Spurs continue streak, best Celtics, 87-86

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Spurs continue streak, best Celtics, 87-86

BOSTON The Boston Celtics had their chances. But in the end -- literally -- it just wasn't meant to be, as Paul Pierce's last-second jumper hit the back of the rim and rolled out, which secured San Antonio's 87-86 win.

With the loss, Boston's five-game winning streak was snapped while the Spurs continue to roll along, now having won a season-best nine in a row.

Fortunately for the Celtics (30-23), the loss won't have an impact on their quest to win the Atlantic Division with the Sixers getting thumped by 21 points at home by Toronto.

After spending most of the game trailing, Boston finally broke through in the fourth when Pierce connected with Avery Bradley doing what he does best -- cutting to the basket.

The end result was a lay-up that put the Celtics ahead 81-79, their first lead since about midway through the first quarter.

But the Spurs responded with an 8-0 run, capped off by a buzzer-beating jumper from Matt Bonner to give San Antonio an 87-83 lead with 46.5 seconds to play.

But Ray Allen, returning to the starting lineup after missing the previous six games with a right ankle injury, drained a 3-pointer to make it a one-point game.

After getting a defensive stop, the Celtics' Rajon Rondo got the ball past halfcourt, seemingly in attack mode.

He didn't see anything initially, so the C's called a time-out with 7.9 seconds to play.

After San Antonio's defense prevented them from in-bounding the ball when they wanted to, Rondo called a second time-out, which set up Pierce's last-second shot that hit the back of the rim before rolling out.

Boston seemed on the verge of getting blown out behind a strong second quarter by the Spurs bench which pushed their lead to as many as 17 points. But the C's began to make it a game in the third quarter, limiting the high scoring Spurs to just nine points.

However, the Celtics weren't that much better at scoring the ball in the third, which was why they went into the fourth trailing 68-64.

Raiders creep past Patriots in race for top seed in AFC

Raiders creep past Patriots in race for top seed in AFC

The Patriots and Raiders and neck-and-neck as the race for home field in the AFC turns for home. And, with four games left, the Raiders are ahead by a nose. The tiebreakers between the 10-2 teams in play currently? Common games followed by strength of victory. 

The first tiebreaker – conference record – is a deadlock as both teams are 7-1 in the AFC (the Brady-less Patriots lost to the Bills back in Week 4.

After conference record, it's the teams record in common games. 

PATRIOTS 26, RAMS 10

So far in common games with the Texans and Bills, the Patriots have gone 2-1 and the Raiders have gone 2-0. The Patriots play the Ravens next week. Oakland beat them. The Patriots play Denver after that. Oakland beat them as well but have one more game against Denver in Week 17.

So if it comes down to common games the Patriots really need to win these next two games.

Or hope the Raiders stub their toe a time or two in their final four games which are at the Chiefs, Chargers and Broncos with a home game against Indy in Week 16.

As for strength of victory, that too goes to Oakland at this point. The Raiders’ strength of victory is at .471. The Patriots’ is at .370.

But the tiebreaker that kicks in after conference record and before strength of victory – common games – is very much unresolved.The remaining picture as it stands right now? The Ravens are the No. 3 seed with a 7-5 record that leads the AFC North. The Texans’ 6-6 record is good enough to lead the AFC South. The 9-3 Chiefs are the top Wild Card. The 8-4 Broncos are the No. 6 seed.

The Patriots play the Ravens and Broncos over the next two weeks. Currently, the Dolphins (7-5) and Steelers (7-5) are on the outside looking in.

The Titans (6-6) will have a chance to get even with the Texans in Week 17 in head-to-head matchups but they host Denver and play at Kansas City the next two weeks so they have obstacles to clear before they get there.