Bruins

Blakely: Previewing Celtics-Mavericks

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Blakely: Previewing Celtics-Mavericks

DALLAS Nothing has come easy for the Boston Celtics (15-15) this season, so it makes sense that the only way they can avoid slipping below-.500 for the season is to hit the road and beat the defending NBA champion Dallas Mavericks.

Mind you, this is a Mavericks team that's coming off a lackluster loss at New York on Sunday. But at this point, it doesn't matter who the opponent is. The Celtics simply have to play better.

"We have to have better focus when we go into these games," said Paul Pierce. "Or we're just going to continue to get embarrassed. We just gotta have pride, pretty much."

A bit more pride in their play, which has straddled the line between poor and pitiful lately, can only help.

But they'll need more, especially against a Dallas team that's looking to bounce back following a road loss at New York on Sunday.

Here are some of the factors that will likely play a prominent role in tonight's game as the Celtics try and avoid a fourth straight loss.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR -- The Dallas Mavericks are one of the best teams in the NBA at getting out the gates quickly. They average 25.8 points scored per game in the first quarter, which ranks No. 2 in the league. And the last thing the Celtics need to deal with is a team that comes out scoring early. One of the keys to the Celtics scoring defense being ranked No. 2 in the NBA, has been how they've handled themselves in the first quarter. Teams are scoring 22.8 points per game against the C's in the first quarter, which ranks eighth in the NBA in first quarter scoring defense.

MATCHUP TO WATCH -- Jermaine O'Neal vs Brendan Haywood: O'Neal is coming off one of his strongest performances of the season with the Celtics, grabbing 11 rebounds to go with eight points and five blocks. With so few bigs available either because of injury or non-basketball related matters, the C's need J.O. to step his game up. Haywood doesn't present nearly as many challenges as Tyson Chandler (now with the New York Knicks) did last season, but he is a serviceable big man that, if you're not careful, can cause problems either scoring or rebounding the ball.

PLAYER TO WATCH -- Mickael Pietrus is a streaky player who can get hot at any time. The dude is overdue -- way overdue -- to have one of those big scoring-binge kind of nights. Boston has lost five of its last six games and in that span, Pietrus has averaged 4.2 points while shooting 32.1 percent (9-for-28) -- both well below his season averages. And in his last three games, he's missed 11 of his 12 shots which includes missing all 10 of his 3-point shots.

STAT TO TRACK -- As has been the case in most of their games this season, turnovers will go far in determining whether the Celtics can pull off an upset tonight. Their turnover numbers this season mirror their struggles just to maintain their current middle-of-the-pack status. Boston averages 15.4 turnovers per game, which ranks 19th in the league. The Mavericks are led by former Celtic Rick Carlisle, whose teams have always been strong defensively dating back to his days as the Detroit Pistons head coach. The Mavs are forcing 15.9 turnovers per game which ranks ninth in the league.

Bruins blow three-goal lead, lose to Sabres in OT, 5-4

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Bruins blow three-goal lead, lose to Sabres in OT, 5-4

BOSTON – The Bruins had things set up for a solid win against an Atlantic Division doormat on Saturday night, but then they went and blew a three-goal second period lead and a two-goal third period lead en route to a deflating loss. 

Ryan O’Reilly scored during a wild scramble around the Boston net in the 3-on-3 overtime and the Bruins dropped a 5-4 overtime decision to Buffalo at TD Garden. So now the Bruins have lost to two of last year’s worst teams in the league, Colorado and Buffalo, and an expansion team within the first seven games of the season. 

The Bruins were all over the Sabres in the first period squeezing off 13 shots on net, and getting goals from David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand to get things going. The Pastrnak score was a clean-up job at the front of the net after Tim Schaller had crashed the net with the puck, and Marchand scored a goal just two seconds into a PP possession after Marco Scandella coughed a puck up right in front of the Buffalo net. 

Marchand struck again on the first shift of the second period when he snapped home a backhanded drop pass from Anders Bjork, and then Jason Pominville and Pastrnak traded scores to give the Bruins a comfortable three-goal lead. Chelmsford’s own Jack Eichel scored on the rebound of a Scandella shot to make it a two-goal game going into the final period of play, and Benoit Pouliot potted his first goal with the Sabres to make it really close down the stretch. 

Anton Khudobin and the Bruins tried to hold strong in the closing minutes of the third, but couldn’t overcome a shaky interference call on Brandon Carlo that ultimately led to a game-tying Evander Kane score after the PP had expired.