Boston Bruins

Blakely's Celtics-Bulls preview

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Blakely's Celtics-Bulls preview

BOSTON The Boston Celtics are wounded, both physically and mentally, right now. Their overtime loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday hurt. A lot.

To follow that up with an uninspired, lethargic performance at Toronto less than 24 hours later -- another loss -- didn't help matters.

So what better way for the Celtics to get their mojo back than to face the best team in the Eastearn Conference, the Chicago Bulls?

"Going back to Rome and having training camp would be better," said C's coach Doc Rivers, referring to the team's trip to Italy prior to the '08 title season. "But since we play (today), then having another game around the corner would be better."

Rivers knows all too well that the Celtics will need a number of things to go their way in order to pull off the upset.

Here are a few key factors to pay attention to as the Celtics (14-12) try to snap a two-game losing skid today against the Bulls (23-6).

WHAT TO LOOK FOR -- The Bulls are still unsure if reigning league MVP Derrick Rose will play today. He sat out Chicago's 31-point win at Charlotte on Friday due to a back injury. If Rose does play, it'll be interesting to see just how much that back injury will limit his effectiveness when attacking the rim, which he does as well as any player in the NBA. In Chicago's 88-79 win over Boston earlier this year, Rose had 25 points, seven assists and four rebounds.

MATCHUP TO WATCH -- Kevin Garnett vs. Carlos Boozer or Joakim Noah: Garnett will be matched up with one of these guys, depending on whether Jermaine O'Neal (shoulder) plays. Regardless of which one KG faces, the C's need him to win that matchup. And with Garnett, it doesn't have to necessarily be won by scoring more points. Garnett has to make an impact, whether it's rebounding, blocking shots or playing his usual Jedi mind tricks.

PLAYER TO WATCH -- The legend of Avery Bradley continues to grow. Bradley told CSNNE.com that the shoulder injury that limited him the past couple games won't keep him off the floor today against the Bulls. We've seen Bradley's on-the-ball pressure completely blanket guards. But Derrick Rose? That's an entirely different animal. Like Kevin Garnett, Bradley's impact on the game won't necessarily be seen in his individual stats. In Boston's 86-74 loss at Toronto, Bradley only had three points in his seven minutes on the floor. But in that time, he had a plusminus ratio of plus-7.

STAT TO TRACK -- First quarter scoring has been an issue for the Celtics all season, evident by them ranking 27th in the NBA in points scored (21.7) in that period. However, the C's are averaging 24.1 points in the first quarter in their 14 wins this season. Chicago has been among the NBA best at limiting first-quarter scoring. Teams are scoring just 21.3 points against the Bulls in the first quarter, which ranks No. 3 in fewest first quarter points allowed this season. The Bulls' first quarter clamps have been even tighter of late as they have allowed 16 or fewer points scored in each of their last four games -- all blowout wins.

Morning Skate: Sorry, Shaughnessy but young B's are on the rise

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Morning Skate: Sorry, Shaughnessy but young B's are on the rise

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while appreciating that Brad Marchand is willing to say something is “an absolute joke.” There are not enough candid players in the NHL like good, ol' No. 63.

*So FOH (Friend of Haggs) Dan Shaughnessy writes that the Bruins are “a lowly number four nowadays” in the power rankings of the big four Boston sports teams. Certainly, Danny is technically correct in saying that the Patriots, Red Sox and Celtics are ahead of the Bruins in terms of the Boston pro sports zeitgeist and that they dominate the sports conversation.

But Shaughnessy points to the Bruins doing nothing to improve themselves last summer as some kind of reason behind their low position among the other Boston sports franchises, and that’s not really a factor. The problem right now is that the Bruins are extremely young and still a couple of years away from returning to true Stanley Cup contention as a result. 
Once Charlie McAvoy is a few years into his career, some of the other Bruins prospects are in the NHL for good and Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Tuukka Rask are still at the back end of their prime, the Bruins will once again be a Cup contender that’s pushing their way back into the championship conversation that commands the attention of the Boston fan.

Would Shaughnessy have been more satisfied with the Bruins if they spent bad money on a big free-agent contract as they did with Matt Beleskey and David Backes in back-to-back years, or if they traded premium prospect Brandon Carlo for hired gun Matt Duchene? That would be the kind of “big splash” move that a bad management group would make to appease the casual fans that don’t truly understand what the B’s are going with their draft-and-development plan.

This Bruins outfit is still a playoff team while they’re building back to that Cup-worthy level. They were playing a much more exciting, entertaining brand of hockey once Bruce Cassidy replaced Claude Julien last winter. This isn’t a lowly team unworthy of the fans’ attention, or more importantly their sports dollar. This is much more about the all-time greatness of the New England Patriots, the deserved excitement for a Celtics team that is truly going for it after being in the Bruins current “building it back up” phase for the past few years and a playoff-level Red Sox team that really has no competition in the summertime.

