Celtics-Raptors: Keep your eye on . . .

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Celtics-Raptors: Keep your eye on . . .

TORONTO There are certain games that, regardless of how teams actually leading up to them are, present an added degree of difficulty. Tonight is one of those games for the Boston Celtics. After a hard-fought 88-87 nationally televised loss to the Los Angeles, the C's (14-11) must turn around less than 24 hours to face a Toronto team, on the road, who has been home since Tuesday.

And when you sprinkle in the fact that Boston hosts Eastern Conference-leading Chicago (22-6) on Sunday afternoon, you can see why Celtics head coach Doc Rivers refers to tonight's matchup as a "trap" game.

Boston is the better team. You won't find any argument along those lines.

But there's no question Toronto's chances of winning are heightened by factors that have absolutely nothing to do with their own preparation.

Here are some other factors to consider as the Celtics try to get back on track against the Raptors.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR - The Celtics' ball movement has actually been pretty good all season. More than 65 percent of their made baskets come via an assist, which is tops in the NBA. In the Lakers loss, 22 of their 38 made baskets, or 57.9 percent, came by way of an assist. When you talk about ball movement and assists with the Celtics, Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce are the keys. Injuries have limited them to playing in just 14 games together this season, with Boston going 8-6 with them both in the lineup. In those eight wins, they combine to average 16.9 assists. In the six losses, that number drops to 12.3.

MATCHUP TO WATCH - Paul Pierce vs. DeMar DeRozan: The two best scorers for their respective teams, this is a matchup Pierce should win all day. But the thing about DeRozan is he, like a lot of young players, plays better at home. On the road, he averages 14 points per game. At home, that number jumps to 16.2. The biggest factor? He shoots the ball better. On the road, he connects on 36.5 percent of his shots. At home, he shoots 43 percent.

PLAYER TO WATCH - We all know Kevin Garnett shot the ball poorly Thursday night against the Los Angeles Lakers, and research afterward showed that it was historically bad by KG standards. In going 6-for-23 from the field, KG missed his last nine shots - the first time he missed that many consecutive shots as a member of the Boston Celtics. In addition, it was only the second time in his NBA career (at Cleveland, Jan. 29, 2002, then with Minnesota) that he missed his final nine shots of a game. Look for the C's to try and establish him down on the post early, just to get him into a better rhythm shooting the ball.

STAT TO TRACK - The Boston Celtics have been one of the NBA's worst teams at getting to the free throw line, which is another indictment of how they have a team that relies heavily - arguably, too heavily - on jump-shots. Boston averages 19.6 free throw attempts per game, which ranks 27th in the NBA. They don't necessarily have to get more attempts than that to beat Toronto, but another five free attempt night like the one we saw against the Lakers will make for yet another game in which the Celtics made harder than it needed to be.

First impressions of the Red Sox' 11-9 loss to the Twins

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First impressions of the Red Sox' 11-9 loss to the Twins

BOSTON -- First impressions of the Boston Red Sox 11-9 loss to the Minnesota Twins:

David Price was once again disappointing.

Minnesota is a team opposing pitchers should long to face.

Their No. 3, 4 and 5 hitters all have averages below .250 with average to below average home run totals.

The only hitter who poses and all-around legitimate threat is Eduardo Nunez, who would probably bat seventh in Boston’s lineup.

While there were other factors at play, Price once again left the ball up in the zone too much. That’s a big problem when nature’s playing a factor in the game.

Either way, with the Twins in town, Price has to be better.

Saturday marked the second time of the season where Sandy Leon registered back-to-back hitless performances.

The previous pair came back on June 29th and July 2nd with a layoff between the two contests.

In his last five contests, Leon is 3-for-17. His power numbers are also down in that stretch, with only two extra-base hits that came on the same night.

It could be a small rough patch given Leon was 7-for-19 with a home run and a double (in separate contests) in the five games preceding this dry spell.

Either ay it’s something to watch as Leon plays more and more.

The wind played a factor in the high-run total.

The second hit of the ball game seemed like a medium-depth fly to right, and nearly carried out of the ballpark.

Michael Martinez was twisting and turning on fly balls changing direction all night -- and there’s evidence it wasn’t just him.

David Ortiz reached on a pop up that Nunez went after, which never left the infield.

Trash and dust were flying everywhere in the first inning. While that intensity didn’t maintain all night, it was definitely an issue players had to consider throughout the game.

The bullpen mop-up crew couldn’t get the job done.

While some of the hits in the five-run seventh were luck, Clay Buchholz and Tommy Layne flat out couldn’t get the job done against a rough lineup.

Neither is a terribly great option -- so the Red Sox might want to reconsider using either one in those situations.

Even Heath Hembree couldn’t put together a decent night. Someone has to stop the bleeding when things get out of control.

The Red Sox pitchers can’t keep throwing away nine-run performances.

With Friday night serving as evidence, the offense will not always have great nights.

So when they do, the pitch has to be decent -- but they couldn’t even do that Saturday.

Nick Friar can be followed on Twitter: @ngfriar

Je-Vaughn Watson scores late, Revs beat Fire 1-0

Je-Vaughn Watson scores late, Revs beat Fire 1-0

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Je-Vaughn Watson scored on a header in the 85th minute and the New England Revolution beat the Chicago Fire 1-0 on Saturday night.

The Revolution (6-7-8) had a flurry of attempts leading up to the goal and Fire (4-10-5) goalkeeper Sean Johnson made three saves in the 2 minutes prior.

But Johnson came off his line to defend Chris Tierney's corner and failed to clear it with his outstretched hand while Watson connected and sent the header into the empty net.

Bobby Shuttleworth earned his fifth shutout of the season for New England.

Could Chris Sale's altercation open the door to get him at a lower cost?

Could Chris Sale's altercation open the door to get him at a lower cost?

Chris Sale -- this year’s American league starting pitcher in the All-Star game -- was a late scratch and sent home before his scheduled Saturday start.

This of course comes after the White Sox have begun to listen to offers for their bonafide ace -- including the Red Sox.

Preceding the game, the White Sox released a statement from senior vice president/general manager Rick Hahn explaining that Sale’s removal was “due to a clubhouse incident before the game.”

After ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reported the altercation was with staff from the front office and had nothing to do with his teammates, there was another report that the issue pertained to the throwback uniforms the White Sox planned to wear for Saturday’s game.

Fox’s Ken Rosenthal has additionally been told the issue “was bigger than that.” 

Sale is a huge addition to any starting rotation -- never mind the Red Sox staff.

His stats are without a doubt impressive. An All-Star every season since 2012 thanks to his career 2.95 ERA and 10.1 K/9 -- this year posting a 3.18 ERA and 8.7 K/9.

But numbers can be deceiving -- especially with players playing for a small market club. That’s not the case with Sale though. While the White Sox haven’t contended in the postseason with the lefty, there’s no denying that Chicago isn’t a small market by any means.

The jump from Chicago to Boston is nothing compared to players coming from places like Miami or Atlanta -- or San Diego. So Sale presents a good fit in terms of approach -- in addition to having good stuff.

The incident makes Sale come across as a prima donna, the fact that the issue went past the uniforms shows there could be a deeper issue at hand -- and not so much an indictment of his mental make-up.

Additionally, this altercation could open the door to get Sale at a lower value. If it was that bad that he was sent home, it could take a lot more than a stern talk and hand shakes to resolve the issue, giving interested teams a much better chance to obtain the Cy Young candidate.

However, if the Red Sox do manage to strike a deal with the White Sox, they’d be wise to throw someone else on throwback nights.

Nick Friar can be followed on Twitter: @ngfriar