Celtics-Nets preview: Christmas in Brooklyn

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Celtics-Nets preview: Christmas in Brooklyn

NEW YORK The addition of Jarvis Varnado was designed to bolster the Celtics' frontcourt, which took another hit with Chris Wilcox's thumb injury that'll keep him out for almost a month.

The C's will need all the help they can muster on the boards on Christmas Day when they face the Brooklyn Nets at the Barclays Center.

A few more rebounds - OK, a lot more rebounds - would be the perfect gift for the Celtics on Christmas Day especially when you consider that it is easily their biggest weakness.

Each of the two previous matchups between these two, both Brooklyn wins, included the Nets outscoring the C's 23-11 in the second-chance points.

Brooklyn won the rebounding battle in both games as well, by an average of six rebounds per game which is slightly above the rebounding deficit the C's face most games.

By no means is the addition of Varnado viewed as a savior of sorts for the Celtics rebounding woes - it's not a given that he will even play - but having another body can only help in the one area that the C's desperately need to make strides towards improving to have any shot at having the kind of deep playoff run they envision.

Here are some other keys to the game as the Celtics (13-13) look to draw even with the Nets (14-12) for the second-best record in the Atlantic Division behind New York.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Both Boston and Brooklyn have had their issues at times this season in limiting opponents to shooting a low percentage. Teams are shooting 45 percent against the C's this season, which ranks 18th in field goal percentage defense. Nets' foes have connected on 45.9 percent of their shots which comes in at No. 24.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Jason Collins vs. Brook Lopez: This is the kind of matchup that should validate why Collins is in the starting lineup. He's not going to outscore Lopez unless Lopez gets tossed in the game's first minute. But if Collins is doing his job, he'll be making it a lot tougher for Lopez, who has averaged 16.5 points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots while shooting 62.5 percent from the field against the C's this season.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Jason Terry will surely have something to prove. He is coming off a 1-for-15 shooting performance, the kind of game that he has bounced back from quickly. He has had four such games this season in which he made one field goal or less. In the four games that followed, Terry has shot 50 percent from the field (17-for-34) while averaging 11.5 points per game.

STAT TO TRACK: The three-point shot has not been a weapon of choice by the Celtics, who come in averaging 5.4 threes per game, which ranks 28th in the league. They have been even worse in their two games against the Nets this season, shooting 8-for-20 on threes. Boston's ability to hit the long ball will go far in their quest to defeat Brooklyn.

Patriots pregame rituals: Step-by-step with the players on game day

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Patriots pregame rituals: Step-by-step with the players on game day

What goes through Dont'a Hightower’s mind in the minutes before he takes the field and lowers himself into a cauldron of collisions, pain and exultation?

Not a thing.

“I rest. I literally rest,” said the Patriots Pro Bowl inside linebacker. “I don’t do anything else. I sit at my locker, I don’t listen to music. I don’t do anything out of the ordinary. I don’t look at film, I don’t look at notes. I’m just relaxed. Calm before the storm. I’ve done enough preparing, I’ve done enough notes, I’ve done enough of that stuff during the week. If I don’t know it by now, I don’t know it. It’s not gonna help me last minute. It’s only gonna make me play slower.”

By the time an NFL team hits the field – in the Patriots case, runs out of a giant, inflatable helmet while Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train” blares – they are primped, polished, taped and glistening.

But what is their day like leading up to that? I asked a few Patriots to take me through their game-day prep from wakeup to anthem to give me insight into what we don’t see.  

You can hear Hightower, Nate Solder, Alan Branch, Devin McCourty and Rob Ninkovich detail the steps they take to get game-ready. French toast is involved. So are naps. And sock preparation.

It all builds to that moment of theater that Ninkovich says is what players truly miss when they leave the game – that feeling of euphoria.

“When we finally get to run out, that’s the most exciting time in the world,” says Solder. “The crowd wasn’t there earlier when we went out there and all of a sudden, the crowd is there. Very exciting, very fun, especially with the guys you work so hard with.”

Says McCourty, “I always think when I run out of the tunnel to look up and say, ‘Thank you’ just to be able to play.”

Listen to them tell their stories here:

Belichick's game-day ritual: 'Try to coach and play good'

Belichick's game-day ritual: 'Try to coach and play good'

FOXBORO -- Bill Belichick was not in any mood to start revealing his behind-the-scenes pre-kickoff routine on game-days. The air of focus he's exhibited during his media-availability periods this week continued on Friday, particularly when he was asked about his Sunday rituals. 

When a reporter wondered if there was anything in particular Belichick does before a game, he initially said simply, "No."

A follow-up about superstitions was tossed Belichick's way next. He swatted that aside as well.

"Try to play and coach good," he explained. "Goes a long way."

There you have it. An easy-step-by-step guide on how to approach a game like a future Hall-of-Famer.

For more on Patriots pregame prep, click here.