Wakeup Call: Crawford may be ready for Opening Day

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Wakeup Call: Crawford may be ready for Opening Day

Here's your wakeup call -- a combination of newsworthy andor interesting tidbits -- for Tuesday, November 13:

AUTO RACING
NASCAR docks Jeff Gordon 25 points and fines him 100,000 for intentionally wrecking Clint Bowyer, but will allow him to race in Sunday's season finale. (AP)

BASEBALL
Looks like Carl Crawford might be ready for Opening Day. (NBC's Hardball Talk)

At last, a player the Dodgers don't want to sign. (Hardball Talk)

Nationals, Schmationals; Jimmy Rollins says the N.L. East still goes through Philadelphia. (CSN Philly)

No surprises here: Mike Trout and Bryce Harper win their leagues' respective Rookie of the Year awards. (AP)

Jeremy Affeldt is staying in San Francisco. (AP)

The Manager of the Year award is baseball's equivalent of the Defense Against The Dark Arts teacher's post at Hogwarts. (Hardball Talk)

COLLEGE BASKETBALL
ESPN's Tip-Off Marathon -- 16 games in 24 hours -- too much even for a fanatic like you? Here, here's the guide to the games you can't miss and the ones you can skip. (NBC's College Basketball Talk)

Oh, and here are some tips for getting through the whole thing. (College Basketball Talk)

The AP voters still think Connecticut -- despite losing its Hall of Fame coach and five underclassmen after last season -- is pretty good. (AP)

The NCAA Tournament, or at least a portion of it, is going back to Madison Square Garden for the first time since John Kennedy was president. (AP)

COLLEGE FOOTBALL
Mike Leach says there's "no truth" to Marquess Wilson's charges of physical and mental abuse at Washington State, claiming they're the complaints of a disgruntled player. (AP)

If Derek Dooley's days are numbered at Tennessee, as many believe, no one's said anything to him. (AP)

Meanwhile at Arkansas, John L. Smith -- who describes himself as "the most optimistic guy you can imagine" -- still thinks he might return as the Razorbacks' coach. (AP)

It only took a few hours for Jimbo Fisher to issue the requisite apology for using the word "retarded" in describing Florida State's No. 10 spot in the BCS standings, which is probably some sort of new speed record. (AP)

In more apology news, Tommy Tuberville says he's sorry for hitting graduate assistant Kevin Oliver -- and most likely even more sorry that video of the incident went viral -- after Texas Tech had trouble getting the right personnel on the field during its 41-34 win over Kansas. (AP)

But Bo Pelini's not apologizing for the verbal confrontation he had with safety Daimion Stafford during Nebraska's win over Penn State. He says he was only trying to calm Stafford, who was upset after the Cornhuskers had given up a touchdown. (AP)

The Big East is happy (or so it claims) with the decision to stick with six bowl games in the new playoff system because, in the words of commissioner Mike Aresco, "it gives us an opportunity to compete." (AP)

GOLF
Here are your candidates for PGA Tour Player of the Year: Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Brandt Snedecker, Bubba Watson and Jason Dufner. (AP)

HOCKEY
Want to know why the lockout drags on? Because Gary Bettman, says a source, "has a date in mind to end it, and we're not there yet." (CSN Philly) Let's just hope that date isn't Thanksgiving 2014 . . . and, with Bettman (and his puppeteer, Jeremy Jacobs), you never know.

Once we get there, though, Steve Fehr and Bill Daly think a deal can be finalized pretty quickly. (AP)

PRO BASKETBALL
The Lakers say they're excited -- and a little bewildered -- that Mike D'Antoni is their new coach. (AP)

One guy who's happy to see D'Antoni land on his feet: Jeremy Lin (CSN Houston)

One guy who's not happy that Mike Brown lost the job in the first place: LeBron James. (NBC's Pro Basketball Talk)

Speaking of James, that was quite a second-half show in the Heat's win at Houston. (AP)

Wonder if Gary Bettman has a date in mind for Andrew Bynum's return? (AP)

PRO FOOTBALL
The Steelers won a game but lost a quarterback Monday night, while the Chiefs lost even more dignity with a series of ridiculous celebration dances in the midst of losing their eighth game in nine tries. (AP)

Separated shoulders are bad enough. The Steelers can't be happy to hear that Ben Roethlisberger's is "unusual". (NBC's Pro Football Talk)

Nor can the Eagles be happy to hear that Michael Vick's concussion is "pretty significant". (AP)

Hold your horses: Andy Reid's departure from Philadelphia -- already presumed by a large cross section of fans and media -- ain't a done deal. (Pro Football Talk)

A lot of people are asking why the Bears left Jay Cutler in Sunday night's game after he'd been concussed, but they insist they acted properly. (AP)

Alex Smith actually threw a touchdown pass after he suffered a concussion in Sunday's tie with the Rams, but the 49ers removed him from the game when he told them he did it with blurred vision. (AP)

Pete Carroll's so happy about the Seahawks being 6-4 that he's given them the whole bye week off. (Pro Football Talk) Wonder what he would have done if they were 7-3 . . . ?

