Celtics-Knicks preview: Rebounding in New York

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Celtics-Knicks preview: Rebounding in New York

NEW YORK The Boston Celtics are rebounding -- literally and figuratively -- quite well these days.

Lost in the strong play defensively by the C's in their back-to-back wins, has been Boston winning the battle of the boards by four per game.

It is a trend they hope to continue tonight against a New York Knicks club that, like the Celtics, has also ranked among the NBA's worst rebounding teams.

The Knicks come into tonight's game ranked 25th with 48.6 rebounds per game.

But the rebounding numbers for both teams can be a bit deceiving when you consider both rank among the NBA's top shooting teams which means there are fewer rebounds available.

Despite the poor rebounding numbers, both rank among the league's top 10 in defensive rebound percentage.

"The bottom line is we have to improve in everything we do," C's forward Brandon Bass said recently. "Rebounding is included in that."

Here are a few keys to tonight's game as the Celtics (16-17) look to extend their winning streak to three in a row which would tie their season high for consecutive wins this season.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Boston's three-point defense has to be on top of its game against a Knicks team that lives by the long ball. New York is averaging league highs in three-pointers made (11.3) and taken (29.2) this season.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Paul Pierce vs. Carmelo Anthony. Two explosive scorers, Pierce's timely scoring and leadership of late has been critical to the Celtics starting to look like the defensive-minded C's of old. And Anthony has been instrumental in New York's ascension this season which has him very much in the thick of league MVP conversations.

PLAYER TO WATCH: J.R. Smith has been among the top backups this season, and should be on everyone's short list for the league's Sixth Man of the Year award. He's averaging a career-high 16.7 points per game and has had 20 or more points in five of New York's last six games.

STAT TO TRACK: Boston's pressure defense needs to do what few teams have done against New York this season -- force them into turning the ball over. The Knicks are averaging a league-low 11 turnovers per game. Meanwhile the C's are forcing 15.8 turnovers per game which ranks fifth in the league. In Boston's last two games, C's opponents averaged 20 turnovers per game.

Malcolm Butler on Instagram: 'Nothing changed but the change'

Malcolm Butler on Instagram: 'Nothing changed but the change'

We haven't heard from cornerback Malcolm Butler as his future as a Patriot hangs in the balance after his visit with the New Orleans Saints last week.

Butler,  a restricted free agent who has yet to sign the $3.91 million tender offered by the Patriots, posted a photo Wednesday on Instagram with the cryptic message "Nothing changed but the change," which happens to be a lyric from a song titled "Could It Be" by rapper Nick Lyon. So, perhaps a change of teams is being referred to.

"Nothing changed but the change" #BLESSED

A post shared by Malcolm CB Butler (@mac_bz) on

More to come...

Goodell: NFL working on a way to reduce commercial breaks during games

Goodell: NFL working on a way to reduce commercial breaks during games

The NFL is acknowledging it has a time-management issue. Games are too long. Commercial are too frequent. And according to an email addressed to NFL fans, Roger Goodell is hoping to change that.

On Wednesday afternoon the commissioner explained the methods by which the league is hoping to improve the fan experience, most of which concern the presentation of games with as few interruptions as possible. 

"On the football side, there are a number of changes we are making to the mechanics and rules of the game to maintain excitement and also improve the consistency of our officiating," Goodell wrote. "For example, next week clubs will vote on a change to centralize replay reviews. Instead of a fixed sideline monitor, we will bring a tablet to the Referee who can review the play in consultation with our officiating headquarters in New York, which has the final decision. This should improve consistency and accuracy of decisions and help speed up the process.

"Regarding game timing, we're going to institute a play clock following the extra point when television does not take a break, and we're considering instituting a play clock after a touchdown. We're also going to standardize the starting of the clock after a runner goes out-of-bounds, and standardize halftime lengths in all games, so we return to the action as quickly as possible. Those are just a few of the elements we are working on to improve the pace of our game."

Goodell also mentioned that the NFL is working with its broadcast partners to reduce the frequency of commercial breaks during games. 

"For example," Goodell wrote, "we know how annoying it is when we come back from a commercial break, kick off, and then cut to a commercial again. I hate that too. Our goal is to eliminate it."

Goodell, team owners and executives will convene in Phoenix next week for the league's annual meetings where discussions about these potential changes could see meaningful progress.