Preview: Pistons at Celtics

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Preview: Pistons at Celtics

BOSTON Despite a less-than-stellar record the Detroit Pistons (8-22) are actually playing some decent basketball lately, with half of their wins this season coming within the last two weeks. Several guys have stepped up, but a big part of the credit for the turnaround has to go to Pistons head coach, and former Celtics assistant, Lawrence Frank.

"I like what he brings to the table. He brings a lot of energy," Pistons center Ben Wallace told CSNNE.com. "A guy that knows the game; does a lot of teaching. He doesn't just roll the ball out and say, 'this is what we're going to run.'"

Frank is a defensive-minded coach, which seems a prerequisite for Celtics assistants (Tom Thibodeau in Chicago is another) who move on to head-coaching gigs.

Boston (15-12) will certainly look to attack a Detroit defense that has actually shown progress in limiting opponents scoring. The Pistons have given up 95.8 points per game this season, but trimmed that to just 91.3 points in their last six games - four of which they won.

Generating offense against an improving Pistons defense will be just one of the many factors to be watching as the Celtics try to continue their winning ways - the C's have won 10 of their last 13 - against Detroit.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR - With the Pistons having lost last night at home to San Antonio, don't be surprised if the Celtics come out looking to run more than usual. Along with Detroit likely having weary legs, the Celtics have proven despite their age, they can run - and run well. Against the Bulls, Boston outscored them 33-7, in fast break points. With Detroit having its issues earlier this year defensively, they naturally don't fare well when it comes to fast-break points. They average 11.2 per game which ranks No. 22 in the NBA.

MATCHUP TO WATCH - Rodney Stuckey vs Ray Allen: Size and strength meets speed and accuracy. Stuckey's play has been a part of Detroit's improved play of late. In their last six games, he has averaged 15.3 points and 4.8 assists - both better than his season numbers. As for Ray Allen, he has shot less than 50 percent from the field in each of the last three games, which is the second-longest such stretch for him this season. The big thing with Allen is getting shot attempts. In the month of February, the Celtics are 3-1 when Allen gets 10 or more shot attempts.

PLAYER TO WATCH - Chris Wilcox did a fine job (12 points, 9 rebounds against Chicago) filling in for Jermaine O'Neal. Now that O'Neal is expected back for tonight's game, it'll be interesting if Wilcox can make a similar impact coming off the bench. His athleticism and ability to run the floor, in many ways, makes him a more attractive option for the Celtics at the center position. But don't look for the C's to make a change, not with O'Neal providing the kind of defensive presence that no other Celtic center - Wilcox included - provides.

STAT TO TRACK - Arguably the best center in the Eastern Conference to not be named an All-Star this year is Detroit's Greg Monroe. The Pistons are ranked 13th in the NBA in points in the paint (40.7), with Monroe's inside presence being key. He's coming off a subpar 4-point, 6-rebound night against the Spurs. But for the season, he's a near double-double with 16.4 points and 9.7 rebounds per game. As for the Celtics, they have actually improved their interior defense as the season progressed. Teams are scoring 39 points per game against them inside the paint, which ranks 9th in fewest points allowed in that category.

Ravens safety Weddle was interested in joining Patriots before landing in Baltimore

Ravens safety Weddle was interested in joining Patriots before landing in Baltimore

FOXBORO – Back in March, Eric Weddle batted his eyes longingly at the Patriots. The two-time All-Pro safety’s time was done with the Chargers and he wanted to spend his NFL autumn with a team that had a chance to win it all. 

He didn’t land in New England, but he didn’t too badly, winding up with the usually competitive Ravens.  

On a Thursday conference call with New England media, Weddle confirmed that there was mutual interest expressed. 

“Obviously, I was interested,” he acknowledged. “I have nothing but high regard, respect and admiration – and envy, quite honestly – of the success of the New England Patriots over the years. Obviously, battling them in my career, it’s always been a great game. I love the way they play, love the foundation, love everything about it. It was definitely on my radar. There were talks both ways, it just didn’t end up [working out].”

The numbers massed at the position with Patrick Chung, Devin McCourty and Duron Harmon played a role in the two sides not being able to reach accord, according to Weddle. 

“I’m good buddies with Patrick Chung,” he said. “I grew up playing with him and Devin [McCourty] is one of the best to play, so I don’t know if it would have worked out personnel-wise. But obviously, I could have seen myself fitting in there seamlessly.”

Weddle’s New England attraction apparently wasn’t love that bloomed late in his career. Toward the end of his conference call, Weddle said, “I’m still wondering why they just didn’t draft me in ’07; I could have been still playing there now.”

As reporters puzzled for a moment trying to recall the 2007 first-rounder, Weddle chipped in with the answer: “[They took] Brandon Meriweather.”

Khudobin simply ‘has got to be better’ for Bruins

Khudobin simply ‘has got to be better’ for Bruins

BOSTON – There wasn’t much for Anton Khudobin to say after it was all over on Thursday night. 

The B’s backup netminder allowed four goals on 22 shots while looking like he was fighting the puck all night. It was one of the big reasons behind a tired-looking 4-2 loss to the lowly Colorado Avalanche at TD Garden. 

The loss dropped Khudobin to 1-4-0 on the season and puts him at a 3.02 goals-against average and .888 save percentage this season. Three of the four goals beat Khudobin despite him getting a pretty good look at them. The ultimate game-winner in the second period from John Mitchell just beat him cleanly on the short side. 

Matt Duchene beat Khudobin from the slot on a play that was a bad defense/bad goaltending combo platter to start the game and MacKinnon ripped a shorthanded bid past the Bruins netminder to put Boston in a hole against a woeful Colorado team. 

Afterward, Khudobin didn’t have much to say, with just one good performance among five games played for the Black and Gold this season. 

“Four goals is too much. That’s it,” said a to-the-point Khudobin, who was then asked how he felt headed into the game. “I don’t know; too much energy…yeah, too much. I don’t know. I just had a lot of energy and I think it just didn’t work out my way.”

Khudobin didn’t really expand on why he had too much energy, but perhaps it’s because the compacted schedule has really curtailed the team’s ability to hold team practices on a regular basis. Or maybe he was just disappointed it took him a week to get back between the pipes after playing his best game of the season against the Carolina Hurricanes. 

Either way Claude Julien said that the Bruins needed better goaltending on a night where they weren’t at their sharpest physically or mentally, and Khudobin clearly wasn’t up to the challenge this time around. 

“We needed some saves tonight and we didn’t get them. He’s got to be better. A lot of things here that we can be better at and take responsibility [for],” said Julien. “But at the same time, you got to move on here. To me it’s one of those nights that had we been smarter from the get go, and we would have had a chance. Now we’ve got to move forward.”

Clearly, the Bruins have no choice but to move on with a busy schedule that doesn’t let up anytime soon, but one of the lessons learned from Thursday night is that the Bruins need to get better backup goaltending from a collective crew (Zane McIntyre and Malcolm Subban included) that’s won just once in eight games behind Tuukka Rask this season.