Blakely's Celtics-Knicks preview

736388.jpg

Blakely's Celtics-Knicks preview

NEW YORK Ray Allen will return to the Boston Celtics lineup, which will give them another guy who can score from the perimeter. But lately, it has been the defense of Boston's guards that turned heads - and in many instances, turned opponents away with one empty possession after another.

Having won seven of their last 10 games (only Indiana has been better during that span in the East, winning nine of their last 10 games), the Celtics have done it in large part because of the defensive play of their guards. Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley and company have been able to limit dribble penetration which has forced a number of teams to be more perimeter-oriented than they probably would want to be.

This has led to guards taking tougher, more contested shots which in turn, has meant fewer points allowed by the C's. In the last 10 games, Boston has allowed opposing guards to score 34.2 points per game which ranks just behind New Orleans (32.5) and Philadelphia (34.1).

Of course, limiting guards from scoring likely means a spike in points for frontcourt players, right? For New Orleans and Philadelphia, it does. They rank in the bottom 10 for points allowed to frontcourt players in their last 10 games played. Meanwhile, the Celtics are giving up 50.2 points to frontcourt players during he same time period, second only to tonight's opponent, the New York Knicks, who have allowed opposing frontcourts to score 48.9 points per game.

Boston's ability to keeping both guards and big men from generating lots of points, will be a primary factor in the outcome of tonight's game. But there are other keys to the game as well. We'll examine some of them now as Boston tries to move one step closer to locking up the Atlantic Division against a surging New York Knicks team that has won four of their last six games.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR The reigning Eastern Conference player of the week, Kevin Garnett, returns to the floor after C's coach Doc Rivers gave him last game off. Garnett was in a great groove scoring the ball, as well as defending and of course, rebounding. It's only one night and it shouldn't throw him totally out of whack, but Garnett is a creature of habit that does not like his routine to be disrupted. He understands the value that the Celtics place him in, knowing he has to play well and be healthy in the playoffs, for them to have any shot of making another deep playoff run. But you have wonder if missing the one game will impact his play, or possibly result in him getting off to a slow start.

MATCHUP TO WATCHBrandon Bass vs. Carmelo Anthony: With the Knicks going with a three-guard lineup, Anthony slides over to the power forward position which means he'll be matched with Bass. Look for the Celtics to switch this often on defense. But if Anthony is guarding Bass, this might be the game in which Bass displays a low-post game. Because Anthony is strong, arguably the strongest small forward this side of LeBron James. But Bass is stronger and heavier - two factors he needs to utilize often tonight.

PLAYER TO WATCHRajon Rondo will likely be guarded at times by Iman Shumpert, an athletic, defensive-minded, on-the-ball-defender cut from the same cloth as Avery Bradley. He's quick enough to get up on Rondo and strong enough to throw Rondo off stride. But to Rondo's credit, he has figured out a way to beat every kind of defense, every kind of defender, thrown his way whose mission is to limit his effectiveness which is evident by him racking up double-digit assists in 22 straight games.

STAT TO TRACKPoints will be hard to come by for both teams around the basket, a point that's drilled home when you look at the numbers in recent games. In the last 10 games, the Knicks are tops in the NBA in fewest points allowed in the paint, at 26.5. Right behind them? You guessed it. The Boston Celtics, who are giving up 27.4 points in the paint during the same period of time. It speaks to how they're defending, obviously. But it also says a lot about the opponents they have faced who rely a lot more on their perimeter shooting than pounding the ball inside or scoring off dribble penetration.

Saturday, Dec. 3: Vesey couldn't be happier with Rangers

Saturday, Dec. 3: Vesey couldn't be happier with Rangers

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while looking to avoid any and all updates on Kanye West. I’ve officially maxed out on my Kanye updates for the next four or five years. 

*Jimmy Vesey left a trail of broken hearts and hard feelings across the NHL this summer, but he’s happy in New York with the Rangers. 

*There is still a pathway for the NHL players to participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics, says FOH (Friend of Haggs) Chris Johnston, but I’m pretty skeptical about it and have been for a few years now. I just don’t see it happening in South Korea. 

*The New York Islanders are reportedly looking for a big name executive to take over their entire hockey operation. 

*Speaking of the Islanders, Alain Vigneault is using them as an example of parity in the NHL to motivate the Rangers.

*A big blow for the Detroit Red Wings as they’ve lost gritty forward Justin Abdelkader for the next few weeks. 

*Ottawa Senators GM Pierre Dorion is looking to add depth to their roster as the Sens appear in it to at least get a playoff spot this year. That is bad news for anybody that likes to watch, you know, entertaining hockey and stuff. 

*PHT writer and FOH (Friend of Haggs) Mike Halford says that the Colorado Avalanche core group has come under heavy scrutiny as they’re struggling again this season. 

*For something completely different: Saving the bees is a year-round job that everybody should be interested in based on their impact across the world. 

Beleskey knocked out of Bruins game with lower body injury

Beleskey knocked out of Bruins game with lower body injury

The Bruins have added another injury to their current collection of banged-up players. 

This time it’s scrappy left winger Matt Beleskey, who was knocked out of Saturday’s game in Buffalo in the first period with a check thrown at his lower body. Beleskey was hit with a body check targeting his right leg at center ice from Buffalo forward Tyler Fedun, and skated gingerly to the bench before eventually heading back to the dressing room. 

There was no penalty called on a borderline hit that seemed to be targeting Beleskey’s leg. The Bruins announced in the middle of the second period that he was done for the day with a lower body injury. Beleskey finished the day with three registered hits and was 1-for-2 in the faceoff circle with six shifts for 5:27 of ice time in the second period. 

The 28-year-old Beleskey had managed to stay pretty healthy this season to this point, but was underachieving a bit offensively with two goals and five points along with a minus-6 rating in 23 games this season.