Pierce plays bigger than the rest in Sunday's win


Pierce plays bigger than the rest in Sunday's win

BOSTON -- Paul Pierce believes great players step up in close games.
On Sunday afternoon against the New York Knicks, he once again showed why he is one of them.
Pierce led all players in scoring with 34 points (13-23 FG, 4-7 3PG, 4-5 FT), but it was a single bucket that prevented the Celtics from leaving the court with a loss after leading by as many as 15 points.
In a back-and-forth battle with five ties and seven lead changes, the Celtics fought back from a halftime deficit to lead 80-72 entering the fourth quarter. The Knicks, though, were looking to reclaim the game.
They scored 31 points in the fourth and took a 101-100 lead with just under a minute left in regulation. Pierce missed a jumper with 19 seconds left that would have put the Celtics up 102-101. On the next possession, Steve Novak made a pair of free throws to push the Knicks edge to three points.
Trailing 103-100, Kevin Garnett handed the ball off to Pierce at the top of the arc. He pulled up for a three with 4.9 seconds to go and drained the game-tying bucket over rookie Iman Shumpert.
The Celtics went on to win, 115-111, in overtime.
I got to a spot where I like to get the shot off from, Pierce said. Maybe rushed it a little bit, but it felt good coming off my hand. Sometimes they go in and sometimes they dont. But I had another opportunity, another crack at it, and I always say, if at first you dont succeed try again.
Head coach Doc Rivers was not pleased that this team had squandered the lead but in the end, his team came through with the win even if it wasnt always pretty.
Paul made a good shot, he said. I thought that the last play -- really the start of it was the play after that -- it was hully gully or whatever you want to call it. We just told our guys to keep handing it off until somebody got free and Paul made a big shot.
Knicks head coach Mike DAntoni watched Carmelo Anthony give the Knicks the lead less than a minute earlier, and then saw Pierce take it away just as quickly.
I dont know if thats execution, thats having a horseshoe up your rear, he said. Thats what Paul Pierce does, though. He hit a hard shot, thats what he does. Melo hits one, thats what he does. Paul hit one, he hit a dagger. You got to give him credit with that, but theres no execution with that one. Thats just going out and making a shot.
It is never ideal for a player to have to save a game with seconds left on the clock, but after nearly 1,000 contests in the NBA, Pierce doesnt mind it.
I guess theyre better than blowouts, theyre more fun, Pierce said of close games. The great players, they really like to play in these types of games. They like to step up as you saw tonight. Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, (Rajon) Rondo, myself, Melo (Carmelo Anthony) hit some big shots. Thats what makes the game of basketball and these type of games versus New York so fun because you always see the great players rise to the finish.

Steelers know they'll have their hands full with Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett


Steelers know they'll have their hands full with Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett

PITTSBURGH – So far this season, Martellus Bennett and Rob Gronkowski have combined for 39 catches, 644 yards and five touchdowns. Making the numbers that much more impressive is the fact the numbers were rolled up with Gronk inactive for two games and fairly useless in another thanks to his hamstring injury.

Will the Steelers slow the roll of Robellus Grennetski?

Hard to imagine. As Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette points out, Gronk alone has tuned up the Steelers with 26 receptions for 403 yards and seven touchdowns in six meetings.

Fittipaldo explored the strategies the Steelers defense may unveil Sunday afternoon when the Patriots and Steelers get going. He also pointed out that the return of linebacker Ryan Shazier after a three week layoff and injuries for safeties Mike Mitchell and Robert Golden may put Pittsburgh at a disadvantage.

Said Shazier: “They have the tandem they want at tight end. Now they can use tight ends the way they want. You have to respect everyone on the field. Both of them are good blockers, good pass threats and great at running after the catch.”

Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler said Pittsburgh will alter its approaches.

“We have to be able to play more than one defense,” Butler said. “They’re very good and they’ll pick you apart if they can figure out what you’re doing. We just have to execute the defense more than anything else. If we can do that … that’s been our problem for the most part. Some of the things that went on last week, we missed some things we should have made mentally.”

What “went on last week” was a 30-15 loss to the Dolphins.

Pittsburgh hasn’t been a big-play group so far -- eight sacks and three picks -- nor have they seen a gauntlet of great quarterbacks in the first six games. 

Interestingly, their losses have been to Ryan Tannehill and rookie Carson Wentz, probably the two quarterbacks one would figure Pittsburgh would do best against.
Between a smoking hot Brady and a can’t-be-stopped tight end tandem, there’s probably not a lot Pittsburgh can do aside from hoping for an off day.

Said linebacker Arthur Moats hopefully: “You have to continue to mix it up against (Gronkowski). You can’t give him the same look over and over. He has success on guys like that. If we disrupt him, and rush Brady and speed up his clock, I definitely think that will help out.”

In theory, perhaps. In practice? We’ll see.

Game notes: Patriots vs. Steelers


Game notes: Patriots vs. Steelers

A quick look at the information you need to know about today's Patriots-Steelers game:

TEAM RECORDS: Patriots 5-1, Steelers 4- 2

GAME TIME: 4:25 p.m. EST


TV ANNOUNCERS: Jim Nantz, Phil Simms and Tracy Wolfson


NATIONAL RADIO ANNOUNCERS: Larry Kahn, Mark Carrier and Troy West

LOCAL RADIO NETWORK: Anchored by WBZ-FM (98.5 The Sports Hub)

LOCAL RADIO ANNOUNCERS: Bob Socci and Scott Zolak


LAST MEETING: Patriots 28, Steelers 21 on Sept. 10, 2015 at Gillette Stadium

* * * *
-- The Patriots are 8-11 against the Steelers in Pittsburgh in their history, but are 4-2 at Heinz Field. Included in those four Heinz Field victories are two in AFC Championship Games (in the 2001 and 2004 seasons).

-- Tom Brady is 8-2 against the Steelers in his career.

-- The last time Brady played the Steelers, in 2015, he set a Patriots franchise record with 19 consecutive pass completions.

-- The Patriots are 108-70 (.607) in road games since 1994, the best record in the NFL over that span. The Steelers (97- 82, .542) are second.

-- The Patriots have yet to throw an interception in 2016, setting a team record for consecutive games without an interception at the start of a season (6). The NFL record for consecutive games at the start of a season without a pick is 9, set by the 1960 Browns. The Patriots' franchise record for overall consecutive games with no interceptions is 8, set in 2010.

* * * *
-- Rob Gronkowski has 67 overall touchdowns and needs one to tie Stanley Morgan (68) for the franchise record.

-- Gronkowski has 66 receiving touchdowns and needs one to tie Morgan (67) for the franchise record.

-- Gronkowski has 22 100-yard receiving games, including two in 2016, and is tied with Jackie Smith for the third-most among all NFL tight ends. The only TEs who have more are Kellen Winslow (24) and Tony Gonzalez (31).