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.

Malcolm Butler on Instagram: 'Nothing changed but the change'

Malcolm Butler on Instagram: 'Nothing changed but the change'

We haven't heard from cornerback Malcolm Butler as his future as a Patriot hangs in the balance after his visit with the New Orleans Saints last week.

Butler,  a restricted free agent who has yet to sign the $3.91 million tender offered by the Patriots, posted a photo Wednesday on Instagram with the cryptic message "Nothing changed but the change," which happens to be a lyric from a song titled "Could It Be" by rapper Nick Lyon. So, perhaps a change of teams is being referred to.

"Nothing changed but the change" #BLESSED

A post shared by Malcolm CB Butler (@mac_bz) on

More to come...

Goodell: NFL working on a way to reduce commercial breaks during games

Goodell: NFL working on a way to reduce commercial breaks during games

The NFL is acknowledging it has a time-management issue. Games are too long. Commercial are too frequent. And according to an email addressed to NFL fans, Roger Goodell is hoping to change that.

On Wednesday afternoon the commissioner explained the methods by which the league is hoping to improve the fan experience, most of which concern the presentation of games with as few interruptions as possible. 

"On the football side, there are a number of changes we are making to the mechanics and rules of the game to maintain excitement and also improve the consistency of our officiating," Goodell wrote. "For example, next week clubs will vote on a change to centralize replay reviews. Instead of a fixed sideline monitor, we will bring a tablet to the Referee who can review the play in consultation with our officiating headquarters in New York, which has the final decision. This should improve consistency and accuracy of decisions and help speed up the process.

"Regarding game timing, we're going to institute a play clock following the extra point when television does not take a break, and we're considering instituting a play clock after a touchdown. We're also going to standardize the starting of the clock after a runner goes out-of-bounds, and standardize halftime lengths in all games, so we return to the action as quickly as possible. Those are just a few of the elements we are working on to improve the pace of our game."

Goodell also mentioned that the NFL is working with its broadcast partners to reduce the frequency of commercial breaks during games. 

"For example," Goodell wrote, "we know how annoying it is when we come back from a commercial break, kick off, and then cut to a commercial again. I hate that too. Our goal is to eliminate it."

Goodell, team owners and executives will convene in Phoenix next week for the league's annual meetings where discussions about these potential changes could see meaningful progress.