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Celtics best Bucks, 87-74, but lose home court

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Celtics best Bucks, 87-74, but lose home court

BOSTON Ryan Hollins for a number of stretches on Thursday, was the best player on the floor.
That tells you all you need to know about the Boston Celtics' 87-74 win over Milwaukee, a game in which the Bucks had nothing to gain or lose -- and for the most part, played that way.
Meanwhile, the Celtics had a slim chance of gaining home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs with a win and a loss by Atlanta, but the Hawks were able to beat defending NBA champion Dallas Mavericks and will host Games 1 and 2 of their first round playoff series with the Celtics which begins in Atlanta on Sunday.
In addition to the win, the Celtics showed tangible signs of getting most of the gang back healthy for what they anticipate will be a long playoff run.
Mickael Pietrus and Rajon Rondo each returned to the lineup, and showed no signs of rust despite the lengthy lay-off.
Pietrus made his first three shots, and finished with nine points. And Rondo delivered yet another double-digit assist game with 15. Rondo, the NBA's leader in assists this season, has now had 10 or more assists in 24 straight games -- five short of tying the record set by Utah's John Stockton in 1992.
Boston's Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett did start the game, but both spent the entire second half on the bench. The C's got a bit of a scare in the first half when Pierce had to leave the game with a left big toe injury that was expected to keep him out for the rest of the game.
Instead, Pierce returned and ultimately wound up playing about six minutes, tallying 12 points on 5-for-7 shooting. Garnett was on the floor for 11 minutes, missing five of his six shot attempts.
While the Celtics are closer to being whole heading into the playoffs, there's still a big piece of their roster -- Ray Allen -- still missing.
He has now missed nine straight with a right ankle injury, which has put his availability for the playoffs very much in doubt.
But that's what made these games near the end of the season so valuable for Boston.
While most of the games that played extended minutes in the last week or so probably won't see nearly as much time in the playoffs, it's a good sign that they were ready to play when given an opportunity.
"We don't know who will be in the rotation for the playoffs," said Celtics guard Keyon Dooling. "At the end of the day, they may need us for three minutes, four minutes here or there. We want to be able to contribute, whether it's on the defensive end, in the hustle category, whether we have to make a shot, whatever it is you have to be mentally tuned in and focused and you can't think about your own personal situation. You have to be bigger than that. That's what's different about this team. That's what's so awesome about this team. It's all about progressing."

Morning Skate: PK Subban rightly recognizes O'Ree as a hockey pioneer

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Morning Skate: PK Subban rightly recognizes O'Ree as a hockey pioneer

Here are all the hockey links from around the world, and what I’m reading, while wondering when my video tribute is coming.

*Great interview with PK Subban, who appropriately lauds Willie O’Ree for his trailblazing, pioneer accomplishment of breaking through the NHL’s color barrier 60 years ago today. It was very cool that O’Ree did it with the Bruins and even cooler that he was in Boston last night from the Bruins-Habs game at TD Garden.

*Speaking of the Canadiens, old friend Joe Morrow decided to show the Canadiens digital people around Southie this week. That was his big accomplishment in these last two Bruins-Habs games.

*The Winnipeg Jets are having some big success this season, but they’ve also got some serious financial considerations coming up.

*The Colorado Avalanche continue to see attendance issues in their building, but at least there’s a reasonably better product on the ice.

*What is the value for power forward Patrick Maroon on the trade market as a rental? It certainly matters who is asking.

*Jack Johnson and John Tortorella are talking out their issues after it surfaced that the Columbus D-man wants a trade out of town.

*With Victor Hedman injured, it looks like young Tampa Bay D-man Slater Koekkoek is finally going to get a featured look with the Lightning. Per Elliotte Friedman, this is a player that the Bruins have eyed in trade possibilities in the recent past.

*For something completely different: Liam Neeson is open to returning as Qui Gon-Jinn, which adds another interesting piece to a standalone movie for Obi-Wan Kenobi.

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Adam Butler to Jalen Ramsey: 'Be humble or be humbled'

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Adam Butler to Jalen Ramsey: 'Be humble or be humbled'

FOXBORO -- The Patriots are well aware of Jalen Ramsey's Super Bowl prediction, and they're not about to take the same approach to the AFC title game buildup. 

"If you're going to make a statement like that," Patriots rookie defensive tackle Adam Butler said on Wednesday, "you better be able to back it up . . . It's a bold statement to make. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out. But like I said, be humble or be humbled. That's all I can really say about that."

As that quote made the rounds, Ramsey tweeted an emphatic "WHO!???" Didn't seem to be a coincidence.

What Ramsey said, though, is part of who the Jaguars are. They're young. They're confident. They're not afraid to talk. 

"I ain't got too much to say, but y'all make sure you bring that same energy out here next week and the week after," Ramsey said in Jacksonville following his team's plane ride back from Pittsburgh on Saturday. "We're going to the Super Bowl and we're going to win that [expletive]."

Outside of Butler, the comments have garnered little in the way of public commentary from Patriots players. 

"I mean, obviously, that's his game," Patriots cornerback Eric Rowe said of Ramsey. "He's a confident dude . . . Obviously, they're happy to go to the championship game, but, you know, that mindset of thinking ahead of yourself, I don't think it's a good idea . . ."

"We saw what happened to the Steelers. But on our end, obviously, we're not thinking ahead to the [Super Bowl] because we have to get past [the Jaguars]. So, we heard it, but we're not too focused on it because we have to focus on doing our job for the game."