Blakely's Celtics-Jazz preview

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Blakely's Celtics-Jazz preview

BOSTON After a ho-hum start, the Boston Celtics are making the Garden look more and more like the Jungle of past years when teams came in knowing that a loss, regardless of how well they played, was the most likely outcome.

Even though Boston's home record (17-8 at the Garden, 27-22 overall) is nothing to get overly excited about, they have reeled off six straight wins at home - their longest home winning streak of the season.

Tonight they face a Utah (27-23) team that has been a completely different - and very beatable - club when away from home.

In fact, the difference between Utah's record at home (19-6) and on the road (8-17) is the largest in the NBA. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last time a team finished with that wide a disparity was the Jazz during the 2007-2008 season in which they were 37-4 at home and 17-24 on the road.

Being at home will certainly be a factor weighing in the C's favor tonight. Here we'll take a look at a few other factors that may have an impact on tonight's outcome as the C's seek a victory which will put them back in a tie with Philadelphia for the top spot in the Atlantic Division.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR - The Celtics will do what they can to make the Jazz a jump-shooting team, which is clearly one of the team's biggest weaknesses. Utah has connected on 30.9 percent of their 3s this season, which ranks No. 29 in the NBA. When you take into account that Boston has the NBA's top 3-point shooting defense - opponents are shooting just 30.6 percent on 3s against the Celtics - it could be a long night for the Jazz if they're forced to play primarily from the perimeter.

MATCHUP TO WATCH - Kevin Garnett vs. Al Jefferson: Kevin Garnett has seen his share of centers with an array of offensive skills, but "Big Al" is right up there with the best of them. He has 21 double-doubles this year, and is averaging 19.4 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. For Garnett, it will come down to doing what he seems to do most nights - whatever is needed to win. Sometimes that's score, other times it is to rebound or defend. Try door No. 3 tonight. Because the one thing we all know about Al Jefferson he will get his shots up.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Paul Pierce has been on a wicked tear of late, and you can bet the Celtics will look for him early and often tonight. Look for Boston to try and get Pierce the ball on the elbow more or posting up against a smaller defender in C.J. Miles. Depending on how Utah responds to that, Pierce can play the role of low-post scorer or facilitator to the team's perimeter players as well as guards such as Avery Bradley and Rajon Rondo cutting to the basket.

STAT TO TRACK: One of the byproducts of Boston playing more "small ball" units, is that they become quite vulnerable to points in the paint. Unfortunately for Boston, that plays right into one of Utah's biggest strengths. The Jazz are scoring 50.2 points per game in the paint, which ranks No. 2 in the NBA. The C's are literally at the other end of the points in the paint spectrum, averaging 34.5 points in the paint per game which is No. 29 - or second-to-last - in the NBA.

Ravens’ Suggs submits half-hearted effort at Brady snub

Ravens’ Suggs submits half-hearted effort at Brady snub

Terrell Suggs keeps doing his best to pump air into his one-sided “feud” with Tom Brady.

Ever since Brady begged for a flag on Suggs after a benign hit back in 2009, Suggs has made it his mission to speak truth to the perceived power of Brady.

“Everyone just seems to worship the guy so much,” he once said. “Not me, though.”

So, Suggs has called basically derided Brady as a crybaby and occasionally called into question the validity of the Patriots championships.

It’s clearly all for show. When Deflategate was at its height in June of 2015, Suggs said of Brady, “The guy is a winner. He’s won with whatever kind of personnel that he’s had. So I don’t think [Deflategate] really tarnished it … Everybody needs something to write about and needs something to talk about. It’s always something. I’m leaving that alone.”

This week, Suggs smirkingly refused to use Brady’s name when discussing the Patriots leading up to Monday night’s game.

Asked about Brady earning his 201st win as an NFL starter, Suggs said, "He's pretty good. Like I said, wins are wins and numbers are numbers. Numbers don't lie. He's pretty good."

Suggs went on, avoiding Brady’s name. It’s something he’s done in the past for whatever reason. But he’s also been complimentary of the Patriots and Brady as well, saying that, when it’s done, there will be three quarterbacks in the conversation for best-ever: Montana, Unitas and Brady. 

The only time Brady’s verbally stepped out against Suggs and the Ravens is in response to their barbs. In 2010, Brady stated that the Ravens, “Talk a lot for beating us once in nine years.”

Brady also chastised Ravens coach John Harbaugh – now there’s a guy who whines! – after the 2014 AFC Divisional Playoff Game when the Patriots snookered the Ravens with intricate formations. That’s about it for return fire.

 

Need a reminder all prospects don’t hit? Happy anniversary, Andy Marte trade

Need a reminder all prospects don’t hit? Happy anniversary, Andy Marte trade

In a week that has seen the Red Sox trade arguably the best prospect in baseball, Thursday can serve as a reminder that not all prospects -- even the great ones -- end up hitting. 

Eleven years ago today, the Red Sox traded Edgar Renteria to the Braves, and in eating some of the veteran shortstop’s contract, got Atlanta to give them third baseman Andy Marte. 

Andy freaking Marte. Those stupid, stupid Braves.

If you were a baseball fan at the time, you were flummoxed at the notion that the Braves, who were a factory for developing good, young players, would trade the No. 9 prospect in all of baseball from 2005, according to Baseball America. At 22 years old, he was coming off seasons that saw him hit 23 homers in Double-A and 20 in Triple-A. 

“There’s nothing not to like about Andy Marte. He’s and outstanding defender with a chance to be an impact player offensively,” an opposing Double-A manager said of him, per Baseball America. 

Some of the other guys in the top 10 that year? Joe Mauer, Felix Hernandez and Scott Kazmir. Sitting one spot behind Marte on the list? Hanley Ramirez. 

And when the Red Sox got Marte, he immediately shot up to No. 1 on the Baseball America’s list of Boston’s prospects. Look at the rest of this list. Hell, there’s a combined 10 All-Star nods between Nos. 2 and 3 alone, and that’s not to mention the American League MVP sitting at No. 5. 

So what did Marte do for the Red Sox? Well, he got them Coco Crisp. After Theo Epstein returned from his hiatus, he shipped Marte, the recently acquired Guillermo Mota (dude got traded three times in six months), Kelly Shoppach, a player to be named later and cash for Crisp, Josh Bard and David Riske. 

Crisp didn’t exactly rip it up in Boston, but Epstein’s (and then-Braves general manager John Schuerholz’) foresight to trade Marte proved wise. Marte spent six seasons in Cleveland, seemingly given every chance to break out, but never played more than 81 games. He was designated for assignment in 2009 and cleared waivers, allowing him to stay with the organization as a Triple-A player. The next season was his final one in Cleveland, and he left a six-season stint in with the organization having averaged just 50 games, three homers and 16 RBI at the Major League level. 

Marte would bounce around a bit in the Pittsburgh and Angels organizations, but he didn’t make it back up to the bigs until 2014 on a July 31 callup with the Diamondbacks. He’s now playing in Korea. 

Great prospects often become great players, and the Red Sox’ roster is proof of that. Strikeout concerns aside, there’s not much to suggest Yoan Moncada won’t be an absolute stud. Fans looking for silver lining to losing a top-tier prospect (other than the fact that you could Chris Sale for the guy), can look back 11 years and hope for the best. A lot of people were wrong about Andy Marte.