they (teams) come to the Garden."

Several factors will come into play for Boston to have the kind of success at home that it is seeking. Here are a few to keep an eye on as the C's play their first game at home this season against the always-scrappy Milwaukee Bucks.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: The Bucks have one of the most explosive backcourts in the NBA with Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis. Rajon Rondo and Courtney Lee will have their hands full keeping these guys in check.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Jeff Green vs. Mike Dunleavy: Both of these guys will come off the bench even though they have the skills to be starters for a lot of NBA teams. After an underwhelming performance against Miami, Green will look to be more assertive and aggressive tonight.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Brandon Bass had 15 points and 11 rebounds against Miami. No one expects him to necessarily put up similar numbers against the Bucks, but he does need to continue making his presence felt on the boards. It's the best way to keep himself in the game and Jared Sullinger on the bench.

STAT TO TRACK: With the additions made by Boston, bench scoring should not be an issue. And yet despite having what most believe is one of the deepest teams in the NBA, Boston still managed to be outscored 32-29 by the Miami Heat in the season opener. You can bet Jason Terry and the rest of the second unit will be on a mission to make sure that what happened in South Beach, stays in South Beach.

Saturday, Dec. 10: Vegas,scoring on NHL governors' minds

Saturday, Dec. 10: Vegas,scoring on NHL governors' minds

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while doing some early Christmas shopping ahead of the late rush. 

*Mike Zeisberger sits down with a quartet of NHL governors and discusses a number of hot topics including the Vegas franchise and scoring around the league. 

*Carolina Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos has been removed from the NHL Board of Governor’s Executive Committee amid rumors that the Canes might be a prime candidate for relocation. 

*Pierre McGuire weighs in on Connor McDavid’s war of words on the ice and Carey Price losing his mind in the crease against the New Jersey Devils. To that end, Wayne Gretzky liked seeing McDavid get a little combative at such a young age. 

*The New York Islanders signed Cal Clutterbuck to a five year contract extension, and some are skeptical it will turn out well for the Isles.

*David Pastrnak is a premier scoring threat in the league, and Scott Cullen has some details behind that. I will say this: his stock falling in the draft had less to do with his size or heaviness, and more to do with him being concussed for a long stretch of time during the year leading up to the draft. 

*The Florida Panthers are really struggling to stay positive with a 1-5-0 record since the ownership group and management decided to fire Gerard Gallant. 

*For something completely different: Baywatch stars then and now. 

 

 

Curran: To gauge Patriots' plans for Jimmy G, look to Brissett

Curran: To gauge Patriots' plans for Jimmy G, look to Brissett

When trying to figure out what the Patriots will ultimately do with Jimmy Garoppolo, forget about the speculation and instead focus on the little things the team does. 

Like how they are tending to Jacoby Brissett. 

After having thumb surgery on Oct. 7, Brissett was put on IR. But the team used its one "Get off of IR free card" on Brissett and he's been practicing with the team for the past couple of weeks while not taking up a roster spot. 

That alone isn't compelling evidence that he's the backup-in-waiting and Garoppolo's about to be packed up and shipped out, argued my compadre, Senator Phil Perry. The team had no other players on IR that they could use the designation on at the time. Why not use it on Brissett?

Prior to that, though, we've seen Brissett accompanying the team to away games including the cross-country junket to San Francisco. A reason? Since the Patriots played three straight at Gillette at the start of the season when Brissett was the direct backup to Garoppolo, he didn't get a good look at the road operation and the tempo of being the visiting team. How things work on flights, in meetings, at opposing stadiums and on the sidelines is worth getting a promising young players' eyes on. Also, getting his offensive teammates used to having him around is probably an even bigger benefit. It's not unprecedented to have IR players travel but its not conventional practice either. 

With so many quarterback-needy teams around the league, Garoppolo is perhaps the most attractive option out there. By the end of this year, he will have apprenticed three seasons behind the best quarterback of all-time in a sophisticated offense for a program that's as demanding as any in the league. In the 10 quarters he was able to play as a starter in place of Tom Brady, he was sensational.

He got hurt and that's not great. But any team making a deal for him that has concerns about his durability can take him for a spin for one season. Garoppolo is on the books for $825K in 2017 and then his contract is up. The team that dealt for him can franchise him if they need another season to think on it. 

I don't think the Patriots are itching to move Garoppolo. They know they are sitting comfortably with a stack of the most valuable commodity in the sport -- good quarterbacks (or at least one great one and two promising ones) - piled in front of them. They can let the game come to them. 

If it does, as former Patriots executive and Bill Belichick consigliere Mike Lombardi thinks it will, the Patriots can rest easy dealing Garoppolo knowing that they already did advance work getting Brissett up to speed.