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.

Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, 24, killed in boating accident

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Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, 24, killed in boating accident

MIAMI  — Jose Fernandez, the ace right-hander for the Miami Marlins who escaped Cuba to become one of baseball's brightest stars, was killed in a boating accident early Sunday morning. Fernandez was 24.

Authorities said Fernandez was one of three people killed in a boat crash off Miami Beach.

Chief Petty Officer Nyxolyno Cangemi told The Associated Press that a Coast Guard patrol boat spotted an overturned boat at 3:30 a.m. on a jetty near Government Cut. The bodies were discovered a short time later.

In the statement, the Marlins say they are "devastated by the tragic loss of José Fernández. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this very difficult time."

"Hands down one of my favorite guys to watch pitch! He brought nothing but intensity and passion," Red Sox pitcher David Price said on Twitter early Sunday.

Because the boat was on a jetty, the Coast Guard notified Miami-Dade police, which turned the investigation over to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Fernandez was on a 32-foot vessel that had a "severe impact" with a jetty, said FWC's Lorenzo Veloz.

"We are stunned and devastated," Major League Baseball said in a statement.

City of Miami Fire-Rescue workers were seen carrying bodies, draped and on stretchers, at the Coast Guard station after sunrise Sunday. The names of the other two individuals are being withheld pending notification of relatives, the Coast Guard said.

Fernandez was a two-time All-Star who went 38-17 in his four seasons with the Marlins, winning the NL's Rookie of the Year award in 2013. The native of Santa Clara, Cuba became a U.S. citizen last year and was enormously popular in Miami.

He tried to defect from Cuba at least three times — landing in jail after one of those unsuccessful tries — before eventually getting to the U.S. and going to high school in Tampa, Florida. The Marlins drafted him in 2011 and Fernandez was in the majors two years later.

The Marlins' game Sunday at home against the Atlanta Braves has been cancelled.

"I'm still in shock," former Marlins player Gaby Sanchez said on Twitter. "The world has lost a remarkable person. You will be missed and my heart goes out to the Fernandez family."

© 2016 Associated Press.

Curran's Sunday 4-pack: So, what HAS Tom Brady been up to?

Curran's Sunday 4-pack: So, what HAS Tom Brady been up to?

Six days – four quarters of football – remain in Tom Brady’s four-game suspension.
 
The fact is the Patriots are 3-0 and have gotten a long – and enjoyable – look at their quarterback depth behind Brady. Brady, meanwhile, has gotten a chance to shave one-quarter off the season-long wear-and-tear he takes.
 
But highlighting silver linings and pointing out there’s not much sand left in the suspension hourglass is no real consolation. Said one team source Thursday night, “It’s never going to go away.”
 
What’s Brady been up to? Mixing family time and working out. He’s routinely spent four hours a day training, I’m told, presumably with his body coach Alex Guerrero at TB12 Sports Performance at Patriot Place. Also, aside from his Sunday session with Wes Welker, Brady’s been throwing to young college players at undisclosed locations, eschewing the opportunity to bring in some of the “name” former players who’ve reached out and offered their services.
 
Spotted in Italy with wife Gisele Bundchen last week, Brady’s also been back home in San Mateo visiting with his family.
 
Speaking to two people close to him, I was told he succeeded in making peace with the time off and avoiding the creep of too much bitterness. I was also told he’s unbelievably motivated to return at a high level and wants his transition back to be seamless in terms of performance and conditioning. That last part is, of course, to be expected. But it will be interesting to see how Brady does perform out of the gates after a month’s forced exile.
 
NINKOVICH RETURNS, TOO

The lesser of the two suspended prodigal sons set to return next week – Rob Ninkovich – is no doubt going to benefit physically from the quarter-season vacation as well. And the defensive ends who’ve performed well in his absence – Jabaal Sheard and especially Chris Long – will do well to have Ninkovich back in the mix. Mention should also be made of Trey Flowers who has shown up in opponent’s backfields on a weekly basis. It depends on what your personal cup of tea might be, but through three games, Long seems to me a much better defensive fit for this team than Chandler Jones. Jones was the more explosive pass-rusher but Long’s ability in the running game, and his play-in, play-out impact in applying pressure on the tackle in front of him makes it seem so far as if he’s an upgrade.
 
NEW DEALS AHEAD?
 
Still no word on which Patriot may be in line for a new deal since the team restructured Devin McCourty and freed up some cap space.

Donta Hightower, Malcolm Butler and Jamie Collins have been seen as the most likely targets for extensions and a redo of Hightower at this point would whittle down his $7M cap number and possibly allow another extension to be executed for either Collins or Butler, as our Phil Perry pointed out.  Jabaal Sheard, meanwhile, is the Patriot who flies under the radar when extension talk starts. He may be every bit as important to the success of the Patriots defense as the other three.
 
REX WRECKS
 
The Bills are 0-2, the natives are beyond restless in Buffalo and the Cardinals are in Western New York on Sunday. The Bills are expected to play without wide receiver Sammy Watkins and are a team staring into the esophagus of 0-3 with a visit to the Patriots coming next week. Have a gander at the Bills Mailbag in the Buffalo News.  Seems like years since Rex was all giddy about the paint job on his new truck. It was less than 19 months ago.