Blakely's Celtics-Pistons preview


Blakely's Celtics-Pistons preview

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. Paul Pierce is what you would call a "professional scorer."

He can do many things on the court, which is why the 34-year-old has been selected to 10 All-Star games by the Eastern Conference coaches. But just like Celtics victories, points have also been hard to come by for Pierce.

After his streak of 15-point, 5-assist games was snapped in Toronto on Feb. 10, Pierce has been unable to score 15 or more points in the four games since the streak came to an end.

For some, it may not seem like that big a deal.

But for a professional scorer like Pierce, it's huge . . . as in, historically huge.

Throughout his 13-plus NBA seasons, the 6-foot-7 forward hasn't had a stretch of five or more consecutive games scoring less than 15 points, since a seven-game slump in March of 1999 -- his rookie season.

So to say that Pierce will be looking to get on track scoring-wise tonight against the Pistons, well, that's a given.

But that's not the only factor that'll come into play, as the Celtics (15-14) look to remain above .500 against a Pistons team that has won six of its last eight games, a stretch that includes a 10-point win at Boston on Feb. 15.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR -- Forcing Detroit rookie point guard Brandon Knight into making mistakes has to be part of the Celtics' game plan. Like most rookies -- especially point guards -- Knight has had his share of up and down moments. Certainly one of the highlights of his season was Friday night when the Pistons beat Sacramento, and he had 10 assists without a single turnover. Indeed, his assist to turnover ratio in many ways will be a key to tonight's outcome. In Detroit's 10 wins, he's averaging 4.4 assists to just 1.5 turnovers per game. In the 22 losses, his assist numbers dip to 3.2 per game, but there's a sizable jump in his turnovers, to 3.1 per game.

MATCHUP TO WATCH -- Ray Allen vs. Rodney Stuckey: This was the matchup to watch when the two played last week, a matchup that was won decisively by Stuckey. Allen showed signs in the second half of the Bulls loss on Thursday that he's on the verge of breaking out of his annual shooting slump. He had 12 points which included three, 3-pointers. "It was good to see him make some," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "When it's not going in, you need to see it going in." That hasn't been an issue for Stuckey, who has scored at least 23 points in each of Detroit's last three games -- his best scoring stretch of the season.

PLAYER TO WATCH -- The Celtics have been in "strategic rest" mode with Kevin Garnett all season, but it's clear the condensed schedule is starting to impact the 16-year veteran. He missed his first game of the season last week with a hip flexor injury, and the C's are limiting what he does on the rare days when they practice. So far, the C's '5-5-5' plan with KG's minutes has been working. But Boston may consider modifying that slightly, depending on if they think a change will allow him to play with less pain.

STAT TO TRACK -- The Pistons are a middle-of-the-pack 3-point shooting team (they're ranked 17th), with a significant number of their long-balls coming from Ben Gordon. The former UConn star willed the Pistons to victory over Boston last week, connecting on 4-of-6 3-pointers in the fourth. Mind you, the rest of the Pistons were 0-for-6 on 3s. And when Gordon is on from 3-point range, the Pistons usually win. In victories, he has connected on 50 percent of his 3-point shots. In losses, that number falls to 39 percent.

Patriots acquire linebacker Kyle Van Noy from Lions


Patriots acquire linebacker Kyle Van Noy from Lions

The Patriots acquired Kyle Van Noy, who was the Lions’ 2014 second-round pick and starting linebacker this season, on Tuesday. 

Why former Pats executive Bob Quinn would send a starter East for what is reportedly just a conditional draft pick is something we’ll try to ferret out.

The Patriots were no doubt interested because they lost Jonathan Freeny to IR with an injury, rookie Elandon Roberts is an undersized thumper (Van Noy is 6-3, 252) and Shea McClellin is well, just… there so far.

Van Noy has two years remaining on his rookie deal so -- provided he shows something -- he could be around awhile. The move -- one week before the trade deadline -- is a familiar one from the Patriots who added players like Jonathan Casillas and Akeem Ayers in 2014 prior to their Super Bowl run.

This story from last season indicates that Van Noy’s lack of production in his first two seasons with the Lions was merely a matter of circumstance. 

Perhaps. We’ll find out soon enough. Meanwhile, the name Van Noy made me perk up because I remembered him as having a central role in the excellent book The System by Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian.

Read the excerpt on Van Noy here. It will give you a better understanding of the road he’s traveled.

Report: Patriots trade for Lions LB Kyle Van Noy


Report: Patriots trade for Lions LB Kyle Van Noy

The Patriots have added more depth at linebacker, and they've reached out to an old friend to do it.

According to ESPN, the team has agreed to a deal with the Lions in order to acquire linebacker Kyle Van Noy. The compensation has not yet been disclosed. 

Van Noy, who was a second-round pick out of BYU, is listed at 6-foot-3, 243 pounds. He played 36 snaps in Detroit's win over Washington on Sunday, recording two tackles.

The Patriots lost depth at linebacker when veteran Jonathan Freeny landed on injured reserve with a shoulder issue before New England's Week 6 game in Cleveland. Van Noy will fill in behind Dont'a Hightower and Jamie Collins, providing insurance alongside rookie Elandon Roberts, Barkevious Mingo and Shea McClellin. Defensive end Rob Ninkovich has also seen time at linebacker this season. 

Collins and Hightower have both dealt with health issues over the last two seasons, often pressing reserves into action. Collins returned to the field over the weekend after missing Week 6 with a hip issue. Hightower missed Weeks 2 and 3 due to a knee injury he suffered in Week 1 against the Cardinals. 

Van Noy has played in 30 games since entering the league. His seven career starts have all come this season. He has 32 career tackles and one sack. Going into the draft in 2014, the All-Independent Defensive Player of the Year was viewed as a stand-out athlete with good quickness, a high football IQ and an ability to run with backs and tight ends in coverage. 

That the Patriots and Lions were able to work out a deal comes as little surprise. Detriot general manager Bob Quinn has a close relationship with Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio as he worked in New England from 2000-2015. Quinn began with the team as a personnel assistant, worked his way up the ladder, and from 2012 through 2015 he served as the director of pro scouting.