Celtics fall to Knicks in season opener, 106-104

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Celtics fall to Knicks in season opener, 106-104

NEW YORK Most would agree that the Boston Celtics' reign atop the Atlantic Division is near its end.

But before you call in the pastor to read the Celtics their last rites, they have a message for you they're still very much alive and kicking.

Still, their fight was not enough as the New York Knicks rallied in the fourth for a 106-104 win.

Carmelo Anthony led all scorers with 37 points, including a pair of game-winning free throws with 16.3 seconds to play.

The down-to-the-wire finish was a bit surprising when you consider the Celtics trailed by as many as 17 points in the first half before rallying to take control in the third and most of the fourth quarter.

"We were as soft as we could be in the first quarter, and then I thought we joined into the 2011-2012 season," said Celtics head coach Doc Rivers. "From that point on, I was pretty happy with the way we played. I thought we competed well."

So well, that even after the Knicks gave up a big lead and the Celtics in turn did the same in the fourth, the C's were well positioned to still escape with the victory despite not having their leading scorer, Paul Pierce (right heel), available to play.

After Anthony's free throws gave the Knicks the lead with seconds remaining in the fourth, Marquis Daniels launched a potential game-winning 3-pointer that was off the mark.

Fortunately for Boston, Rajon Rondo -- the best player on the floor for Boston all game -- was able to haul down the loose ball and call a timeout with 4.4 seconds to play.

He finished with a team-high 31 points to go along with 13 assists, the most assists by a Celtics player on Christmas Day.

The previous record holder?

That would be Rondo, who set the mark of 12 assists in 2008 at the Los Angeles Lakers' Staples Center.

Boston had one more shot at forcing overtime or winning it with a 3-pointer.

Kevin Garnett, defended by former Celtic Billy Walker at the time, pulled up for a lightly contested jumper that was off the mark as time expired.

Garnett and Walker exchanged some words after the game, and Garnett grabbed Walker's neck briefly as players separated the two.

It is unclear if the NBA will fine or suspend Garnett for his actions, but they are expected to review the incident on Monday.

"Next question!" was Garnett's response after the game when asked about the incident involving him and Walker.

As for the actual game played, the Celtics almost came up with a Christmas Day miracle if they were able to win without Pierce.

Keeping the Celtics in the game was Rondo, who proved the Celtics don't need a 'Paul' -- Pierce or Chris Paul -- to at least compete.

Rondo led all Celtics with 31 points. He also tallied 13 assists and five steals.

Boston also got a strong game from Brandon Bass, who was making his Celtics debut.

The 6-foot-8 forward finished with a double-double of 20 points and 11 rebounds.

But the Knicks, having squandered a lead that peaked at 17 points in the first half, were on the comeback trail in the fourth.

Leading the way was Anthony, who was limited in the third quarter because of foul trouble.

He scored the first five points of the fourth, which cut the Celtics' lead to 89-84.

But the Celtics countered with a 3-pointer from Ray Allen to give them some added cushion.

The Knicks continued to surge back into the game, and went ahead on a running jumper by Anthony that gave New York a 104-102 lead.

Sunday's loss was Boston's first to open a season since 2006. And the schedule doesn't get any easier with road games at Miami on Tuesday and New Orleans the following night.

"We're not gonna go down because we lost," said Celtics forward Sasha Pavlovic, who got the start in place of Pierce. "It's just gonna make us stronger."

Thursday's Patriots-Bills practice report: Garoppolo, Brissett practice again

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Thursday's Patriots-Bills practice report: Garoppolo, Brissett practice again

FOXBORO -- The Patriots held a walkthrough on the field behind Gillette Stadium one day after both Jimmy Garoppolo (shoulder) and Jacoby Brissett (thumb) tested their arms during the team's practice in full pads n Wednesday.

Both quarterbacks were back on the field, but for the second consecutive day they were limited, according to the injury report. That injury report was, in fact, unchanged from Wednesday's, meaning tight end Rob Gronkowski (hamstring) and linebacker Dont'a Hightower (knee) were also limited. 

There was one significant alteration to the Bills practice report, however, as tight end Charles Clay (knee) was back on the field Thursday. Receiver Sammy Watkins (foot) remained out. 

Patriots coach Bill Belichick described Watkins' explosive abilities in Buffalo's passing game earlier this week. 

"Watkins is big, he is good after the catch, he’s obviously good on the deep balls," Belichick said. "But he is good on catch-and-run plays. He can take those intermediate routes or crossing routes and turn a 10, 15-yard catch into 40. So, a hard guy to tackle, big, fast, very athletic."

If he can't go, the Bills will have to find other ways to try to manufacture yardage. 

Here's Thursday's practice participation report for the Patriots and Bills.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
QB Jacoby Brissett (right thumb)
OT Marcus Cannon (calf)
G Jonathan Cooper (foot)
LB Jonathan Freeny (shoulder)
QB Jimmy Garoppolo (shoulder)
TE Rob Gronkowski (hamstring)
LB Dont'a Hightower (knee)
CB Eric Rowe (ankle)

BUFFALO BILLS

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
OL Cyrus Kouandjio (ankle)
OL Patrick Lewis (knee)
DB Jonathan Meeks (foot)
WR Greg Salas (groin)
WR Sammy Watkins (foot)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
DB Colt Anderson (foot)
TE Charles Clay (knee)
DB Ronald Darby (hamstring)
OL Cordy Glenn (ankle)
QB Cardale Jones (right shoulder)
DB Aaron Williams (ankle)

Thursday’s Red Sox-Yankees lineups: Pedroia sits, Owens on mound

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Thursday’s Red Sox-Yankees lineups: Pedroia sits, Owens on mound

The day after clinching the A.L. East title despite a loss, the Red Sox send out a semi-makeshift lineup Thursday night as they look to avoid a three-game sweep by the Yankees in the Bronx. 

Reserve third baseman Aaron Hill is leading off, Dustin Pedroia gets the night off, Deven Marrero starts at second base, and David Ortiz is, somewhat surprisingly, back in there at DH against left-hander C.C. Sabbathia (8-12, 4.02 ERA).

Left-hander Henry Owens (0-1, 7.79) gets the start for the Red Sox in place of Drew Pomeranz, who is bothered by tightness in his left forearm and will work out of the bullpen, if at all, for the final four games of the regular season.

The lineups:

RED SOX

Aaron Hill 3B

Andrew Benintendi LF

Xander Bogaerts SS

David Ortiz DH

Chris Young RF

Jackie Bradley Jr. CF

Ryan Hanigan C

Travis Shaw 1B

Deven Marrero 2B

Henry Owens LHP

 

YANKEES

Brett Gardner LF

Jacoby Ellsbury CF 

Gary Sanchez DH

Starlin Castro 2B

Didi Gregorius SS

Chase Headley 3B

Brian McCann C

Aaron Hicks RF

Tyler Austin 1B

C.C. Sabathia LHP