Blakely: Celtics-Knicks preview

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Blakely: Celtics-Knicks preview

BOSTON Having not seen one another since the Christmas Day opener, the fortunes of the Boston Celtics and New York Knicks have changed dramatically. The C's were a banged up unit playing without their Captain, Paul Pierce. The Knicks had the look of a team on the rise, having added a much-needed defensive presence in the middle, Tyson Chandler.

But as Pierce's health and conditioning improved, so have the Celtics' record. They come into tonight's game with wins in six of their last seven games. And with a victory tonight, the C's (11-10) will be two games over .500 for the first time this season.

"First game of the season, we came and played those guys. They won," said Celtics big man Chris Wilcox. "But at the end of the day, we're a different team. Hopefully we can get a win."

Meanwhile, the Knicks (8-14) lost 105-102 at home to the Chicago Bulls on Thursday, and have dropped 10 of their last 12 games.

Despite their dominance over New York at home in recent years (the C's have won the last nine at the Garden), there are a number of factors that will weigh into the game's final outcome. We'll take a look at a few right now.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR - Much has been said about New York's woes stemming from not having a true point guard in the regular rotation. With Baron Davis still out with a back injury - he hasn't played in an NBA game since April 10 of last season - that's not going to change anytime soon. The point guard problems are evident when you look at a Knicks team that's middle-of-the-road in scoring with 95 points per game (that ranks 14th in the league), but is ranked No. 23 in assists off of made field goals.

MATCHUP TO WATCH - Paul Pierce vs. Carmelo Anthony: Pierce's right heel injury prevented this matchup from occurring on opening night. Pierce is indeed back to playing like himself. In Boston's last seven games, he's averaging 22.8 points, 7.7 assists and 6.4 rebounds per game. As for Anthony, he's just getting back into his all-star form after missing two games with sprained right ankle, sprained left wrist and sprained right thumb. Keeping him under control, especially in the fourth quarter, will be huge for the Celtics.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Without question, it has to be Rajon Rondo. After participating in the team's morning shoot-around, all indications are that Rondo will return to action after missing the previous eight games with a right wrist injury. In addition to Rondo, it'll be worth keeping an eye on what his return means to Avery Bradley who has filled in for him with the first unit, and E'Twaun Moore who seems to keep improving the more he plays. In the season opener against the Knicks, Rondo had 31 points, 13 assists and five rebounds.

STAT TO TRACK: Rebounding will once again be an issue with tonight's game featuring two of the league's worst. The Knicks are ranked No. 21 in rebounds with 49.9 per game. The C's are once again near the bottom of the NBA standings, averaging 46.1 per game which ranks 29th in the league.

Ramirez, Leon homer, Red Sox beat Angels 9-4 on Papi's night

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Ramirez, Leon homer, Red Sox beat Angels 9-4 on Papi's night

BOSTON - Hanley Ramirez and Sandy Leon hit two-run homers and the Boston Red Sox beat the Los Angeles Angels 9-4 on Friday to cap a night in which David Ortiz's number became the latest retired at Fenway Park.

It was the 250th career home run for Ramirez, a good friend of Ortiz who was also born in the Dominican Republic. Leon finished with three hits and four RBIs.

The homers helped provide a nice cushion for Rick Porcello (4-9), who gave up four runs and struck out eight in 6 1/3 innings to earn the victory. It was the 13th straight start Porcello has gone at least six innings.

Alex Meyer (3-4) allowed five runs and five hits in 3 1/3 innings.

Los Angeles scored three runs in the seventh, but cooled off after Porcello left.

Boston got out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning, scoring on an RBI double by Xander Bogaerts and then getting two more runs off wild pitches by Meyer.

Ramirez gave Porcello a 5-1 lead in the fourth with his two-run shot to right field.

This could serve as a needed confidence boost for Porcello, who had been 0-4 with a 7.92 ERA in his previous five starts, allowing 47 hits and 27 earned runs.

He had command of his pitches early, holding the Angels scoreless until the fourth, when a catching error by Leon at home allowed Albert Pujols to cross the plate.

Drew Moor, Sebastian Giovinco score, Toronto FC beats Revolution, 2-0

Drew Moor, Sebastian Giovinco score, Toronto FC beats Revolution, 2-0

TORONTO - Drew Moor scored early and Sebastian Giovinco struck late and Toronto FC overcame a tight schedule turnaround to beat the New England Revolution 2-0 on Friday night.

Toronto was coming off a 1-1 tie Wednesday night in Montreal in the first leg of the Canadian Championship final. The Revs had been off since a 2-1 home loss to Chicago on Saturday.

Moor's 11th-minute goal looked to be enough, with Toronto goalkeeper Alex Bono preserving the win with a save on Teal Bunbury's header in the 88th minute. But Giovinco added an insurance goal deep into stoppage time, bringing down a high ball before beating a defender and banging a left-footed shot home for his 50th goal in MLS regular-season and playoff action.

MLS leading Toronto (10-2-5) has won seven straight at home. New England (5-7-5) is 0-6-3 on the road.