Blakely: Celtics vs. Nets preview


Blakely: Celtics vs. Nets preview

NEW YORK Much has been said about the Boston Celtics' current back-to-back-to-back set of games and how challenging it will be.

Well as much as it will test the C's physically, overcoming the mental hurdle of facing a trio of teams with no playoff hopes to speak of, may be even more imposing.

It certainly was a factor in Boston's 84-79 loss at Toronto on Friday, a game in which the Celtics needed to win a lot more than the Raptors who now have 21 wins on the season. Things won't be any easier tonight against the New Jersey Nets (22-38) or the Charlotte Bobcats (7-51).

Celtics coach Doc Rivers acknowledged after the Raptors loss that his team may have not taken Toronto as seriously as they should have in order to be successful. Making that even more complicated was the Raptors playing without starters Jose Calderon and Andrea Bargnani who were each out with an injury.

"I'm sure that is some of it," Rivers said. "You don't have guys on the floor, you could see there was no sense of urgency. There certainly was none. You could see that, even when they got a lead our guys played like 'oh, we'll come back.' You can't play that way because someone is going to make a shot eventually."

Although the New Jersey Nets are among the NBA's worst teams record-wise, the Celtics shouldn't have the same issue in terms of taking them seriously. The Nets are led by Deron Williams, one of the top point guards in the NBA. They have former Celtic Gerald Green developing into a reliable offensive spark off the Net's bench. And of course, there's winning which the Nets have done in three of their last four games.

How the C's approach the game will indeed weigh heavily in its outcome. Here we'll examine a few other keys in tonight's matchup as the C's try to get back on track after a disappointing road loss at Toronto and continue to secure a top-four seeding by virtue of winning the Atlantic Division.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR - Boston's scoring defense has been solid as a rock, win or lose. It will be put to the test tonight against a New Jersey team that's showing signs of improvement in every area, notably scoring. They have a 6-4 record in their last 10 games, which has been fueled in part by their improved scoring. Although they rank No. 22 on the season in scoring, they're actually up to No. 13 over the last 10 games. Meanwhile the Celtics have the No. 3 scoring defense (89.5 points) this season, but have given up a league-low 84.1 points per game over the course of the last 10.

MATCHUP TO WATCH - Rajon Rondo vs. Deron Williams: You have two of the NBA's top point guards which is sure to bring out the best in both players. Rondo is coming off a 12-assist, zero-turnover night which has run his consecutive game streak with double-digit assists, to 20. And Williams, who will be a free agent this summer, is the seventh-highest scoring point guard over the past 10 games, with a 17.4 average. He has also averaged 11 assists in that span, second only to Rajon Rondo (14.2).

PLAYER TO WATCH - The Celtics were out-worked on the boards by Toronto, and it will again be a concern heading into tonight's game. As much as the Celtics will key in on Deron Williams, they might want to keep close tabs on former Celtic Shelden Williams. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, 41 percent of Shelden Williams' rebounds have come off the offensive end which means the C's have to be on guard for the Nets getting multiple scoring opportunities.

STAT TO TRACK - When the Celtics reflect on what went wrong in the Raptors loss, you can bet that not scoring more points in the paint was one of the problems. Fortunately for them, they face a New Jersey teams whose points-in-the-paint woes are just as bad as their own. Boston is averaging an NBA-low 33.6 points scored in the paint this season. Right ahead of them are the Nets with a 34.6 points in the paint average.

Thursday, Oct. 27: Chara top D-man on All-Graybeard team


Thursday, Oct. 27: Chara top D-man on All-Graybeard team

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while saying RIP Vine but not really feeling it since it’s a rabbit hole I never really delved down into. 

*Down Goes Brown celebrates the “NHL’s old guys”, and yes, that means a gratuitous shout out to Zdeno Chara as the top defenseman on the All-Graybeard squad. 

*Hampus Lindholm has signed a long term deal with the Anaheim Ducks, so now that deal leaves everybody to wonder who is leaving the Anaheim roster in the eventual salary cap crunch. It will be interesting to see if this hastens any Cam Fowler trade talk as far as the Bruins are concerned because it looks like they need the help.  

*Pro Hockey Talk has the Oilers off to their best start since the Wayne Gretzky Era and people in Edmonton finally getting to see the hockey they’ve been waiting for over the past few years. 

*In honor of the Halloween season that we’re in, here are a few cool and scary goalie masks with a bit of spooky flair. 

*Arizona Coyotes GM John Chayka is confident that his young team is going to rebound after a rough start to the season. 

*Speaking of creative uniforms, it’s a most wonderful time of the year for hockey when they bust out their Oktoberfest sweaters. 

*For something completely different: this matchup of Peanuts and Stranger Things hits all the right notes for fans of both. 


Van Noy: 'I was shocked" to be traded from Lions to Patriots

Van Noy: 'I was shocked" to be traded from Lions to Patriots

FOXBORO -- It's not often that NFL teams make deals before the trade deadline. Seeing starters get dealt before the deadline is a veritable rarity. It's no wonder linebacker Kyle Van Noy, who started in all seven Lions games this season, reacted the way he did when he was dealt to the Patriots earlier this week.

"I was shocked to go from starting there to traded," Van Noy said during his first back-and-forth with Patriots reporters. "I was shocked. I respect everybody with the Detroit Lions, they'll all be my guys there. Just grateful for the opportunity to come here and get it going."

Van Noy has been working closely with Patriots linebackers and linebackers coach Brian Flores since his arrival, even getting some last-minute notes from Flores before meeting with reporters and heading out to Thursday's practice. 

The 6-foot-3, 243-pounder wasn't completely unfamiliar with the operation in New England before being sent to Foxboro along with a seventh-round pick in exchange for a sixth-rounder. He admitted he had "a lot" of contact with the Patriots before being taken in the second round by Detroit.  

Now he's playing "catch-up" to learn the Patriots playbook, which could include learning multiple positions within the team's defense. He played mostly as an off-the-line linebacker in Detroit, but when he entered into the league out of BYU, he was considered to have the tools to be a productive pass-rusher as a pro. 

Van Noy, who lost about 15 pounds going into this season, indicated that the Lions didn't get the most out of him because of how he was used. 

"I mean, they didn't know where to put me," he said. "Here, they want me here, and I'm happy to be wanted." 

Van Noy was injured for much of his rookie season and had a hard time making an impact last year. He was relied upon to fill a more substantial role this season, playing in 60 percent of the team's defensive snaps. It's unclear just how Van Noy will fit in as a member of the Patriots, but he says he's willing to do whatever it takes to work his way back up another depth chart.

"I'm here now, and I'm gonna do whatever they have me [do], and whatever they want my weight to be at," he said. "Whatever they want me to do I'm gonna do it because I want to win and be part of this team."