Celtics-Grizzlies preview: Blowout blowback

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Celtics-Grizzlies preview: Blowout blowback

BOSTON The mounting losses have been disappointing in and of themselves to Celtics coach Doc Rivers. When you pile on the fact that many of those losses have come in blowout fashion, that just adds insult to injury.

And as lopsided as things have been in defeat for the Celtics, the C's have shown the ability to dominate in victory which speaks volumes about how inconsistent their play has been this season.

"It's amazing, the difference for us when we win and lose games," Rivers said. "The numbers are startling. That's what we have to improve."

They will get an opportunity tonight against a Memphis (19-9) team that is among the best in the West despite dropping three of its last four games.

Meanwhile, the Celtics (14-16) are trying to snap a three-game losing skid in which they were beaten by an average of 23 points per game.

Rivers would love for his club to win more games, obviously. But the overwhelmingly decisive manner in which they have won and lost this season, is disturbing.

In their 14 wins, the C's average margin of victory is by 9.1 points per game. In the 16 losses, Boston is getting beat by an average of 12.2 points per game.

More than anything else, it reinforces Rivers' theory that his players allow their shot-making to dictate their play defensively.

"We gotta buy into it. When you buy into the defenisve part of it, it makes it easier," Rivers told CSNNE.com. "Some of the new guys, their offense has always been what triggered how they play. Now they're at a place where we want you to play well offensively, but if it doesn't work out we don't care."

Here are some other keys to tonight's game as the Celtics look to win for the sixth time in their last seven games at the TD Garden.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Memphis has one of the best 1-2 frontcourt punches with Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. Their ability to control the action inside the paint is at the heart of why Memphis ranks among the NBA leaders in points in the paint (43.7, 7th) and rebounds (52.5, 8th) per game.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Kevin Garnett vs Zach Randolph. Although Garnett's production has dipped since moving to power forward, the C's remain convinced that this will benefit him and the Celtics over the long haul. Randolph remains one of the more under-rated talents in the NBA, averaging 17 points and 12.5 rebounds per game this season.

PLAYER TO WATCH: It's Avery Bradley, easily. His long-awaited return should provide a boost of energy -- or at the very least, better play defensively -- that the Celtics are in desperate need right now.

STAT TO TRACK: Scoring will indeed be at a premium for the Celtics against a stingy Grizzlies defense that's giving up an NBA-low 90 points per game. Boston has failed to score 90 or more points in two of their last three games.

Friday, Aug. 26: Coyotes keep taking on dead money in latest deal

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Friday, Aug. 26: Coyotes keep taking on dead money in latest deal

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while finally catching up on “The Man in the High Tower” on Amazon.

*The Coyotes and Panthers executed a trade sending Dave Bolland to Arizona, and it’s not exactly great news for Gary Bettman with Arizona continuing to take on a lot of dead money.

*Alex Pietrangelo was appropriately humbled to be named the 21st captain in the history of the St. Louis Blues.

*The Colorado Avalanche have a new head coach, and his name is Jared Bednar, who it is said will get the players to play hard for him.

*The footage of somebody in full goalie equipment running away from a burglary scene is something out of a movie.

*The New York Rangers can never have enough depth, and that’s why they added Brandon Pirri to the mix on Thursday.

*PHT writer Cam Tucker says Lawson Crouse brings the total package in the trade from Florida to Arizona, and he also brings a player that can take a hell of a hit as he was the guy that got rocked by Charlie McAvoy at the World Junior Showcase earlier this month.  

*It’s only 15 days until the US National Team Development Program gets going with their 2016-17 schedule: here it is in full.

*For something completely different: can you see David Ortiz’s face in this corn maze? This could be like an ink blot test.

 

Foster playing catch-up, could help his cause vs. Panthers

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Foster playing catch-up, could help his cause vs. Panthers

FOXBORO -- When DJ Foster took the field for Patriots OTAs, he looked as advertised: quick, a crisp route-runner, and the owner of a pair of dependable hands. But that was back when players wore shorts to every practice. Since then, the undrafted rookie running back out of Arizona State hasn't had the opportunity to do much other than work on his conditioning while the majority of his teammates practiced. 

That could soon change. Though Foster has dealt with what he calls a "nagging" injury throughout much of training camp, he felt well enough this week to return to practice, and on Friday night he is likely to see preseason game action for the first time this summer.

The reason Foster's preseason debut could carry some importance is that he happens to play a position that may qualify as the thinnest on the Patriots roster right now. Because sub back extraordinaire Dion Lewis will not be healthy enough to start the season, and because coach Bill Belichick opted to part ways with veteran Donald Brown recently, the team is low on numbers in their running back room.

If Foster can capitalize on the opportunities he's given, he may make a case for a roster spot. James White, who is expected to be Lewis' primary replacement, is the other lone true sub back on the roster. Brandon Bolden can fill in at that role on an emergency basis, and Tyler Gaffney has shown he can catch the football when asked, but neither has the kind of pass-catching upside of Foster, who played receiver for the Sun Devils as a senior and racked up 222 receptions during his four-year college career. 

Foster has only so much time to prove he's worthy of a job. The Patriots have to reduce their numbers to 75 by Aug. 30. They need to be down to 53 by Sep. 3. Foster could be a tantalizing prospect to stash on the practice squad, but surely he'd like to make a push for a greater role. 

He explained this week that, despite his recent physical limitations, he won't be holding back whenever he does get a chance to prove himelf. 

"The coaches do a great job at just kind of making sure I'm OK and stuff," he said. "For me, when I'm in there, do what I can, give everything I got -- every rep, every chance I get with the reps. Stay in the playbook, stay involved in the meetings, and just try to learn as much as I can. Whenever I do get an opportunity, go out there and make the most of it."

Against the Panthers, the Patriots coaching staff will have to balance the need to evaluate players like Foster against good competition versus getting the entire team ready for Week 1. For example, they'd like to get a good look at Foster, whose practice reps were next to nil before this week. They'd also probably like to get White as many reps as possible so that he's prepared for the Cardinals. 

Who should play when? And how many snaps do they need? 

"You can’t see D.J. Foster play in this league. You have Arizona State film but that’s all you have, and some of the spring work that he did which is obviously encouraging," Belichick said earlier this week. "We still have him, but there’s just no body of work. Donald Brown, you can see Donald Brown . . . Players like D.J., it’s hard. You don’t have much to go on. But maybe he’ll be able to do more. We’ll get an evaluation of him soon, hopefully."

Friday night could be the night.