This isn’t about what the Bruins aren’t doing right now. This is about what the Patriots and Celtics, and to a lesser degree the Red Sox, are doing right now. It's as simple as that in a local sports landscape that’s cyclical and constantly in motion.  

*What a great Facetime hit here from FOH (Friend of Haggs) Ray Ferraro with Jay and Dan now that they’re thankfully back to their rightful home in Canada. The technical difficulties really make the whole thing come together.  

*Congrats to Jonathan Drouin for making a commitment to the city of Montreal that goes well beyond being a player for the Canadiens.

*Lots of prayers and well-wishes to Hingham, Mass., native and New Jersey Devils forward Brian Boyle after his stunning cancer diagnosis. Anybody that knows the Boyle family knows how courageous they are, and how much love and support that Brian will have at a time when he’s going to need every bit of it. I also included a link to a New York Post Q&A with Boyle where he talks a bit about his father’s miraculous battle with cancer as well.   

 *John Chayka is trying to bring with him a new chapter to the history of the Arizona Coyotes, but it’s seemingly always an uphill battle there.

*Nobody should have any problems with the contract extension handed out to Mikko Koivu by the Minnesota Wild.

*For something completely different: Are we seriously living in a world where the Juggalos are marching for their rights?

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30 teams in 30 days: Grit-and-Grind days are over in Memphis

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30 teams in 30 days: Grit-and-Grind days are over in Memphis

We’ll take a look at all 30 teams in the next 30 days as they prepare for the 2017-2018 regular season, which is when the real fireworks begin! Today's team: The Memphis Grizzlies. 

Memphis is no different than any other NBA team when it comes to making changes.
 
It’s an inevitable part of the NBA.

 
There are changes, and then there’s losing Zach Randolph and Tony Allen to free agency.
 
They didn’t lose the face of their franchise.
 
They lost its backbone.
 
And when you throw in the departure of Vince Carter, the Grizzlies are getting younger and more athletic and maybe just as significant, further removed from the physical, rough-and-tough brand of basketball they played for years.

You’ll have to go to YouTube to see Grit-and-Grind anymore.
 
Still, this isn’t all that surprising when you consider they brought in a new coach last year, David Fizdale, who came from Miami but also spent time on the bench as an assistant in Atlanta and Golden State.

Those teams played a more position-less, free-flowing brand of basketball compared to the Grizzlies.
 
So what we’re starting to see now is a Memphis team that will eventually look and hopefully play, more akin to what their coach envisions.
 
While the DNA of this team has changed dramatically, the Grizzlies will still be among the teams battling for one of the last playoff spots in the West this season.
 
They return Marc Gasol who still ranks among the best centers in the NBA. They also have point guard Mike Conley Jr., who unfortunately still holds the title for the best veteran player to not be named to an NBA All-Star team.
 
He’s coming off his best season as a pro when he averaged career highs in scoring (20.5 points per game) and shooting (45.9 percent from the field, 40.7 percent on 3’s) along with 3.5 rebounds, also a career benchmark.
 
In addition, Conley’s 6.3 assists per game were just 0.2 assists away from tying his career best in that category.
 
But for Memphis to surprise many and extend its playoff run to eight years in a row, the Grizzlies’ inside-outside tandem of Gasol and Conley, will need help.
 
A healthy Chandler Parsons would be a huge boost.
 
One of the more versatile wing players in the league, injuries have left Parsons a shell of the player that he once was.
 
He has had each of his past three seasons end prematurely due to injuries, so it’s hard to imagine Memphis will be banking on him to be healthy enough to make a major impact on the team this season.
 
They added Ben McLemore and Tyreke Evans, both from Sacramento, to the roster this season.
 
Both come into training camp competing for a starting job.
 
The Grizzlies also have high hopes for 6-9 forward Rade Zagorac, a second-round pick in 2016 acquired from Boston who spent an additional year overseas before coming over to the NBA.
 
The new faces will be critical to the success of Memphis in those post Grit-and-Grind era.
 
Key free agent/draft/trade additions: Ben McLemore (Sacramento); Tyreke Evans (Sacramento).
 
Key losses: Zach Randolph (Sacramento); Tony Allen (New Orleans); Vince Carter (Sacramento).
 
Rookies of note: Rade Zagorac; Ivan Rabb; Dillon Brooks.
 
Expectations: 33-49 (fourth in the Southwest Division, 11th in the West).
 

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