Mike Holmgren puts the kibosh on rumors of his replacing Jason Garrett in Dallas, though he never specifically says he would turn down the job if the Cowboys came calling. (AP)

Pretty soon, some replacement refs are going to put up a big billboard that reads: "Miss us yet?" (Pro Football Talk)

Actually, though, it's the replay assistants who are messing up. (Pro Football Talk)

WATCH: Celtics vs. Thunder

WATCH: Celtics vs. Thunder

Tune into CSN to watch the Celtics play the Thunder in Oklahoma City. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by McDonald's on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

- Game Preview: Another chance against a top-tier team

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

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- Live Extra FAQ: All your questions answered

- Latest on the Celtics: All of the most recent news and notes

- Talk about the game via social media on CSN's Pulse, presented by Ford

Celtics-Thunder preview: Another chance against a top-tier team

Celtics-Thunder preview: Another chance against a top-tier team

Hosting the San Antonio Spurs on Nov. 25, the Boston Celtics had the perennial title contenders on the ropes with the lead in the fourth quarter only to lose it and the game, 109-103.

On the road at Houston, one of the Western Conference’s top teams, the Celtics led in the fourth quarter and wound up losing their Dec. 5 matchup 107-106 as Al Horford missed what would have been a game-winning lay-up as time expired.

Boston played well in both games, but not well enough to win which unfortunately for the Green Team has been how things have gone when they’ve faced some of the better teams in the NBA this season.

They are hoping to break that trend tonight when they hit the road and face the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Thunder (14-9) come in with a slightly better record than the Celtics (13-10).

Boston’s issue isn’t that they can’t play with the better teams.

It’s their finish that needs work.

Boston has lost five of its six games this season against teams that are currently among the top-4 in their respective conferences. 

Losses to San Antonio and Houston only highlight Boston not being able to make the late-game runs needed to win.

Even in their 101-94 loss to Toronto on Friday, it was the Raptors’ ability to make one clutch play after another when it mattered most, that proved to be what was needed to propel them to victory.

“That’s what good teams do; they execute at the end of the game,” said Celtics guard Avery Bradley. “We just have to execute better and get stops at the end of the game. That’s what it comes down to.”

And while the Celtics have a number of returners from last season, every season brings about a different team and with that, a need to learn how to collectively be successful especially down the stretch in close games.

“We’re learning,” Bradley said following the Raptors loss. “We’re moving on to the next game.”

And that would be the Thunder who come in having won six of their last seven games.

Of course when it comes to the Thunder, everything starts with Russell Westbrook who is on everyone’s short list for league MVP.

He is averaging a triple-double this season with 30.9 points, 11.3 assists and 10.8 rebounds per game.

“He’s amazing,” said Boston’s Terry Rozier who will likely spend some time defending Westbrook tonight. “He’s going to be aggressive. We have to try and find a way to stop that. He’s putting up video game stats. It’s tough but we gotta do something.”

The Celtics will likely lean heavily on Marcus Smart and Bradley, a first-team all-NBA defensive selection last season, when it comes to trying to slow down Westbrook.

“Russell’s a good player,” Bradley said. “I look forward to every matchup. If it’s him, whoever it is, I look forward to it. That’s what this league is about.”

It’s also about growth and development of franchises into title contenders, something the Celtics are eager to continue pushing towards tonight.

Horford spent the previous nine seasons with the Atlanta Hawks, advancing to the playoffs every season.

He saw first-hand how they went from a team that could barely get into the playoffs, into one that produced four all-stars in one season and had the best record in the Eastern Conference.

Horford saw the loss to Toronto as an example of a really good team doing what great teams do and that’s finding a way to win regardless of how things are going most of the night.

“We made a run early (against Toronto), they stayed with it, didn’t rattle and eventually got over us,” Horford said. “We’re growing as a group.”