Celtics rally fizzles in Denver

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Celtics rally fizzles in Denver

DENVER The Boston Celtics finally got the highest scoring team, the Denver Nuggets, to play their brand of slow down, drag-it-out basketball.

But the game's tempo swinging their way was too little too late as the Nuggets hung on for a 98-91 win.

A pair of free throws by Kevin Garnett made it a 94-91 game with about a minute to play.

After a Celtics stop defensively, Ray Allen's potential game-tying 3-pointer was off the mark.

That would be Boston's last gasp at what had been an impressive fourth quarter rally.

The rebound wound up in the familiar hands of Kenneth Faried, who snatched a game-high 16 rebounds to go along with 18 points.

The Celtics (23-21) have now lost their second straight and are now 2-3 during their current West coast road trip that moves back to the East for the next three games (Atlanta, Milwaukee and Philadelphia).

Denver shot a higher percentage and more than doubled the Celtics (28-12) on the boards in the first half.

It was the kind of basketball cocktail that would have the most talented team looking a bit punch-drunk on the floor, as the Celtics fell behind by 13 points at the half.

Denver's control of the game remained as strong as ever in the third, but the C's positioned themselves to get the Nuggets lead down to single digits on several occasions.

But Boston simply could not get over that double-digit hump, and trailed 80-68 going into the fourth.

Boston managed to get it down to an even 10 points, and had a chance to make it a single-digit game but Kevin Garnett threw an errant pass resulting in a turnover.

The C's eventually got the deficit down to single digits, but consistently failed to get the much-needed stop defensively or the clutch basket that we're so used to to them getting in close, down-to-the-wire affairs.

Patriots DT Branch wins appeal of four-game suspension

Patriots DT Branch wins appeal of four-game suspension

FOXBORO -- Alan Branch knew he had a good case, otherwise he wouldn't have appealed. It was just a question of when that appeal might be heard. 

As of Wednesday, the Patriots defensive tackle hadnt heard anything as it related to the appeal of his four-game suspension. But by Saturday morning, according to Field Yates of ESPN, Branch had won the appeal and been cleared of the league's ban. 

Branch's agent later confirmed the news on Twitter.

Word of Branch's punishment, which stemmed from what was reported as a positive marijuana test, became public when reported by ESPN on Nov. 21. Per the league's substance abuse policy, appeal hearings are typically scheduled for the fourth Tuesday after a player has been informed of his penalty. The policy notes that it is possible for appeals to be heard on another date should the two sides be able to work out different schedule, but Branch was not optimistic that would be the case earlier this week. 

Good news came quickly, though. 

Had Branch been forced to miss any time, it would have docked the Patriots arguably their top interior defensive lineman. Branch has started every game, and he leads all Patriots defensive tackles with 457 snaps played. 

The Patriots recently waived running back DJ Foster and signed defensive tackle Darius Kilgo, seemingly as a way to build some depth on the roster if Branch had been suspended. 

By having his four-game suspension wiped away not only are the Patriots saved from having to deal without one of their top players in the trenches, but Branch saved himself a relatively hefty financial penalty.

A four-game ban would have cost him nearly $300,000 in base salary as well as four game-day bonuses adding to $100,000. He also stood to lose as much as $750,000 in season-long playing-time incentives. In all, had the suspension stood, it could have cost him about $1.1 million. Patriots salary-cap expert Miguel Benzan goes into more detail about the potential financial impact of Branch's suspension here

Thankfully for Branch, he doesn't have to worry about that any longer. With this situation in the rear view, he can now focus on helping the Patriots win games during the stretch run of the regular season and into the playoffs.