Patriots

Pierce heckles Bryant and it works . . . sort of

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Pierce heckles Bryant and it works . . . sort of

ORLANDO, Fla. Whether he's on the floor or on the bench, Paul Pierce will heckle you even Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant.

And the crazy part?

It worked . . . sort of.

Bryant, who was at the free-throw line at the time of Pierce's verbal jabs from the Eastern Conference bench, missed the second of the two free throws.

However, the East could not muster any more offense, with the West holding on for a 152-149 win.

Bryant finished with 27 points, and in the process, became the NBA's all-time scoring leader in All-Star games. Bryant, who now has 271 points scored in All-tar games, surpassed Michael Jordan who had 262.

However, the talk surrounding Bryant after the game had more to do with the verbal banter between him and Pierce.

Pierce, who had just three points on 1-for-8 shooting, downplayed the trash talking that went back and fourth between him and Bryant which Pierce referred to as, "good friendly heckling going on between two rivals."

The goal of his taunting of Bryant was simple.

"Trying to get him to miss the shot," Pierce said. "He missed the shot, and it gave us a chance."

After Bryant's miss, the East were down 151-149 with 22.8 seconds to play.

Following a timeout, East guard Deron Williams missed a 3-pointer, but was able to get the rebound. LeBron James eventually had the ball in his hands. He tried to make a cross-court pass that was picked off by West forward Blake Griffin, who was immediately fouled.

Griffin made one of the two free throws.

East coach Tom Thibodeau was not surprised to see Pierce and Bryant have words for one another.

"That's all part of it," said Thibodeau, a former Celtics assistant who now coaches the Chicago Bulls. "They're ultra-competitive guys, and it's all good. You know, both guys want to win very badly. Those things happen."

And both seem to understand that, which is why the two had no hard feelings towards one another when the game was over.

"We went to each other after the game and laughed and hugged about it," Pierce said. "We're two veterans; we've been here a number of times. It's all in the fun at the All-Star game."

Gostkowski named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week

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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

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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."

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