Belichick, Pats look to gives selves chance for first-round bye

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Belichick, Pats look to gives selves chance for first-round bye

FOXBORO -- So what does Sunday's regular-season finale against the Miami Dolphins mean to Bill Belichick?

Somewhere between resting injured players and the Patriot Way lies a more important reward: a first-round playoff bye.

To get that first-round bye, the Patriots will need either a Houston Texans or a Denver Broncos loss on Sunday. But they'll also need to hold up their end of the bargain, with a win over Miami at Gillette Stadium.

When asked about resting players, Belichick expressed what Sunday's game means to him.

"There's nothing that we can do to help ourselves unless we beat Miami," said Belichick before Friday's practice. "There's nothing we can do to help our situation unless we win. So, we have to win for anything to happen positive. That's no guarantee that it will, but that's the first prerequisite, so we're operating under that premise. We've got to go out there and win. If we want things to be better, we have to help ourselves. And we have to win first. That's really what it's all about."

Belichick was then asked about the possibility of showing the rest of the league a little too much, and perhaps tipping off some things that they'll do in the playoffs, in the process.

Once again, Belichick said that he's going to do whatever it takes to win on Sunday, expressing the importance of Sunday's game against the Dolphins.

"I think that definitely would be a consideration if the game didn't mean anything, standings-wise," said Belichick. "Kind of like a preseason game. You're out there playing, but the game really doesn't count in the standings, it counts in your development as a team.

"But I think when you're in a situation like we are, where we need to win to improve, then it's worth winning to improve."

But to improve on what?

The Patriots -- with a 4:25 p.m. kickoff -- have tried to convince the media all week long that they won't be paying any attention to what happens in the Houston Texans' 1 p.m. game against the Indianapolis Colts. It's the "Patriot Way" to focus strictly on their next opponent, and their next opponent only.

But as previously stated, to get that first-round bye, they'll also need some help. If they get that help, they'll also need to help themselves.

Because Sunday's game against the Dolphins means more than just improvement. It means more than just resting players.

Even Belichick couldn't let his "Patriot Way" disguise the fact that it also means a potential first-round bye.

And yes, that is important to him.

"I mean, it's one less game you have to play, so, in this league at this time of year, you know you're playing a good team," said Belichick on what a first-round bye means to him. "So whoever you play, they're going to be good. So having to play one less game, I think there's some advantage to that, definitely."

Horford misses game-winning layup, Celtics lose heartbreaker to Rockets, 107-106

Horford misses game-winning layup, Celtics lose heartbreaker to Rockets, 107-106

In the closing seconds, the Boston Celtics got exactly what they wanted. 
 
A chance to win, with the ball in their $113 million man’s hands with a game-winning layup in the making. 
 
Al Horford and the Boston Celtics did everything right except finish the game off as Horford’s game-winning layup rimmed out as time expired which preserved a 107-106 win for Houston. 
 
The potential game-winner came courtesy of Marcus Smart drawing a flagrant-1 foul against James Harden with the Celtics trailing at the time, 107-104.
 
Smart went to the line and made both free throws to make it a one-point game. 
 
Boston’s Isaiah Thomas missed a potential game-winning layup that went out of bounds off of Harden with 5.3 seconds left. 
 
After the officials reviewed the play to make sure it did in fact go off of Harden, Boston had one more shot to steal the victory … and they came up short. 
 
James Harden made a ton of free throws and as usual, does a nice job of setting his teammates up for easy scores. 
 
But down the stretch, he went back to the 3-point shooting identity of the Houston Rockets which proved to be just enough for the win as his 3-pointer over Smart with 55 seconds to play eventually became the game-winning shot. 
 
For the night, Houston was 12-for-38 on 3s while the Celtics were 11-for-32. 
 
Harden led all scorers with 37 points to go with eight assists, eight rebounds and yes, 10 turnovers. 
 
Meanwhile, Horford had a strong night as well (minus the late-game miss) with 21 points, six rebounds and a game-high nine assists. 
 
The Celtics (12-9) had their five-game road winning streak come to an end while the Rockets (14-8) have now won three straight and eight of their last 10 games. 
 
The loss snapped Boston’s five-game road winning streak.
 
Boston fell behind by as many as 12 points in the third quarter following a jump-hook shot in the lane by Clint Capela. 
 
The Celtics responded one of their best stretches of play at both ends of the floor, resulting in a 19-2 run that put Boston ahead 72-67 following a jumper by Horford. 
 
Houston went on a mini-spurt by scoring five of the game’s next seven points which brought them within 74-72 when Brad Stevens called a time-out with 4:39 to play in the third quarter. 
 
Boston continued to lock down defensively while getting some timely baskets which was good enough for them to take an 83-77 lead into the fourth quarter.

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.