Blakely's Celtics-Wizards preview

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Blakely's Celtics-Wizards preview

BOSTON It seems whenever the Boston Celtics have been parched for a win this season, the Washington Wizards have proven to be the perfect thirst quencher. After a 1-3 start, back-to-back games against the Wizards brought the C's to .500 status. A stretch in which Boston lost six of seven games was turned around after a win over Washington triggered a four-game winning streak.

So here are the Celtics coming off a tough 99-86 loss at Philadelphia on Friday, and they're once again looking for the Wizards to be the perfect remedy for what ails them.

Even though the C's have dominated the head-to-head series this year, a victory tonight will be much tougher to come by.

Mickael Pietrus suffered a concussion in the second quarter of the Sixers loss. He told CSNNE.com that he's unlikely to play tonight, and wasn't sure if he would be able to play Monday at Charlotte.

"I still have some dizziness, and feel weak," he told CSNNE.com on Saturday. "But I know it could have been a lot worse."

In addition, the C's don't know for sure if Ray Allen (left ankle) will play, an injury that kept him out of the lineup in the Sixers loss. Although Avery Bradley's ankle sprain isn't expected to keep him off the floor tonight, with injuries and the Celtics this year . . . you just never know how long anyone will be sidelined.

Health will certainly be a factor in tonight's outcome. Here are a few other factors that should come into play as the Celtics look for a season sweep, their first four-game season sweep of Washington since 1982.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR -- Lately, Boston has been surprisingly efficient offensively to start games. In their last two games, the Celtics have averaged 33.5 points per game in the first quarter, a significant bump over their 22.7 points per game average, 26th in the NBA, that they have scored in the first this season. In Washington, Boston faces a Wizards team that has had its struggles defensively in every quarter. But their first quarter scoring defense (25.3 points per game, No. 24 in the NBA) is actually their best in terms of where it ranks compared to the rest of the NBA.

MATCHUP TO WATCH -- Kevin Garnett vs. Nene: This is where Garnett's ability to stretch a defense with his perimeter shooting skills comes in handy. Nene is a strong, bullish big man who is known to have his problems with bigs who can stretch the floor like Garnett. However, Nene seems to have adjusted nicely to a Wizards system that's built more for what he does best -- score with his back to the basket. In his three games with Washington since being traded from Denver, Nene has averaged 16.3 points and 8.7 rebounds -- both better than his numbers with the Nuggets.

PLAYER TO WATCH -- Although his numbers might suggest something different, Marquis Daniels is gradually getting back to being a contributor to the Celtics' second unit. With Mickael Pietrus (concussion) expected to not play in the next couple games, along with Ray Allen (left ankle) questionable, Daniels may in fact see his role expand soon. After having played a total of 19 minutes this month, Daniels has played 20 minutes in each of the Celtics' last two games. In those two games, he has averaged 7 points and 2.5 rebounds while shooting 55.6 percent from the field.

STAT TO TRACK -- With the Celtics thin on bodies, keep an eye on team fouls for both teams. This season, Boston is committing 20.2 fouls per game which ranks in the league's bottom-10, at No. 21. Fortunately for Boston, they face a Washington team that's used to being in foul trouble as well. They too are ranked among the NBA's bottom-10, averaging 21.5 fouls per game which ranks No. 26 in the league.

Bart Scott: Falcons have 'the better quarterback' in Super Bowl

Bart Scott: Falcons have 'the better quarterback' in Super Bowl

Former Ravens and Jets linebacker - now an "NFL Today" analyst for CBS - Bart Scott usually "can't wait" to make his disdain for Tom Brady and the Patriots known. 

He was back at it Tuesday in an interview with CBS Radio's Damon Amendolara, in which he said the Falcons have the better quarterback heading into Super Bowl LI.

“We know they’re the better offense, and right now, you could say they got the better quarterback because they have the MVP of the league,” Scott said. Ryan is the favorite to win the NFL MVP, which will be announced the night before the Super Bowl at the "NFL Honors" show.

“Now that’s a debate, but Matt Ryan has earned the right for his name to be put up there with the upper-echelon quarterbacks," Scott said. "He’s always been elite in the regular season, but now he’s taken this show into the postseason and he’s won the hard battles against the elite quarterbacks and now you have to give him his due.”

More from Scott: “I can’t see the Patriots stopping this offense. So, that means that these receivers are going to have to [keep] pace. It’s all going to come down to what it always comes down to. It’s going to come down to who makes the turnovers, who gets up early and puts the pressure on the other team. Matt Ryan and that offense showed me a lot when they went behind [in the divisional round against the Seahawks]. Seattle came and busted them in the face, and [Atlanta] went right back down and answered immediately.

"The Patriots always find a way, but I think it makes it more close of a game than what people think.”

Tuesday, Jan. 24: Crosby, Matthews top coaches' poll

Tuesday, Jan. 24: Crosby, Matthews top coaches' poll

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while rooting for “Manchester By the Sea” to upset some favorites at the Oscars.

*Sidney Crosby and Auston Matthews top the annual NHL coaches' poll produced by TSN Insider Bob McKenzie.

*The oral history of Fox’s glowing puck used for the NHL during their run with the league is an entertaining one.

*Mike Babcock gives pep talks to the reporters along with his own players while running the show in Toronto.

*The Vegas Golden Knights are moving forward with their timetable toward hiring a coach with some good candidates out there now, and some other ones potentially available soon. I’ve wondered if Claude Julien would be interested in that spot if he’s let go by the Bruins this season, but the one sure thing is that he wouldn’t be out of work long if he is relieved of his duties.

*Claude Giroux needs to start playing a little more fearlessly and without dwelling on mistakes, according to his general manager.

*Detroit Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill doesn’t believe that fancy stats and analytics have had a major impact on the way the Wings do things.

*PHT writer James O’Brien has the rundown on a Millenial’s dream of performers at the 2017 NHL All-Star Game: Nick Jonas, Fifth Harmony and Carly Rae Jepsen.

*For something completely different: keeping an eye on the notion that Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg is going to run for President.