Blakely's Celtics-Heat preview

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Blakely's Celtics-Heat preview

MIAMI With very little frontcourt depth, the Boston Celtics can't afford to have too many of their bigs get into early foul trouble. That's easier said than done, especially when talking about backup center Greg Stiemsma.

Just like he has been racking up the blocked shots lately, he's also picking up a considerable number of personal fouls as well.

He has played 10 or more minutes in six of the Celtics' last seven games. In those six games, he has averaged committing five personal fouls per game.

Rivers isn't overly concerned about his only big man off the bench, being a foul magnet of sorts lately.

But if he's going to use the six that he has, Rivers would like him to use them wisely.

"Some of the fouls he's picking up, the ones that I want him to stay away from is the frustration fouls," Rivers said. "He gets frustrated, like he's getting fouled or not fouling and they call it on him. I think he's right, but he's also a rookie and that's just the way it goes."

Said Stiemsma: "Earlier in my career, it might have been a little different of a story. I might not have been able to handle it as well. It's part of the game. You know, I've yet to see a referee change a call yet. Once its made, gotta deal with it and go from there."

Stiemsma's ability to impact the game will be a factor in tonight's game between Boston and Miami. We'll take a look at some other keys that may come into play as Boston tries to beat Miami for the second time in 10 days.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR You can bet one of the first things the Heat will try and do is get LeBron James to get his teammates involved. Of all the problems Boston presented in their 91-72 win over Miami on April 1, it was James' inability to establish scorers around him that put the Boston beat-down in motion. So it's important that Paul Pierce do a good job of not allowing James to find teammates for open or slightly contested shots. But James said he's not coming into tonight's game looking to establish any one particular style of play. "I just kind of let it flow," James said. "Throughout the course of the game, just see if guys have it going, or if I have it going, then I just play it by ear."

MATCHUP TO WATCH - Avery Bradley vs. Dwyane Wade: You could tell this game really means a lot to Wade, who took Sunday night off against Detroit to rest (wink, wink) a sore ankle. As for Bradley, he has to be prepared for a lot of hard screens set to free up Wade. But to his credit, Bradley's ability to move without the ball and get into position to score off cuts will make Wade work hard on defense which if you're the Celtics, you hope will take away some of his offensive fire power. Needless to say, Wade has been impressed with Bradley's emergence. "One thing about Boston, they have a lot of triggers going on," Wade said. "As a defender, you're looking at (Rajon) Rondo with the ball, you're looking at all the triggers the have and he's one of the best cutters. He finds a way to cut, when the triggers are going on. So you're doing what you're taught to do - pay attention to the ball - and he's going the other way. So you just try and be aware of it."

PLAYER TO WATCH: Rajon Rondo has had 17 straight games with 10 or more assist, and the last time he saw Miami on April 1 he had a triple-double. Look for the Heat to try and get the ball as much out Rondo's hands as possible, which would force Paul Pierce into being more of a facilitator as opposed to the C's primary scorer.

STAT TO TRACK: One of the biggest problems Miami has had following the all-star break, has been poor rebounding. Prior to the break, the Heat ranked 10th in bench rebounding, with 43 per game. Since returning from the break, they rank 26th with 39.6 per game. If the Celtics can keep this trend going, it'll provide a huge boost to their chances of beating Miami for the second time in the span of 10 days.

Monday, Dec. 5: Craig Cunningham's recovery

Monday, Dec. 5: Craig Cunningham's recovery

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while fully getting in the holiday spirit by getting the family Christmas tree this week.

*Very good and very sobering story about Craig Cunningham’s slow recovery, and his large support system with the AHL Roadrunners team he is captaining this season. It sounds like it might be a bit of a long road for him, so he and his family will need that support from those around him.

*Tyler Seguin has his shot back, and that’s great news for the Dallas Stars power play. So is that like Stella getting her groove back?

*A KHL player went into a sliding dab formation in order to celebrate a goal on the ice, and we salute him for that.

*The Maple Leafs are trying to fortify their backup goaltending situation after waiving Jhonas Enroth this week.

*Interesting Bob McKenzie piece about a young man that’s hoping to challenge conventional thinking in the hockey coaching ranks.

*TSN’s Scott Cullen takes a look at Winnipeg rookie Patrik Laine’s shooting skills as part of his “Statistically Speaking” column.

*For something completely different: the hits just keep on coming for Netflix as they’re going to double their TV series output over the next year.

Market for Encarnacion is shrinking, yet Red Sox still don't seem interested

Market for Encarnacion is shrinking, yet Red Sox still don't seem interested

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- As the annual winter meetings get underway today, the market for arguably the best free-agent hitter may be -- against all logic -- lessening.

Edwin Encarnacion, who has averaged 39 homers a year over the last five seasons, should be a player in demand.

But in quick succession, the Houston Astros and New York Yankees, two teams thought to be in the market for Encarnacion, opted to go with older hitters who required shorter deals -- Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday.

Further, the Toronto Blue Jays' signing of Steve Pearce to a two-year deal Monday, coupled with their earlier acquisition of Kendrys Morales, closes the door on a potential return to Toronto for Encarnacion.

Seemingly, all of that would position the Red Sox, in search of a DH to replace the retired David Ortiz, to swoop in and land Encarnacion for far less than they could have imagined only weeks ago.

And yet, it appears as though things would have to change considerably for the Red Sox to reach agreement with Encarnacion.

While the first baseman-DH is known to be Ortiz's first choice as his replacement, for now, the economics don't work for the Sox -- even as Enacarnacion's leverage drops.

Encarnacion is expecting a deal of at least four years, with an average annual value around $20 million.

The Red Sox, industry sources indicate, are very much mindful of the luxury tax threshold. The Sox have, however modestly, gone over the threshold in each of the last two seasons, and even with a bump due to last week's new CBA, the Sox are dangerously close to the 2018 limit of $195 million.

Should the Sox go over for a third straight year, their tax would similarly ratchet up.

That, and the fact that Encarnacion would cost the Sox their first-round pick next June -- for this offseason, compensation for players given a qualifying offer comes under the old CBA rules -- represents two huge disincentives.

It's far more likely that the Sox will seek a cheaper option at DH from among a group that includes Pedro Alvarez and Mike Napoli. Neither is in Encarnacion's class, but then again, neither would cost a draft pick in return, or the long-term investment that Encarnacion is said to be seeking.