ATLANTA And so the sprint to the finish begins . . . now.
If the Boston Celtics are going to position themselves to climb up the Eastern Conference standings, it has to begin this week.
All three of their opponents - Atlanta tonight, Milwaukee on Thursday and Philadelphia on Friday - are seeking the same upward mobility.
"This is a huge week for us," said Paul Pierce. "We understand the magnitude of all these games. Now it's that point, the weather's heating up. We have to start heating up. That sense of urgency has to kick in now."
Boston (23-21) has visions of winning a fifth straight Atlantic Division title, but currently trail Philadelphia by 1.5 games. If they fall short of that, the Celtics should be gunning for the No. 6 spot which would mean avoiding Miami and Chicago - the overwhelming favorites in the Eastern Conference - in the first round.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers said this week "should be fun."
"We have a chance to catch Atlanta, have a chance to (create) room with Milwaukee, catch Philly the next three games will be great," he said. "It'll be a lot of fun."
0:41 - Michael Holley, Tom Giles, and Kayce Smith give their reactions on the Celtics getting their first win of the season and a comparison between Isaiah Thomas and Kyrie Irving in the 4th quarter.
7:17 - Phil Perry joins BST to break down the tale of the tape between the Falcons and the Patriots as he breaks down the quarterbacks, offense, defense, coaching, and intangibles between the two teams.
11:57 - Our crew on BST discuss number 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz and number 3 overall pick Jayson Tatum going up against each other and debate who seems like the better pick so far.
16:35 - In this segment of Irrelevant Questions, Tom Curran interviews Patriots WR Phillip Dorsett as he asks him a bunch of random questions.
HOUSTON - Justin Verlander remained perfect with Houston, pitching seven shutout innings when the team needed him most, and Jose Altuve homered and drove in three runs as the Astros extended the AL Championship Series to a decisive Game 7 with a 7-1 win over the New York Yankees on Friday night.
Acquired in an Aug. 31 trade, Verlander has won all nine outings with the Astros. And with his new club facing elimination in Game 6 against the Yankees, he delivered again.
After striking out 13 in a complete-game victory in Game 2, Verlander threw another gem. The right-hander scattered five hits and struck out eight to improve to 9-0 with 67 strikeouts since being traded from Detroit. George Springer helped him out of a jam in the seventh, leaping to make a catch at the center-field wall and rob Todd Frazier of extra bases with two on and Houston up 3-0.
Game 7 is Saturday night in Houston, with the winner advancing to the World Series against the NL champion Los Angeles Dodgers.