Bruins

Celtics fall flat in fourth, lose to Cavs, 88-87

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Celtics fall flat in fourth, lose to Cavs, 88-87

BOSTON The Boston Celtics fall back to below-average status following Sunday's 88-87 loss to Cleveland, a game in which the C's had under control for most of the night.

Boston (9-10) seemingly had the game wrapped up with a few minutes remaining, only for the scrappy Cavaliers to cut into Boston's lead and rally for the win.

And leading the comeback was Anderson Varejao, who had 18 points and nine rebounds.

Following a slew of Cleveland misses in the game's closing seconds, Varejao was able to force a Brandon Bass rebound out of his hands, and later gain control of it and call a time-out.

That set up a game-winning basket by Kyrie Irving with 2.6 seconds to play.

After a Celtics time-out, Paul Pierce's potential game-winning jumper was off the mark as time expired.

It was a disappointing finish to what had been a pretty solid performance most of the night.

But the C's allowed Cleveland to hang around too long.

Big mistake, Green Team.

Prior to the end-of-game collapse by the Celtics, it had been a great return to the lineup for the C's and Ray Allen.

Look no further than his first 10 points coming in just nine minutes of playing time.

As well as Allen and the Big Three played, the Celtics once again got strong play from their role players.

Chris Wilcox, in his third game back after missing the previous six with a left calf injury, continues to give the C's a strong inside presence defensively and on the boards while coming off the bench.

In addition to his four points, he also grabbed six rebounds. And seldom-used Sasha Pavlovic had four points, including a highlight-worthy dunk along the baseline that got a good rise out of Celtics Nation.

For the Cavaliers, Irving, the No. 1 overall pick in last June's NBA draft, lived up to the hype while scoring a game-high 23 points (he made his first six shots before finally missing) along with six assists and four rebounds.

Morning Skate: Cheers for Boyle as he returns to practice with Devils

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Morning Skate: Cheers for Boyle as he returns to practice with Devils

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while determined to go see Foo Fighters at Fenway Park this time around. 
 
-- In the great news department, Hingham native Brian Boyle hears cheers at practice as he returns to work for the New Jersey Devils after his cancer diagnosis. Boyle might be wearing a Devils uniform, but he knows he has all of Boston in his corner along with many, many other corners of the hockey world. 

-- There is no panic with the Maple Leafs over the slow start for Mitch Marner, who has been dropped to the fourth line in the early going.
 
-- Wellesley native Chris Wagner is beginning to get recognized for his big hits and physical play with the Anaheim Ducks

-- Senators prospect and Massachusetts native Joey Daccord makes an unbelievable game-saving stop for his college team. 

-- For something completely different: Greg Nicotero talks about the Walking Dead premiere, and a character thought dead that might actually still be alive.
 

'Forgotten man' David Harris plays key role in win over Falcons

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'Forgotten man' David Harris plays key role in win over Falcons

For the first six weeks of the season, Patriots veteran linebacker David Harris was little more than an insurance policy.

At $1.25 million guaranteed this season, he was one of the pricer policies on the team, but his playing time told the story of where he stood on Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia's depth chart. His seven total defensive snaps slotted him in behind Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts and Dont'a Hightower among off-the-ball 'backers. 

So when Harris saw 19 snaps -- making three tackles in the process -- against the Falcons and their speedy offensive weapons on Sunday night, it caught our attention. Here are a few of the elements that came into play, leading to Harris' increase in playing time. 

1) Injuries to other Patriots linebackers created an opening for Harris. Roberts was announced as inactive prior to kickoff due to an ankle injury. Later in the night, Hightower suffered a shoulder injury that knocked him from action. That left Van Noy, Harris and Marquis Flowers as the team's linebackers in uniform. Harris got the nod over Flowers, who's primarily a special-teamer.

2) Falcons personnel called for the Patriots to use their base defense at times. The game opened with the Falcons going with a two-back set, encouraging Belichick to go with bigger personnel. The Patriots didn't have to stick with their regular group because the Falcons used primarily one-back sets over the course of the night, But even with Hightower healthy and available, what happened early in the game proved that there were certain packages that called for Harris to be on the field. He saw one early, picking up his first start as a member of the Patriots. 

3) The work Harris has put in during practices and off the field allowed the Patriots coaching staff to trust him when he was called upon. Belichick has lauded Harris all season for his professionalism, and on Monday morning he continued to heap praise on the 33-year-old. "As always, I think David works hard and is very well prepared and did all of the right things that we would want him to do from an assignment standpoint," Belichick said. "He gave us some good plays, was in on a few plays. Again, handled the communication in the front well. We’ll see if we can build on it. We’ve got a lot of good play from a number of guys and he’s certainly part of that group."