Knicks lights-out shooting too much for Celtics, 118-110

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Knicks lights-out shooting too much for Celtics, 118-110

NEW YORK Right corner. Left corner. Right wing. Left wing.

It didn't matter where the New York Knicks were shooting 3's from. Just about everyone of them ended up in the same place - bottom of the net.

And that more than anything else, resulted in the Boston Celtics losing 118-110, to the Knicks.

Boston came into the game as the league's top team in 3-point percentage defense with opponents shooting just 29.1 percent against them this season.

Somebody must have not told the Knicks, who blistered the Celtics in the first half on 14-for-21 shooting on 3's.

But the Celtics, as they have done time and time again, managed to make things interesting in the third quarter as they trimmed New York's lead down to as little as 10 points on multiple occasions.

The C's couldn't break through, as New York went into the fourth quarter leading, 96-84.

Boston had their chances in the fourth to make it a single-digit game, but failed repeatedly to get the necessary basket or the much-needed defensive stop.

Boston finally got the Knicks lead into single digits following a pull-up jumper by Paul Pierce (43 points) with 4:04 to play, making it a 112-104 game.

The C's run was aided by Carmelo Anthony being on the bench after picking up his fifth personal foul early in the fourth.

Pierce continued to carry the C's on the comeback trail, as he drew a foul driving to the basket. He made both free throws with 3:07 to play, cutting New York's lead to 112-106.

But the Knicks responded with what else? a 3-pointer that put them up by nine points. A lay-up by Rajon Rondo was followed by another Knicks 3-pointer which made it a 10-point game with 2:03 to play.

Boston has managed to compensate for having a man or two down before, but New York's three-guard offense hit the Celtics exactly where they were most vulnerable.

The C's were hoping to have Ray Allen (ankle) back, but he was ruled out shortly before tip-off. Boston was also without Mickael Pietrus who had swelling his right knee and was sent back to Boston before the game.

Without those two, the Celtics were without their best perimeter scorer off the bench (Allen), as well as their best perimeter defender (Petrius) at the wing position.

To the Knicks credit, they recognized this shortcoming of the Celtics and took full advantage of it with crisp ball movement and a barrage of 3-pointers from all points on the floor.

Boston tried to keep the game within striking distance by launching a few 3s of their own, which included a pair of 3s from Rajon Rondo in the first half.

But New York's seemingly non-stop diet of 3-point basket after 3-point basket, buried the Celtics in the kind of first half hole that few teams ever climb back out of and become competitive, let alone rally for the win.

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.