Blakely: Previewing Celtics-Mavericks


Blakely: Previewing Celtics-Mavericks

DALLAS Nothing has come easy for the Boston Celtics (15-15) this season, so it makes sense that the only way they can avoid slipping below-.500 for the season is to hit the road and beat the defending NBA champion Dallas Mavericks.

Mind you, this is a Mavericks team that's coming off a lackluster loss at New York on Sunday. But at this point, it doesn't matter who the opponent is. The Celtics simply have to play better.

"We have to have better focus when we go into these games," said Paul Pierce. "Or we're just going to continue to get embarrassed. We just gotta have pride, pretty much."

A bit more pride in their play, which has straddled the line between poor and pitiful lately, can only help.

But they'll need more, especially against a Dallas team that's looking to bounce back following a road loss at New York on Sunday.

Here are some of the factors that will likely play a prominent role in tonight's game as the Celtics try and avoid a fourth straight loss.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR -- The Dallas Mavericks are one of the best teams in the NBA at getting out the gates quickly. They average 25.8 points scored per game in the first quarter, which ranks No. 2 in the league. And the last thing the Celtics need to deal with is a team that comes out scoring early. One of the keys to the Celtics scoring defense being ranked No. 2 in the NBA, has been how they've handled themselves in the first quarter. Teams are scoring 22.8 points per game against the C's in the first quarter, which ranks eighth in the NBA in first quarter scoring defense.

MATCHUP TO WATCH -- Jermaine O'Neal vs Brendan Haywood: O'Neal is coming off one of his strongest performances of the season with the Celtics, grabbing 11 rebounds to go with eight points and five blocks. With so few bigs available either because of injury or non-basketball related matters, the C's need J.O. to step his game up. Haywood doesn't present nearly as many challenges as Tyson Chandler (now with the New York Knicks) did last season, but he is a serviceable big man that, if you're not careful, can cause problems either scoring or rebounding the ball.

PLAYER TO WATCH -- Mickael Pietrus is a streaky player who can get hot at any time. The dude is overdue -- way overdue -- to have one of those big scoring-binge kind of nights. Boston has lost five of its last six games and in that span, Pietrus has averaged 4.2 points while shooting 32.1 percent (9-for-28) -- both well below his season averages. And in his last three games, he's missed 11 of his 12 shots which includes missing all 10 of his 3-point shots.

STAT TO TRACK -- As has been the case in most of their games this season, turnovers will go far in determining whether the Celtics can pull off an upset tonight. Their turnover numbers this season mirror their struggles just to maintain their current middle-of-the-pack status. Boston averages 15.4 turnovers per game, which ranks 19th in the league. The Mavericks are led by former Celtic Rick Carlisle, whose teams have always been strong defensively dating back to his days as the Detroit Pistons head coach. The Mavs are forcing 15.9 turnovers per game which ranks ninth in the league.

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."

Goalie update: Tuukka Rask dealing with hamstring AND groin injury?


Goalie update: Tuukka Rask dealing with hamstring AND groin injury?

In Episode 22 of "The Great American Hockey Show" podcast hosted by Joe Haggerty and Jimmy Murphy, we try to figure out if there is any light at the end of the tunnel for the Bruins with their goalie situation in a very bad place.

Former Bruin Aaron Ward joins Haggerty to talk about his appreciation for Claude Julien as a coach, entertains us with a great story on captain (and defensive partner) Zdeno Chara, and makes a bold statement on how good Brad Marchand has developed into as a player.

Plus, Ward has some insight to the injury goalie Tuukka Rask is dealing with, which he believes is a hamstring AND groin problem.

Ward also discusses his relationship with "Toucher & Rich" and the "Cuts for a Cause" charitable event that he helped start.

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