Celtics look to get healthy as they prepare for Hawks

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Celtics look to get healthy as they prepare for Hawks

WALTHAM The window between knowing who you'll face in the playoffs and the actual first game is a relatively small one - most of the time, at least.

It's certainly not for the Boston Celtics this year.

The C's first playoff game will be Saturday or Sunday, but they already know the opponent will be Atlanta.

It is the only playoff series matchup that has already been determined.

Although the Celtics' docket still includes regular season games against Miami on Tuesday and Milwaukee on Thursday, the C's understand that they have to start shifting their mindset towards the playoffs.

Knowing who they'll face, with nearly a week to prepare, can only help.

"The playoffs, they're going to come quick," said Celtics forward Paul Pierce. "There's a lot of teams that don't know who they're going to play. In the Western Conference, you don't know who the eighth seed is going to be, maybe some seed changes here and there. You play that last game on Thursday, and you got one day to prepare for who you're gonna play Saturday or Sunday."

That's why the Celtics will look to play most of their core guys in at least one of the two remaining regular season games.

However, the C's will be a bit short-handed against Miami on Tuesday. C's coach Doc Rivers has already ruled out Ray Allen (ankle) and Greg Stiemsma (feet) for Tuesday's game, and added that Rajon Rondo (back) and Mickael Pietrus (knee) are both questionable.

Allen has missed 13 games this season with his current ankle injury, which includes the last seven. Stiemsma has been battling foot issues for most of this season, with them getting so bad that he was unable to play in the second half of Boston's loss at Atlanta on Friday. Rondo's back injury, suffered at New York on Tuesday, has kept him out of the last two Celtics game.

While Rivers said there was a chance that he might play Tuesday, Rondo didn't sound nearly as optimistic.

"It's sore a little bit," Rondo said. "It'll be sore for a while, I'm sure."

When asked about playing against the Heat, Rondo said, "We'll see how it feels in the morning."

Rivers also wants to rest Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett for one of the two remaining games, but he said he wouldn't completely rule out playing in both, either.

"They're going to play at least one game," Rivers said. "There's a chance (that they'll play both games) if I think they feel good and have a good rhythm, yeah, there's a chance. But I'm just going to play it out and see how it goes."

Regardless of how they fare in the remaining regular season games, it's all about getting it done in the playoffs.

"A lot of this practice, preparation for today is not only for Miami, but for Atlanta also," Pierce said. "It's good that we can have these days of practice."

Rookie Dak Prescott solid again, Cowboys beat Bears, 31-17

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Rookie Dak Prescott solid again, Cowboys beat Bears, 31-17

ARLINGTON, Texas - Maybe the Cowboys will be OK without quarterback Tony Romo this time. The future of the Dallas running game with Ezekiel Elliott looks pretty good, too.

Dak Prescott led scoring drives on all four Dallas possessions in the first half before throwing his first career touchdown pass in fellow rookie Elliott's first 100-yard game, and the Cowboys beat the Chicago Bears 31-17 on Sunday night to snap an eight-game home losing streak.

With his second straight win, Prescott doubled the number of victories the Cowboys (2-1) had in 14 games without the injured Romo over three seasons before the fourth-round pick showed up.

Prescott's first TD pass was a 17-yarder to Dez Bryant for a 31-10 lead in the fourth quarter, and he's up to 99 throws without an interception to start his career. Philadelphia's Carson Wentz has 102, and those are the two highest career-opening totals for a rookie in NFL history.

"Dak's handled every opportunity he's had right from the start really, really well," coach Jason Garrett said. "No different tonight."

Brian Hoyer had trouble moving the Chicago offense early with Jay Cutler sidelined by a sprained right thumb as the Bears fell behind 24-3 at halftime and dropped to 0-3 for the second time in two seasons under coach John Fox.

Making his 27th career start for his fourth different team, Hoyer was 30 of 49 for 317 yards - a good portion of that with the game out of each late in the fourth quarter - and threw for two scores to Zach Miller.

"We haven't played a complete game," Fox said. "This week was the reverse of what we've had. We played very poorly in the first half."

Elliott finished with 140 yards on 30 carries, including a 14-yard run when he hurdled safety Chris Prosinski. The Cowboys kept giving him the ball while trying to work the clock with a two-touchdown lead in the fourth quarter a week after he was benched because of two fumbles in a win over Washington.

"Made a lot of good runs tonight, a lot tough runs, a lot of NFL runs," Garrett said. "He's physically tough. He's mentally tough."

It didn't even bother Prescott that Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith missed just the second game of his six-year career after his back tightened up during the week.

Prescott was 19 of 24 for 248 yards in Dallas' first home win since last year's opener, which was a week before the first of two broken left collarbones that kept Romo out of 12 games last season.

Romo is expected to miss about another month after breaking a bone in his back in the preseason.

Prescott had one of three rushing touchdowns for the Cowboys, who have seven this season after getting eight all of last year, when they finished 4-12.

Because the Bears fell behind again, they couldn't do much with the running game. They had just 15 carries for 73 yards and lost leading rusher Jeremy Langford to an ankle injury in the second half.