AFC East champion Patriots not celebrating yet

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AFC East champion Patriots not celebrating yet

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- With a 23-16 win over the Dolphins Sunday afternoon, the Patriots won their ninth AFC East title in 10 years.

The clinch was about as surprising as the post-game reaction.

"I think it's one of those things where you savor it for the next 24 hours, maybe, and then we'll enjoy it after the season," said Matthew Slater. "There's a lot of football left to be played, a lot to be decided, and goals that we still have to hopefully accomplish."

It is the Patriot Way to share credit, deflect praise, and celebrate nothing until the final bell. But this time, these guys aren't just going through the motions.

This year's clinch has come in Week 13. New England doesn't just have four games left, it has upcoming back-to-back games against the Texans (10-1) and 49ers (8-2).

However confident the Patriots might have been Sunday morning about winning the division, there's little certainly about the future from here on out.

"We'll enjoy this one today, but the road from here on out is very daunting," Slater said. "We have some tough opponents coming in to Foxboro, starting with Houston next week. There's a lot still to be decided as far as seeding is concerned. Ideally, we'd like to have the highest seed possible, so there's a lot of work left to be done."

Which is not to say the Patriots weren't appreciative.

In the locker room after the Dolphins game most players had their hats propped proudly in their lockers, and a few put them on before even getting dressed.

Trevor Scott, who had two sacks of Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill, allowed himself a moment of revelry. But only because he and his teammates earned something they worked so hard for.

"We've been talking about it all week," Scott admitted. "It was good to beat the Dolphins and be AFC East Champs. That's what we aspired to all week. We had a good, hard week of practice and came out here. The fact that we got it done today . . . it's huge for us. It's a right step in the direction we want to go."

Think Scott just has a different perspective? Before signing with New England in March, the defensive end spent four seasons with the Oakland Raiders, whose "Just win, baby" mantra hasn't meant much since 2002.

But not even the longer-tenured Patriots are spoiled.

Linebacker Jerod Mayo has gotten a new championship hat and t-shirt in the last four of his five seasons in New England. He didn't wear the cap in his post game interview, but smiled widely when it was referenced.

"It never gets old," he said of the tradition. "This is a great group of teams -- Buffalo, the Jets, Dolphins."

And then he returned to center.

"We're going to enjoy this one, but we have other goals for the season," he sang in that old refrain.

Pastrnak's two goals lead Bruins past Panthers, 4-3

Pastrnak's two goals lead Bruins past Panthers, 4-3

BOSTON – The Bruins are undefeated this season when they manage to cobble together three goals in a game. 

It took a little extra as David Pastrnak knifed through former BC defenseman Mike Matheson in overtime for his second goal of the game, and his 15th of the season, to take a 4-3 win over the Panthers at TD Garden. 

It was thought the final offensive push they needed took place in the third period when Ryan Spooner hopped on the David Krejci line with David Backes, and fired a shot at the Boston net that Backes redirected through Roberto Luongo for his seventh of the season. 

But the Panthers tied it up on a Demers goal late in the third period, and that set up Pastrnak’s brilliant one-on-one move for the game-winner for the Black and Gold. 

The Bruins led off the scoring on a nice play by Tim Schaller winning a battle to enter the Florida zone, and then circling around behind the net before burying a one-timer from the slot as he crashed the net to connect with a David Krejci dish headed straight his way. 

The Panthers tied it a period later when the legend, Jaromir Jagr, buried a chance from the slot after his line had hemmed in the David Krejci line and Torey Krug/Adam McQuaid pairing for an extended shift in the Boston zone. It was goal No. 754 of Jagr’s brilliant NHL career as he continues to go strong for the Panthers, and it also tied the game 1-1. 

The Bruins looked like they might haven the lead for good on David Pastrnak’s 14th goal of the season, but it wasn’t mean to be. Pastrnak started it all by protecting a puck and retaining possession from his knees in the corner of the offensive zone. Eventually Patrice Bergeron fired a puck wide of the net, and Brad Marchand unleashed a spinning, no-look pass to a waiting Pastrnak for the easy score past Roberto Luongo. 

The Panthers tied it a second time in the third period when Reilly Smith stripped a puck from Patrice Bergeron going up the center of the ice, and eventually it found its way to Aleksander Barkov for a ripped shot from long distance for his fourth goal of the season. 

Then Florida tied it again in the final minutes of the third on a Jason Demers rebound bid after Mike Matheson’s shot went wide of the net and took a wild carom off the end boards in the exact opposite direction. 

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Celtics struggling with three-pointers

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Halftime stars, studs and duds: Celtics struggling with three-pointers

You knew the 3-point shots were going to be flying all game long when the Boston Celtics and Houston Rockets tipped off Monday night. 
 
Now whether they would go in, that’s another matter entirely. 
 
Boston’s struggles with knocking down the long ball played a pivotal role in them going into the half trailing the Houston Rockets, 58-48.
 
Houston, the NBA’s leader in three-pointers made (14.0) and taken (37.0), were 8-for-21 in the first half on 3s while the Celtics were a not-so-impressive 5-for-18.
 
Despite the shooting struggles, Boston managed to lead 37-36 after a driving lay-up by Jaylen Brown. 
 
But the Rockets had too much firepower and when they weren’t knocking down shots, they were getting to the free throw line where there 18-for-20 compared to Boston which was just 1-for-2.
Here are the first half Stars, Studs and Duds from Monday’s game. 

 

STARS
 
James Harden

The MVP candidate was bringing it all areas, scoring 21 points to go with seven assists. But he was far from perfect, evident by his six turnovers. 
 
Isaiah Thomas

He led the Celtics with 11 points, but looks to be growing frustrated with the lack of calls going the Celtics’ way. Near the end of the second quarter, Thomas was grimacing while holding his right groin. But it didn’t appear to be too big a deal as he hit a 3-pointer just moments later. But it’s worth keeping an eye on in the second half. 
 

STUDS
 
Jaylen Brown

He gave Boston a surprisingly strong lift off the Celtics bench. At the half, he had seven points which included a lay-up that put Boston ahead 37-36.

Trevor Ariza

He doesn’t get a ton of attention, but Ariza’s play has been one of the keys to Houston’s success this season. At the half he had 10 points and six rebounds.

 

DUDS
 
Jonas Jerebko

He got the start tonight, but looks nothing like the high-energy, impact player he has been of late while coming off the bench. He was scoreless in the first half while missing all three of his shot attempts.