Patriots

Celtics need to race through easy stretch of road

635178.jpg

Celtics need to race through easy stretch of road

BOSTON When you're playing below-.500 basketball like the Boston Celtics (9-10) are, there's no such thing as an easy stretch of games.

But if there was, this would be it.

The C's play 7 games in the next 12 nights, with only two against teams with a winning record.

And those two, against Memphis and the Los Angeles Lakers, are both at the TD Garden. Boston's other five games are against Cleveland (8-11), Toronto (7-14) twice, New York (7-13) and Charlotte (3-18).

For the C's, looking ahead can be fatal if they're not careful.

"Those other games, we can't worry about them," Mickael Pietrus told CSNNE.com. "We have to worry about our next opponent; that's it."

He attributes the Celtics' winning four of their last five games as a testament how the team's one-game-at-a-time mantra works.

"We're not looking ahead of any teams," Pietrus said. "The only team we think about, is the team we're playing. That's all."

In addition to trying to avoid looking past opponents, the Celtics must also recognize the need to put teams away when they have the opportunity.

Boston's 88-87 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday was one of the few games in which the Celtics controlled the action most of the game but were unable to seal the deal down the stretch.

"We let our guard down," said coach Doc Rivers. "I told our guys, 'Think about down the stretch, the last five minutes, how many 'cute' plays we made.' You know? No-look passes, behind-the-back passes. And they got deflected and we didn't score on them. You lose games that way."

Which is exactly what they did, as Kyrie Irving scored the game-winning basket with 2.6 seconds to play.

Although the table is set for the C's to exact some revenge against the Cavs on Tuesday, payback is the last thing Kevin Garnett is thinking about now.

"You don't get a consolation of anything; any loss is bad," Garnett said.

Especially when it's against teams that on paper at least, are beatable.

"We can beat anybody in the league when we play the way we know how to play," said Chris Wilcox. "When we don't, anybody can beat us. We can't take any team for granted."

Gostkowski named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week

patriots_stephen_gostkowski_101517.jpg

Gostkowski named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week

FOXBORO -- Stephen Gostkowski is almost 34 years old, but in Mexico City he provided a reminder that he's not slowing down in his 12th NFL season. 

After going four-for-four on field goals -- including a team-record 62-yarder, a 51-yarder and a 40-yarder -- and making all three of his extra points, Gostkowski was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week for the sixth time in his career. 

During a press conference on Wednesday, Bill Belichick explained that someone in Gostkowski's situation probably isn't improving at this point in his career. But if he's maintaining a strong level of play, that's OK. 

"I don’t know how much real improvement you’re going to see from a player that’s been in the league 12 or 20 years in a case like Adam [Vinatieri] or somebody like that," Belichick said. "But, if the level they’re performing at is pretty good, if they can maintain that, then that’s certainly enough to help the team.

"Are there things that a player can do better? Yeah, sure, there always are technique things. I think Steve has really improved in some of his alternative kicks on kickoffs, as an example, instead of just kicking every ball as far as he can. He’s done a great job of that. I’d say it’s maintaining the timing and the overall leg speed and technique that makes kickers good at their job."

Bruins hope to keep cooking with a winning recipe

cp-bruins-celebrate-111917x.jpg

Bruins hope to keep cooking with a winning recipe

The Bruins seemed to discover a winning formula on the West Coast. Now the challenge is to keep it going.

It took them more than a month of play in the regular season, but they finally won two games in a row. Anton Khudobin and the B's played strong defense and finally built leads against the Kings and Sharks, and they avoided the kind of soft goal or defensive mistake that has been at the heart of so many of their losses.

Clearly that kind of tight, defensive game is how they're going have to play until they get their full lineup back, and they need plenty of wins. They're currently stuck in 13th place in the Eastern Conference, three points out of a playoff spot.

"It's always nice to get a couple of wins, especially against tough teams," said David Krejci, who is scoreless but averaging almost 17 minutes of ice time  in the two games since returning from a back injury. "We knew we had some areas of our game that we had to improve, and we still do after the start to the game we had against San Jose. It's nice to get two in a row, and we're focusing on three in [New Jersey]. We're building toward something, and we're on the right track. It's a big game [against the Devils].

"Playing with a lead, playing good defensively and having a good, structured game with everybody buying in . . . when you have a young team and you're playing strong clubs like LA and San Jose, it really says a lot about what we're trying to do here when you can get the job done."

The good news is the Bruins are going to make it through the Thanksgiving marker within shouting distance of a playoff spot, but they're still just scratching the surface of what they need to do to stay relevant in the East. They're hoping that finally reeling off a couple of consecutive wins can start a run of good hockey at a time when they desperately need it.

"I think we've played as a five-man unit" said Kevan Miller. "Forwards are getting back to help the 'D', and defensemen are stepping up to help the forwards. When you play like that and everybody is on the same page, it makes it that much easier. I think everybody, whether you're coming from Providence or you're up here, has played the same systems, but it can be a little bit of a struggle to get everybody on the same page.

"We've done a pretty good job of that, but doing it for 60 minutes has been a bit of an issue. We're trying to work on that."

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE