Blakely's Celtics-Heat preview

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Blakely's Celtics-Heat preview

BOSTON It's that time of year when NBA teams like the Boston Celtics are trying to fine-tune their lineup and clean up a few areas so that they can be ready to roll come playoff time.

The C's defense has been strong all season, but head coach Doc Rivers has seen enough cracks of late to be somewhat worried.

"We have played great defense, but I think it's been spurt defense the last three or four games," Rivers said. "I want us to get back to being as solid defensively as we were three or four games ago."

Among the video that the Celtics watched prior to Monday's practice, they saw the minor mistakes and miscues that by themselves don't mean much.

But in a playoff series, every play botched could be the difference between advancing to the next round or heading home early for the summer.

"We could see slippage," Rivers said. "We needed film (on Monday). It's good for us. We needed that."

So would a strong showing tonight against a Miami Heat team that, like the Celtics, will look at various ways to rest players prior to the playoffs. All of the Miami Heat players went through the team's morning shoot-around on Tuesday. As far as who will or will not play, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said that will be a game-time decision.

More consistent play defensively will certainly be a factor in tonight's game. Here are some other keys to tonight's game.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR With both teams resting key guys, bench play becomes essential. Scoring against the Celtics has been difficult for most teams this season. But for playoff-bound clubs, bench scoring has indeed been a luxury that few have enjoyed. This season, the Celtics are giving up just 22.5 bench points to playoff-bound teams which ranks second in the NBA. Miami has one of the NBA's better defenses as well, but opposing benches are getting 31.5 points which ranks 15th in the NBA.

MATCHUP TO WATCH Udonis Haslem vs. Brandon Bass: Inserting Haslem into the starting lineup gives the Heat some much-needed toughness. However, Bass will be a tough cover for Haslem because of his ability to stretch defenses with his mid-range game. Bass ranks fifth in the NBA in shots taken (273) between 15-19 feet. He's shooting 48.7 percent on those shots, which is better than the four players (Dirk Nowitzki, Kobe Bryant, Carlos Boozer and Russell Westbrook) ahead of him.

PLAYER TO WATCH Mario Chalmers remains a bit of a mystery in terms of his impact on the Heat. For Miami to have the kind of season they envision, they'll need him to become a more consistent threat both as a scorer and as a playmaker. With Rajon Rondo possibly not playing tonight, this will be Chalmers' chance to shine. But if he struggles against the Celtics' second unit players, the C's will have planted yet another seed of doubt in the Heat's head.

STAT TO TRACK The Boston Celtics have had their issues on the boards all season, as have the Miami Heat who rank 18th in the league this season while the C's are dead-last. However, it hasn't been as big an issue for the Heat who are giving up a league-low 39.7 rebounds per game. The C's are better at limiting opponents rebounds as well. Opponents are averaging 43.1 rebounds per game against the C's which ranks 21st in the NBA. Rebounding has been a factor in all three meetings between these two teams. In their first matchup on Dec. 27, Boston lost the game and was out-rebounded, 38-28. In the last two games, both wins for the Celtics, they won the battle of the boards 49-47 and 40-34, respectively.

Andrew Hawkins celebrates joining Patriots with 'Ballers' spoof

Andrew Hawkins celebrates joining Patriots with 'Ballers' spoof

Andrew Hawkins' situation isn't far off from a character in HBO's "Ballers." And he played into those connections with a video on Twitter.

The slot receiver, who signed with the Patriots on Wednesday, shares some similarities with the fictional football player Rickey Jerret, a veteran receiver who wades through interest from a number of teams, including New England, during free agency. Because of those similarities, Hawkins spoofed on a scene from "Ballers" where Jerret works out with Patriots receivers Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola. Hawkins imposes his face over Jerret's.

Coyotes hire Craig Cunningham as scout

Coyotes hire Craig Cunningham as scout

The Coyotes have hired former player Craig Cunningham as a pro scout, keeping the 26-year-old in hockey after a cardiac episode ended his playing career this season. 

Drafted by the Bruins in the fourth round of the 2010 draft, Cunningham played 34 games for Boston over parts of two seasons before he was waived and claimed by Arizona. He totaled 19 games for the Coyotes, but served as captain of the Tucson Roadrunners, the team’s AHL affiliate. 

Cunningham was hospitalized after he collapsed during pregame warmups on Nov. 19. He was kept alive by continual CPR, but had his lower left leg amputated the next months due to an infection from the episode. 

Known as a high-character player who was popular with his teammates, Cunningham’s transition to scouting lets him further his career after a scary break. 

"I'm very excited to begin the next chapter of my life with the Coyotes," Cunningham said in a statement released by the team. "I'm very grateful to John Chayka, Dave Tippett, the Coyotes and Roadrunners organizations, and all of the great fans across Arizona for the incredible support I've received over the past year. I'm looking forward to helping the Coyotes and I can't wait to get started in my new role."

Said Chayka, the team’s general manager: ”We're thrilled to have Craig join our hockey operations department as a pro scout. Craig was a smart, hard-working player with an incredible passion for the game. We're confident that he will bring those same qualities to the Coyotes in his new role and that he will be an invaluable asset to our organization. We look forward to Craig helping us in several areas and are excited that he is staying with the club."