Turnovers, poor defense doom Celtics

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Turnovers, poor defense doom Celtics

BOSTON -- It wasnt the Celtics first loss to the season. In fact, it was their tenth. But after Sundays last-minute defeat by the Cleveland Cavaliers, it seemed like one of the worst.

I could put all sorts of sprinkles on top of this cupcake, Kevin Garnett said following the Cavs 88-87 win. I dont know a guy thats in here that wasnt very, very distraught and upset today.

The Celtics entered the game on a four-game winning streak. They held a 70-62 lead after three quarters and built their edge up to 11 points with four minutes and 25 seconds to go.

Then, it fell apart.

The Cs did not score the rest of the game as the Cavaliers closed out the fourth on a 12-0 run. Rookie Kyrie Irving scored six points and Anderson Varejao added four during the stretch while the Celtics committed three turnovers.

After Irving connected on a driving layup to give the Cavs a one-point lead with 2.6 seconds left, Paul Pierce failed to get a shot off at the buzzer.

The defense just didnt step up, said Pierce, who expressed frustration in the fact that he played less than four minutes in the final quarter. We allowed more points in the fourth quarter than we did all game, and the turnovers really came to bite us. I turned the ball over too much today. Turnovers really came back to bite us today. We shot 50 percent, they shoot 43, but thats the difference in the game. We turned the ball over too many times.

Had the Celtics played consistently throughout the fourth quarter, the game would not have come down to a final shot. But their scoring freeze gave a Cavaliers team led by a offensively-savvy rookie the momentum they needed to take this game back.

It seemed like we didnt get to our spots and we didnt execute where we needed to execute down the stretch, said Ray Allen. I thought we did a good job of it all game but I think we scored 17 in the fourth. I dont believe we gave ourselves a chance to score. We had opportunities but we didnt make the best of them. We had those looks. With the lead that we, if we got stops it wouldnt have mattered if we had scored on offense.

The Celtics will face the Cavaliers on Tuesday in Cleveland. There is no redemption -- Sundays loss is on their record no matter what happens the next game -- but the Cs will enter that contest knowing they have to play a full 48 minutes. They saw what happened when they dont.

I also thought we let our guard down, said Doc Rivers. I told our guys, Think about down the stretch, the last five minutes, how many cute plays we made. No-look passes, behind-the-back passes, and they got deflected and we didnt score on them. You lose games this way. This was a bad loss for us. Not that it was Cleveland, it was that we had the game under control and we didnt take care of it.

Patriots-Steelers injury report: Seven Pats listed as questionable

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Patriots-Steelers injury report: Seven Pats listed as questionable

FOXBORO -- The Patriots will head into Sunday's AFC title game with seven players listed as questionable, including three receivers. 

Danny Amendola, Malcolm Mitchell and Chris Hogan have all been limited in practices this week due to their injuries. Amendola has been dealing with an ankle issue since a Week 13 win over the Rams, while Mitchell has not played since injuring his knee in Week 16 against the Jets. Hogan suffered a thigh injury against the Texans and left the game in the third quarter.

Both Hogan and Mitchell indicated this week that they were moving in the right direction in terms of their recoveries. One would think that the Patriots would need at least one, if not both, to help stress the back end of the Steelers secondary this weekend.

Hogan has been the team's most consistent down-the-field threat this season, averaging a whopping 17.9 yards per catch during the regular season. Against the Texans, before his injury, he reeled in four passes for 95 yards. 

Mitchell, meanwhile, had a very productive second half of his rookie season before he was hurt. He compiled 25 catches for 306 yards between Weeks 11 and 16, establishing himself as one of Tom Brady's go-to targets. 

The overall health of the Patriots receiving corps -- which will also include Julian Edelman and Michael Floyd -- will bear watching when the Patriots and Steelers kick off in two days.

The injury report for Sunday's Patriots-Steelers game:

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

QUESTIONABLE
WR Danny Amendola (ankle)
TE Martellus Bennett (knee)
RB Brandon Bolden (knee)
LB Dont'a Hightower (shoulder)
WR Chris Hogan (thigh)
WR Malcolm Mitchell (knee)
DL Jabaal Sheard (knee)

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

QUESTIONABLE
TE Ladarius Green (concussion/illness)
LB James Harrison (shoulder/triceps)
RB Fitzgerald Toussaint (concussion)

NOT LISTED
RB Le'Veon Bell (not injury related)
K Chris Boswell (illness)
LB Anthony Chickillo (ankle)
S Sean Davis (shoulder)
C B.J. Finney (illness)
WR Darrius Heyward-Bay (illness)
DE Ricardo Mathews (ankle)
QB Zach Mettenberger (illness)
S Michael Mitchell (not injury related)
QB Ben Roethlisberger (not injury related)
LB Vince Williams (shoulder)