NCAA

Celtics ruin Nets' return to national TV, 115-85

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Celtics ruin Nets' return to national TV, 115-85

NEW YORK (AP) Paul Pierce scored 18 points despite briefly leaving with an ankle injury, and the Boston Celtics spoiled the Brooklyn Nets' return to national TV with a 115-85 exhibition victory Thursday night.

Courtney Lee also had 18 for the Celtics in a rematch of the Nets' 97-96 victory in Boston two nights earlier. The Nets rallied to pull that one out even while resting their starters, but they fell too far behind in this one for a comeback.

Jason Terry made all five of his 3-point attempts for 15 points and Pierce was 4 for 4 behind the arc as the Celtics shot 56.5 percent overall from the field and 11 of 19 (58 percent) on 3-pointers.

Brook Lopez scored 14 points for the Nets, who lost for the first time in four preseason games. All-Star guards Deron Williams and Joe Johnson shot a combined 6 of 22 from the field.

The game was televised by TNT, the Nets' first national TV appearance since a March 30, 2011, game at the Knicks. But while the Nets' $1 billion new arena and upgraded roster are earning them plenty of recognition, their game doesn't look quite ready for prime time, yet.

Still, they earned praise before the game from Celtics coach Doc Rivers, who said the Nets' rebirth in Brooklyn was ``terrific.''

``I've been in the league a long time. Never seen a team rebrand themselves in six months,'' he said. ``It's like this is a whole - it is a new franchise. But it feels that way, it feels like this is different, like they just plucked this team out of the space and all of a sudden they've got a hell of a team in our division that wears black uniforms.''

But Rivers' team has ruled the Atlantic Division for five years, and Pierce and the Celtics seemed to send a message they plan to keep it that way.

Rajon Rondo had 14 points and nine assists, and Kevin Garnett finished with 14 points for the Celtics, who had been 0-3 against NBA teams. Their only preseason victory before Thursday was during their two-game European trip.

The Celtics forced three turnovers and hit their first four shots while racing to a 9-0 start. Boston led 27-15 after one and extended the lead to 19 on a couple of occasions in the second before taking a 59-44 lead into the locker room. The Celtics shot 56.5 percent in the first half.

The only negative for the Celtics in the first half was when Pierce hurt his left ankle after making a 3-pointer in front of his own bench. He went to the back to get the ankle re-taped and returned to start the second half, even shaking off another fall when Johnson pushed him out of bounds on a fast break for a flagrant foul.

Brooklyn trailed by 14 early in the third before Boston ran off eight straight, opening a 73-51 bulge on Garnett's jumper with 6:29 left in the period. The Nets got back within 14 after three before the Celtics blew it open again.

Celtics forward Brandon Bass sat out the second half with a sore right ankle. Reserve guard Leandro Barbosa, who signed with the Celtics on Thursday, was not available due to pending visa paperwork.

Cavaliers clamp down on Pitt

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Cavaliers clamp down on Pitt

PITTSBURGH -- No. 1 Virginia allowed just seven points in the first half and secured the regular-season Atlantic Coast Conference title outright with a 66-37 win over Pittsburgh on Saturday.

Freshman guard De'Andre Hunter came off the bench to lead the Cavaliers (26-2, 14-1 ACC) with 14 points in a game that didn't take big offensive efforts from Virginia's regulars. Of the five starters, only guard Ty Jerome exceeded his season average with 13 points.

The game was never competitive, as Virginia started on an 8-0 run and Pitt didn't make a field goal until Jared Wilson-Frame hit a 3-pointer at the midway point of the first half.

Virginia coach Tony Bennett rested most of his regulars in the second half. Reserve Nigel Johnson added 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting.

Parker Stewart led Pitt (8-22, 0-17) with 12 points, all on 3-pointers. Pitt had next to no presence inside. The Panthers were outscored 28-8 in the paint and out-rebounded 36-24. Seven of Pitt's 11 made field goals were from beyond the arc.

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3 reasons the Caps beat the Sabres

3 reasons the Caps beat the Sabres

The Caps could not shake Buffalo for two periods, but a dominant finish on Saturday helped them pull away for a 5-1 win. Here's how they finally put away the Sabres.

A quick start

Strong starts go a long way towards helping a team in the middle of a slump. It's a confidence boost for a group in desperate need of one and the Caps got that boost on Saturday from Evgeny Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov used his wheels to zip in behind the defense and score just 50 seconds into the game. Washington led 1-0 at the end of the first, just the second time in 19 games they have held a lead after the opening 20 minutes.

RELATED: SEE THE 3 STARS FROM CAPS-SABRES HERE

Andre Burakovsky snapping a second period slump

It looked in the second period like the Caps were caught trying to protect the lead again, but Andre Burakovsky woke the team back up with his incredible highlight end-to-end goal. It really looked like Buffalo was going to tie the game at one, but instead, Burakovsky extended the lead to two. Going end to end the way he did shows a player who is starting to play with some confidence, something Burakovsky has lacked for much of the season.

Ovechkin's two-goal third period

Buffalo would not go away. Sam Reinhart got the Sabres on the board just 14 seconds into the third period and suddenly the Caps found themselves in a one-goal game again. But Ovechkin ended any hopes for the comeback as he struck in the top corner of the net on the power play from the office. He would later add a deflection goal to extend the lead to 5-1, giving a scuffling Washington team the dominant win they so sorely needed.