Patriots

Celtics swing past Jazz, 94-82

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Celtics swing past Jazz, 94-82

BOSTON The Boston Celtics couldn't rebound.

Again.

They couldn't bury a team when they first had a chance.

Again.

But they managed to make just enough plays when it mattered most, to pull out a win.

Again.

After seeing an 18-point lead smashed into nothing more than a four-point cushion in the third quarter, Boston came up with a slew of big plays in the fourth to extend their impressive play at home with a 94-82 win over Utah.

With the victory, Boston (28-22) moved back into a tie atop the Atlantic Division with Philadelphia.

Paul Pierce has been carrying much of the C's scoring load of late, and he once again had a big night scoring for the C's with 20 points.

But it was Kevin Garnett who had the hot hand, tallying a game-high 23 points to go with 10 rebounds for his team-best 16th double-double, while shooting 10-for-16 from the field.

Utah was led by Gordon Hayward's strong all-around game of 19 points, seven rebounds, five assists and two how-the-heck-did-he-do-that? blocks in the third quarter on an attempted lay-up by Keyon Dooling and a dunk attempt by Avery Bradley.

After leading by as many as 18 points in the third quarter, it was inevitable that the C's lead would dissipate some.

Indeed it did, as Utah went on a 17-3 run that cut Boston's lead to 64-60.

A pair of free throws by Pierce with 1:12 to play in the third pushed the C's lead back to six points.

But it was clear that Utah's size and rebounding dominance were having a major impact on the game as the Celtics took a 66-61 lead into the fourth.

Even with the challenges that Utah's size presented, the first quarter was once again one in which the Celtics got seemingly whatever shot they wanted.

But the difference on Wednesday?

Most of them didn't go in, which allowed the Utah Jazz to lead, 21-18 after the first.

In the second, Boston's shot-making was much-improved which allowed them to pull away and take control behind a commanding 46-35 halftime lead.

Playing without Ray Allen (ankle) for the fourth straight game, the C's got contributions from many.

At the half, Pierce and Brandon Bass led all scorers with 11 points each. The trigger man to that scoring, as usual, was Rajon Rondo who had four points to go along with his seven assists which were coming in both half-court sets as well as in transition. He finished with six points and a game-high 14 assists.

For the Jazz, it was par for the course in terms of their play on the road this season.

Utah (27-24) came into the game having won 11 more games at home (19) than on the road (8), the largest discrepancy in the NBA.

Among the Jazz players to struggle mightily in the first half was former Celtic Big Al Jefferson, who missed seven of his eight shots from the field. He finished with 18 points on 7-for-19 shooting.

And the Celtics' biggest concern coming in -- rebounding -- was indeed proving to be an issue as Utah had a 28-16 advantage on the boards at the half. However, Boston was able to make sure Utah's board work didn't result in much damage on the scoreboard. For the game, Utah out-rebounded the C's, 49-38.

Five quick thoughts: Patriots put it all together against Falcons

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Five quick thoughts: Patriots put it all together against Falcons

FOXBORO -- Here are some quick-hitting thoughts on the Patriots' 23-7 victory over the Falcons on Sunday night.

1) If the Patriots attacked this game believing that the best defense is a good offense . . . they were right. 

They controlled the ball for more than 18 minutes in the first half and ran for 92 yards on 18 carries (a 5.1 yards per attempt average) with four backs sharing the load. Rex Burkhead gave the team a spark with his speed and vision in his first game back since suffering a rib injury in Week 2. The success the Patriots had running the ball had the added benefit of opening up the play-action pass game and it helped protect Tom Brady. After taking two sacks in the first quarter and a monster hit (penalized for roughing the passer) from Adrian Clayborn in the second, Brady was fairly well-protected. 

PATRIOTS 23, FALCONS 3

2) Tom Brady lamented the fact that he hadn't been more accurate in the red zone of late, but he was better in that area to help the Patriots pad their early lead. 

The Patriots went 2-for-3 in the red zone through the first half, with Brady hitting on touchdown passes to Brandin Cooks (which looked more like an end-around hand-off) and James White. Brady still had moments of inaccuracy. The pass he lofted before being croaked by Clayborn was a bad one that was intercepted. (The pick was wiped after the penalty was enforced.) He threw behind Chris Hogan on multiple occasions. He also had an odd throw float well out of bounds that was intended for Rob Gronkowski. But for the most part he was on point, completing 21 of his first 29 throws for 241 yards. 

3) The Patriots defense showed up in critical moments time and time again in this one. 

They stopped the Falcons twice on fourth down, and they allowed Matt Ryan and his offense to convert on just two of their first nine third-down plays. The Falcons coaching staff deserves plenty of criticism for going for it when they did, but with a banged-up secondary, going against the reigning MVP and one of the best receivers in the league, the Patriots responded.

4) Bill Belichick's run defense was particularly impressive in the first half on Sunday night, helping keep the Falcons from getting anything going until it was too late. 

They allowed just 30 yards on nine attempts in the first two quarters (a 3.3 yards per attempt average), with Malcom Brown, Trey Flowers, Kyle Van Noy, Lawrence Guy and Deatrich Wise all making impressive stops at, near or behind the line of scrimmage. 

5) The Patriots suffered a handful of injuries to key players that will be worth keeping an eye on moving forward. 

Malcom Brown left the game in the second half with an ankle injury. Their top defensive tackle this season, Brown's absence may be one reason for why the Falcons were able to pump up their rushing yardage to triple digits by midway through the fourth quarter. Dont'a Hightower also left the game and was announced as questionable to return with a shoulder injury. Hightower has had a history of shoulder issues and so perhaps this is an older injury that was re-aggravated. Chris Hogan also left the game briefly and was evaluated for a concussion, according to NBC's television broadcast. He later returned.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE