Which NBA team has quietly won 9 straight games?


Which NBA team has quietly won 9 straight games?

From Comcast SportsNet
BOSTON (AP) -- Paul Pierce got the shot he wanted. Tim Duncan got the result. Duncan prevented Pierce from driving to the basket, forcing him to take a fadeaway jumper that clanged off the rim at the buzzer and the San Antonio Spurs held on for their ninth straight win, 87-86 over Boston on Wednesday night. "It was make or miss. I just didn't want him to go by me," said Duncan, who had 10 points and 16 rebounds. "To be honest with you, he probably got the shot he wanted." Pierce had 15 points and 10 rebounds, but he couldn't maneuver into open space after Boston inbounded the ball with 7.9 seconds left. The 6-foot-11 Duncan stayed on him, forcing the 6-foot-7 Pierce to step back near the top of the key for a floater. "I think I got to a good place. Just missed the shot," Pierce said. "These things are not really pre-scripted. You get into pressure situations, sometimes they make and sometimes they don't." Danny Green scored 14 points, and Gary Neal had 13, including a 3-pointer with 2 minutes left that put the Spurs back in front after they blew a 17-point, first-half lead. Rajon Rondo had 17 points and 11 assists for Boston, which had won five in a row. Avery Bradley scored 19 points off the bench for Boston, and Kevin Garnett had 16 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Ray Allen returned after missing six games with a sore right ankle and added seven rebounds and five points, including a 3-pointer in the final minute that brought Boston within a point. Green missed for San Antonio and Garnett got the rebound, but the Celtics couldn't convert. "We were trying to get a Duncan-on-Paul matchup because we thought we had the speed advantage," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "But his step-back is what he wants." The Celtics trailed 77-70 with 8:20 left before scoring 13 of the next 17 points to take the lead. San Antonio, which averaged 107 points in the first eight games of its winning streak, had 59 in the first half and 28 in the second. "It was a tale of two halves," Bonner said. "We weren't as sharp and didn't make as many shots in the second half, but we still played good defense, we rebounded the ball, kept us in it and made a few plays down the stretch to pull out the win." It was 36-all when the Spurs scored 12 consecutive points, including back-to-back 3-pointers from Matt Bonner. After Bradley snapped the string with a jumper, San Antonio rattled off another seven in a row to make it 55-38. Boston cut it to 11 points by the end of the half and got within four in the third, holding the Spurs to nine points in the quarter. It was two points early in the fourth, and San Antonio led 77-70 before Garnett hit a pair of free throws, Rondo stole the ball and fed it to Bradley for a layup and then Garnett hit a layup to make it a one-point game. Notes: Kentucky coach John Calipari was courtside, two days after winning the NCAA championship. ... Pierce was the Eastern Conference's player of the month for March. He averaged 22 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.6 assists while leading the Celtics to a 12-5 record in the month. ... The Spurs were 5 for 8 from 3-point range in the second quarter and 0 for 8 in the third. ... All of San Antonio's points in the first quarter came in the paint.

Hightower on Collins: 'He makes it a lot easier for me'


Hightower on Collins: 'He makes it a lot easier for me'

FOXBORO -- Dont'a Hightower is coming off of one of the best games of his career, and he did it while running the Patriots defensive huddle without the help of his on-the-field partner at the linebacker level.

"It’s a lot more fluent having Jamie [Collins] out there," Hightower said on Wednesday. "A lot of the times we coordinate things a lot together. I usually take care of the front, he takes care of the secondary. We have our own way of doing things. Sometimes Jamie is just like, ‘No, you go ahead and you just make the calls and I’ll play off of you.’

"It helps having him out there. I mean, he does everything so he makes it a lot easier for me. Anytime I can have him out there with me, I’m 100 percent having him out there."

Hightower has plenty of experience playing without Collins, however, and Collins is accustomed to having to go without Hightower. Both had issues staying on the field in 2015, and although it's early, that trend has continued this season.

Hightower missed Weeks 2 and 3 due to a knee injury, and Collins missed Week 6 with a hip issue, meaning the duo has been available to coach Bill Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia only three times this year. 

Last season the pair was active for 10 of 18 games, including both playoff games, and during a Week 5 win over the Cowboys, Hightower played just nine snaps. Collins dealt with an illness that kept him out for four games last season, and Hightower, as has been the case for much of his career, was limited by (and often played through) myriad ailments.

Both are vital to the long-term success of the Patriots defense in 2016, but it's been hit-or-miss as to when they'll be out there to play off of one another as Hightower described.

"Our linebackers, Jamie, Dont'a, they're two of the best in the league," said safety Duron Harmon following Hightower's dominating performance against the Bengals in Week 6. "Any time we can have those guys out there, they just continue to create havoc.

"They make plays, they make it easier for us, especially me. The quarterback can't look off as long when Dont'a's all in his face -- him and Jamie. Having him on the field is a plus. And when you get both of them on the field it's a double-plus."

And therein lies the issue: Having both Hightower and Collins out there together has felt like a luxury rather than the norm. 

At some point, the Patriots will have to make decisions as to what they'll do at the linebacker level for the foreseeable future. Both Hightower and Collins are slated to hit free-agency, and their durability will certainly factor into the equation when the Patriots make them offers to stick in New England.

Until then, though, both will work to be available as often as possible -- both for their team's sake and their own as they eye new deals -- where they can stress opposing offenses at a degree to which most linebacker combinations around the league can only aspire. 

"With us out there we’re able to do a lot of different things, [we have] a lot of versatility," Hightower said. "So hopefully we can both stay out there."

Hightower was removed from the Patriots injury report last week, meaning he's able to take on a full workload in practice. Collins, meanwhile, continues to be limited in practice, and his availability for Sunday's game with the Steelers is not yet known. In place of Collins, sixth-round rookie Elandon Roberts earned the bulk of the playing time against the Bengals last week. Linebacker Barkevious Mingo saw a season-high eight defensive snaps in the win.