Celtics

Celtics hang on, beat Bobcats, 102-95

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Celtics hang on, beat Bobcats, 102-95

CHARLOTTE, N.C. Grind it out. Make it ugly. Deliver the kind of basketball that if Dr. James Naismith were around now, he'd probably tweet about how unattractive the C's brand of basketball is and end his message with an 'smh' tag-out.

None of that matters to this team.

Boston is concerned about two things now - winning as many games as possible and finishing atop the Atlantic Division.

They took a major step on both of those fronts with Monday's 102-95 win over Charlotte.

The victory was the Celtics' fourth in their last five games.

Just as important, beating the Bobcats puts the C's (27-22) in a tie atop the Atlantic Division with idle Philadelphia.

On paper, this was a game that the Celtics should have won easily.

But with this team, this year, with all their injuries, there's no such thing as a gimme win - even if its against a Charlotte team that's currently on track to have the lowest winning percentage in NBA history.

Not surprisingly, the C's found themselves in a down-to-the-wire battle that should have never come to that.

A pair of free throws by former UConn star Kemba Walker cut Boston's lead to 93-89 with 2:41 to play. Kevin Garnett missed a short jumper in the lane, but Brandon Bass grabbed the rebound and was fouled with 2: 25 to play. He made both, making it a two-possession game.

The Bobcats continued to scrap, but a lay-up by Pierce with 1:47 to play and soon after a jumper by Kevin Garnett, put an end to Charlotte's last gasp at rallying for the win.

Although the game had a relatively close finish, Charlotte played from behind for all but a couple minutes in the first quarter.

Pierce was a big part of the Bobcats' struggles, leading all scorers with 34 points. His ability to get into the lane on driving lay-ups and when that didn't work, draw fouls, was instrumental in the Celtics getting what amounts to one of their biggest wins of the year.

Not because of the opponent, or the margin of victory, but the impact that the win has on their potential playoff seeding.

Finishing atop the Atlantic will guarantee the C's open the playoffs with home court advantage.

Short of that, Boston's likely looking at a sixth or seventh seeding - something they clearly want no part of.

In the first quarter, Boston played with the kind of defensive intensity and offensive balance that you would expect in a game of this magnitude.

After the Bobcats tied the game at 13, the Celtics closed out the quarter with a 20-2 run to lead, 33-15. It was the third time in the last four games that Boston racked up 30 or more points in the fourth quarter.

With a chance to get a share of first place in the Atlantic Division at stake, against the league's worst team, it was the kind of start you would expect.

But the Celtics, far too often their own biggest enemy, allowed the Bobcats to open the second quarter with a 10-0 run to make it a single digit game again.

Charlotte was back in the game, and had what you hate to give teams with horrific records - confidence.

The Bobcats continued to chip away at Boston's lead, with the C's going into the half clinging to a mere two-point lead.

After a disappointing second quarter, the Celtics knew they had to re-establish control in the third.

The C's did just that with a 9-2 run to open the quarter, which included four points from Paul Pierce.

His contributions during that spurt were consistent with his role as the team's catalyst of late.

After scoring 17 points at the half, Pierce had another 10 in the third quarter which were much-needed as the Celtics took an 82-75 lead into the fourth.

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Jayson Tatum vs. Markelle Fultz debate

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Jayson Tatum vs. Markelle Fultz debate

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. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

ALCS: Verlander, Astros beat Yankees 7-1 to force Game 7

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ALCS: Verlander, Astros beat Yankees 7-1 to force Game 7

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.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE