Preview: Celtics vs. Nuggets

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Preview: Celtics vs. Nuggets

DENVER Struggling to make shots or rebound the ball certainly doesn't bode well for the Boston Celtics' chances at winning.

But shoddy defense?

It's a near death sentence for a team whose foundation is strong play defensively.

Proof of how bad the C's are when they play bad defense, can be seen in the 25-point drubbing the Celtics took at the hands of the Sacramento Kings Friday night.

"Whatever you are supposed to "have," we didn't have it," C's coach Doc Rivers said after the game. "I think they had 92 points in the middle of the third (quarter) so that means we didn't play good defense."

Added Paul Pierce: "Hopefully this is a wake-up call in the middle of the trip and we can bounce back (against Denver tonight)."

That'll be easier said than done.

Not only are the Nuggets (24-20) a better team offensively than the Kings, they're actually the best offensive team in the NBA.

So it's a given that one of the keys to tonight's game for the Celtics will be how they limit the balanced offensive attack of the Nuggets. Here we'll take a look at a few other factors that are likely to impact tonight's outcome as the Celtics try to bounce back from one of their worst losses of the year.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR - The Celtics have a tendency to ease their way into games, which can't happen tonight. While the Nuggets rank among the NBA's top 10 in points scored in the first quarter (25.4), they give up a ton of early points as well. Teams are averaging 26.1 points against Denver in the first quarter of games which ranks 28th in the NBA.

MATCHUP TO WATCH - Paul Pierce vs. Kenneith Faried: Pierce should win this battle rather convincingly, but the C's have to be on guard for not looking for Pierce too much so that it disrupts the flow offensively and leads to what head coach Doc Rivers refers to at times, as the "ball sticking" on one side of the floor or in the hands of one particular player. Faried is a high-energy guy who seems to continue to get better with more experience. The 22-year-old rookie has started 17 games this season after not playing (coaches decision) in a number of games in January.

PLAYER TO WATCH - Anytime the Celtics have a back-to-back situation and minutes become a concern, you always have to wonder how will it impact Kevin Garnett. However, because of the lopsided loss at Sacramento on Friday night, Garnett's minutes should not be a concern. He was the only starter to play less than 30 minutes in the loss.

STAT TO TRACK - With lots of points come lots of mistakes by Denver. The Nuggets average 15.6 turnovers per game which ranks 27th in the NBA. Ironically, the Celtics average 15.6 forced turnovers per game which ranks sixth in the NBA. But a normal night in terms of forced turnovers by Boston, probably won't be enough for the win. The C's need to have another one of those nights in which they force 20 or so turnovers which should then lead to a few easy baskets in transition.

Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

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Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

BOSTON -- “I didn’t feel that love after I made a pitching change in the sixth inning,” Terry Francona said after a 45-second standing ovation from Boston fans upon receiving the MLB Manager of the Year award from the BBWAA Thursday.

It’s without question the love for Francona runs deep in the city. Why wouldn’t it? He was the leader in breaking the 86-year old curse, and wound up winning another World Series title for Boston three years later.

Actually, he was more of a co-leader, working alongside the same person who won the MLB Executive of the Year honors from the BBWAA for 2016.

Theo Epstein -- who received an ovation 17 seconds shorter than Francona, but who’s counting -- reminisced about the Red Sox ownership group that took a chance on a young kid who wasn’t necessarily the ideal candidate to take over as GM of a team, but now that’s helped him build the Chicago Cubs into a winning franchise and establish a great working environment.

This October marks 13 years since the ’04 championship, 10 years since ’07 and six years since the pair left Boston. Without question they’ve left their mark on the city and forever changed Red Sox baseball.

And while the fans showed their undying gratitude for Francona with an ovation almost as long as his acceptance speech, the Indians manager recognized the favor the current Red Sox brass has done for him.

“I’d like to thank Dave Dombrowski and the Red Sox for getting Chris Sale the hell out of the Central Division,” Francona said.