Celtics-Pistons preview: Taking care of business

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Celtics-Pistons preview: Taking care of business

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. The journey that is the 2012-2013 Celtics season has been a winding one that has made it hard to predict what's around the next turn.

That element of the unexpected aside, one thing the C's should be able to count on is to beat the teams they should. And for all that has not gone according to plan, the Celtics have remained relatively consistent in that department: Boston comes into tonight's game against the Detroit Pistons with a sparkling 3-0 record against teams that are at or below .500.

Now beating those teams certainly doesn't provide an adequate barometer as far as figuring out if the C's do in fact belong among the NBA's elite. The true test of that won't come until the playoffs.

In the meantime, Boston has to continue finding ways to win the games they are supposed to win -- games against teams that are struggling like Detroit.

"We have been pretty good about winning the games we're supposed to," Celtics guard Courtney Lee said. "That just comes about treating every opponent the same. You don't want to get in the habit of getting too high for some teams, and not for others. We've been pretty good about that so far this season."

It is a trend the Celtics would like to continue tonight against a Detroit, which has dropped nine of its first 10 games -- matching the worst 10-game start to a season in franchise history.

Here are some other keys to keep tabs on tonight as the Celtics try to build off of Saturday's 107-89 win over Toronto.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: The Celtics kept Kevin Garnett's minutes down to just 17 on Saturday, which is an ideal tally on the front end of a back-to-back set of games. That had a lot to do with Boston's second unit uncharacteristically extending the team's lead when he left the game on Saturday. The C's increased their lead when Garnett left the floor in all but one quarter of their 107-89 win over Toronto. It's worth monitoring to see if they can repeat that success.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Rajon Rondo vs. Brandon Knight: Rondo played a very Rondo-like game with 20 assists against Toronto on Saturday after missing the previous game with a right ankle sprain. Knight will be the latest up-and-coming talented point guard who will see Rondo as a litmus test as far as how they stack up to the game's premier playmakers. The second-year guard is averaging 11.3 points and 7.1 assists this season. Only two other players from the 2011 draft (Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker) are averaging at least 10 points and five assists per game.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Jared Sullinger had a nice bounce-back game with 12 points and 11 rebounds against Toronto after logging less than eight minutes in Brooklyn on Thursday. It will be interesting to see if he can bring that same level of intensity and production to the floor tonight.

STAT TO TRACK: With or without Rajon Rondo in the lineup, you can count on the Celtics racking up a high number of assists per game. They come into tonight's matchup averaging a league-best 25.3. For all that has gone wrong for Detroit this season, the Pistons have done a fairly decent job of limiting the assists of opponents. Teams are averaging 20.4 against Detroit this season, the sixth-best mark in the league.

Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

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Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

BOSTON -- “I didn’t feel that love after I made a pitching change in the sixth inning,” Terry Francona said after a 45-second standing ovation from Boston fans upon receiving the MLB Manager of the Year award from the BBWAA Thursday.

It’s without question the love for Francona runs deep in the city. Why wouldn’t it? He was the leader in breaking the 86-year old curse, and wound up winning another World Series title for Boston three years later.

Actually, he was more of a co-leader, working alongside the same person who won the MLB Executive of the Year honors from the BBWAA for 2016.

Theo Epstein -- who received an ovation 17 seconds shorter than Francona, but who’s counting -- reminisced about the Red Sox ownership group that took a chance on a young kid who wasn’t necessarily the ideal candidate to take over as GM of a team, but now that’s helped him build the Chicago Cubs into a winning franchise and establish a great working environment.

This October marks 13 years since the ’04 championship, 10 years since ’07 and six years since the pair left Boston. Without question they’ve left their mark on the city and forever changed Red Sox baseball.

And while the fans showed their undying gratitude for Francona with an ovation almost as long as his acceptance speech, the Indians manager recognized the favor the current Red Sox brass has done for him.

“I’d like to thank Dave Dombrowski and the Red Sox for getting Chris Sale the hell out of the Central Division,” Francona said.