Patriots

Blakely: Celtics seeking respect against the Heat

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Blakely: Celtics seeking respect against the Heat

BOSTON The Celtics have been on quite a roll lately, winning four straight and six of their last seven.

But beating the likes of Minnesota and Utah, that's one thing.

The Miami Heat? Totally different animal, on all levels.

For starters, it's an Eastern Conference rival, which means there's a chance that these two may cross paths in the postseason.

And then there's the whole old Big Three (Boston), new Big Three (Miami) thing. It doesn't have the kind of hype it did last year, but it's still present.

More than anything, today's game will serve as a measuring stick for both teams.

Miami is seeking to get back to the NBA Finals for the second year in a row, and they understand that Boston will likely be one of the teams standing in their way.

Meanwhile, the Celtics believe they are a different, much-improved team from the last time they saw the Heat on Dec. 27. And while the C's current run has been impressive, a win today would indeed throw the Celtics back into the conversation centered around potential teams to come out of the East.

Players for both sides aren't putting too much stock into today's game other than it being one that they both want to win.

But to ignore the ramifications for today's winner, is to ignore the obvious.

The C's feel as though their recent success isn't getting a lot of credit, which they publicly say is cool with them. Privately, they would love to be talked about as one of the NBA's elite teams. Beating Miami today would go a long way in resurrecting those talks.

And the timing of the Heat coming to the Garden could not be any better.

Rajon Rondo is playing some of the best basketball of his career, with his pulse on the team as strong as we've ever seen it.

Paul Pierce is in a nice groove offensively with his jumper, and 3-point shot. To top it off, he's attacking more and being rewarded with free throw attempts.

Kevin Garnett has been the Celtics' most consistent player and has made the shift to the center position a seamless one.

Avery Bradley. Keyon Dooling. Greg Stiemsma. You go down the line, and chances are you'll find a Celtic player coming through with their best play of the year right now.

And when you're playing that well, you ideally want to see how you measure up against the best teams.

Miami qualifies, easily.

Playing well is exactly what the Celtics seek every game. But they're on the kind of roll where great play isn't necessarily required to win -- even against the Heat.

"We're just hanging in there," Rivers said. "We said it early on. I think since all-star break, we haven't played well every night but we're winning some of the games that we don't play well in. We're grinding games out. With all the injuries and everything, the players are giving you all they have. As a coach, I don't know what more I can ask for."

MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Wentz tosses 4 TDs, Eagles beat Redskins, 34-24

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MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Wentz tosses 4 TDs, Eagles beat Redskins, 34-24

PHILADELPHIA - Carson Wentz tossed four touchdown passes, and the Philadelphia Eagles overcame losing nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters in a 34-24 win over the Washington Redskins on Monday night.

Wentz threw for 268 yards and ran for a career-best 63 after a shaky start to lead the NFL-best Eagles (6-1) to their fifth straight win. But the victory was costly because Peters was carted off the field with a knee injury in the third quarter.

Kirk Cousins had 303 yards passing and three TDs for the Redskins (3-3).

The Eagles went three-and-out three times in their first four drives and had only 57 total yards before Wentz hit Mack Hollins in stride with a perfect 64-yard TD pass to tie it at 10.

That got the offense rolling.

Wentz connected with Zach Ertz for 46 yards on the next series and found him again for a 4-yard TD pass to make it 17-10.

After getting the second-half kickoff, the Eagles drove 86 yards for another touchdown. Peters was injured during the series, and fans chanted his name while teammates surrounded the cart.

Wentz finished the drive off with a play that Peters would appreciate.

While being hit by two defenders and falling forward, Wentz lofted a 9-yard TD pass to Corey Clement.

Wentz fired a 10-yard TD pass to Nelson Agholor to expand the lead to 31-17. Wentz kept that drive alive by escaping a sack and running 17 yards on third-and-8.

Cousins tossed a 7-yard touchdown pass to Chris Thompson to give the Redskins a 10-3 lead. He connected with Jordan Reed on a 5-yard TD to cut the deficit to 24-17 and threw a 12-yard pass to Reed to cap the scoring.

The Eagles were penalized on four straight plays to start their first possession before Wentz was intercepted by Quinton Dunbar on a deep pass to Torrey Smith on second-and-31.

Philadelphia swept Washington for the first time since 2013 and has a commanding lead in the NFC East. The Cowboys and Redskins are tied for second place.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Are Patriots' defensive problems solved?

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Are Patriots' defensive problems solved?

0:41 - Tom Giles, Michael Holley, and Tom Curran react to the Patriots’ 23-7 win over the Falcons on Sunday night and whether the Patriots deserve to be considered Super Bowl favorites.

6:09 - Is Johnson Bademosi an upgrade over Stephon Gilmore at cornerback for the Patriots? Michael Hurley joins BST to debate with Tom Curran, Michael Holley, and Kayce Smith. They also discuss the defense’s overall improvement in Sunday night’s win.

14:37 - NBC Sports Boston’s Red Sox insider Evan Drellich joins the show to talk about the Red Sox hiring Alex Cora to be their new manager, whether it was the right choice, and how his presence will affect the Red Sox clubhouse.

22:14 - Kayce Smith and Tom Curran discuss Kyrie Irving’s vulgar response to a Philadelphia fan yelling “Where’s LeBron?” at him on Friday night.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE