Blakely's Celtics-Warriors preview

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Blakely's Celtics-Warriors preview

OAKLAND, Calif. Game-planning in the NBA is an on-the-fly job that's filled with twists and turns at a moment's notice.

No time during the season is this more true than the days leading up to the NBA trading deadline, which is officially off and running after the Celtic's opponent tonight, Golden State, was part of a five-player deal with Milwaukee on Tuesday night.

The Warriors acquired Andrew Bogut (who is out with a left ankle injury) and former Golden State swingman Stephen Jackson, while shipping out Monta Ellis, Ekpe Udoh and center Kwame Brown (who is also out, with a chest injury).

For Boston, this actually might work out well for them tonight.

Because of the number of players involved, the trade won't become official until physicals are taken and that will likely take a few days.

Regardless, the Celtics can't afford to focus on what other teams may or may not have.

They have enough problems of their own trying to find ways to stockpile wins and improve their playoff position.

"We can't worry about anything but how can we keep getting better, and find ways to win games," C's guard Avery Bradley toldCSNNE.com. "That's the only thing we're concentrating on right now."

Here are a few things that are likely to factor into whether the C's can continue their strong play since returning from the all-star break, against a Golden State team that will be short-handed.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR Without Monta Ellis, who will pick up the 21.9 points and 19 shot attempts he had, per game. Stephen Curry is a logical choice, but with his never-ending ankle issues, Warriors coach Mark Jackson doesn't have a true feel for how much he can get on a nightly basis from Curry. If Curry isn't getting the bulk of those shots, keep an eye on rookie Klay Thompson whose development was among the reasons the Warriors were willing to trade Ellis. He's averaging 8.2 points per game this season, but has reached double figures in Golden State's last five games - his longest double figure scoring stretch this season.

MATCHUP TO WATCH Brandon Bass vs. David Lee: Bass' mid-range game has been strong all year, but lately he's starting to get it done defensively as well. Lee will be a good test for him. The two have comparable size and can be physical. But you have to like Bass' chances when he steps away from the basket and shoots. Not only is it a situation that plays to his strengths, but it also keeps Lee further away from the basket which for the C's, is a good thing.

PLAYER TO WATCH Avery Bradley's improved play offensively has been one of the reasons the Celtics have been a better team since returning from the all-star break. He's showing that, in addition to being a strong defender, he can also make teams pay by leaving him alone on the perimeter or losing track of him cutting to the basket. With Bass now a starter, Boston will need someone to step up and become more of a scorer off the bench. Bradley appears to be up for the challenge. "Whatever they need me to do, that's what I want to do," Bradley said. "Of course defense is always going to be my priority. But there times when my teammates will need me to score, too. I'm just trying to stay ready, be ready for whatever Doc and the coaching staff needs me to do."

STAT TO TRACK This will be one of the few nights where the Celtics, the worst rebounding team in the NBA, might actually win the battle on the boards. As bad as Boston is, the Warriors aren't that much better. In fact, they rank 26th in rebounding compared to the dead-last Celtics, at No. 30. Forget about Kevin Garnett, Brandon Bass and Paul Pierce when it comes to the team's rebounding numbers. Boston has to get more from guys like Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen and Avery Bradley. "It has to be more of a team effort on the boards," Bradley admitted. "I know myself, all the guards really, have to do a better job of that, than what we're doing now."

Report: Cavs. Pacers, Nuggets discuss deal involving George, Love

Report: Cavs. Pacers, Nuggets discuss deal involving George, Love

Don’t count the Cleveland Cavaliers out of the Paul George sweepstakes just yet.

According to ESPN’s Marc Stein and Chris Haynes, the Cavaliers are still working on a way to get George with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving in Ohio.

The latest rumor involves a three way deal being discussed between the Cavaliers, Indiana Pacers, and Denver Nuggets. According to Hayes, the deal would send George and Kenenth Faried to Cleveland and Kevin Love to Denver.

Presumably, Indiana would end up with good picks and a few young assets.

Click here for the complete story.

Will the Harris signing mean more time on the edge for Hightower?

Will the Harris signing mean more time on the edge for Hightower?

David Harris is expected to be a savvy middle linebacker who will line up his teammates when they help. He's expected to provide some level of leadership, even in his first year in New England, as an accomplished-but-hungry 33-year-old who has not yet reached a Super Bowl. 

What Harris is not expected to do is improve the Patriots pass rush. He was in on one sack in 900 snaps last season.  

But in a roundabout way he might. 

MORE: How does Derek Carr's new deal impact Jimmy Garoppolo?

There are dominos to fall now that Harris has been added to Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia's defense. How much will Harris play, and whose playing time will he cut into? Those questions don't yet have answers, but one of the more intriguing elements of the Harris acquisition is how he will benefit Dont'a Hightower's game.

If Harris can pick up the Patriots defense quickly -- and all indications are that there should be few issues there -- he could take some of the all-important communication responsibilities off of Hightower's shoulders. 

Ever since taking the reins from Jerod Mayo as the team's signal-caller, Hightower has had to be on top of all requisite pre-snap checks and last-second alignment changes. It's a critical role, and one that Hightower performs well, but those duties place some added stress on the player wearing the green dot. Perhaps if part of that load can be heaped onto Harris' plate, that might allow Hightower to feel as though he's been freed up to focus on his individual assignments.

Harris' presence might also impact where on the field Hightower is used. Hightower may be the most versatile piece on a Patriots defense loaded with them, but with Harris in the middle, Hightower could end up playing more on the edge, where he's proven he can make a major impact (see: Super Bowl LI).

For Belichick and his staff, having the ability to use one of their best pass-rushers -- and one of the most efficient rushers league-wide, per Pro Football Focus -- on the edge more frequently has to be an enticing byproduct of the move to sign Harris. Especially since there are some question marks among the team's end-of-the-line defenders behind Trey Flowers and Rob Ninkovich. 

We'll have to wait for training camp before we have an idea of how exactly Harris fits in with the Patriots defense. But the effect he'll have on his new teammates, and Hightower in particular, will be fascinating to track.