Winning Atlantic won't be easy for Celtics

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Winning Atlantic won't be easy for Celtics

PHILADELPHIA Ever since the Big Three era in Boston began, it was a given that the Atlantic Division race wasn't really a race at all.

The Celtics (20-18) would have no problem finishing first, while the rest of the division would fight for whatever playoff seeding scraps were left behind.

This season is one with lots of changes throughout the NBA, including the race to the top of the Atlantic; it's actually a race now.

So far, it's a race the C's aren't winning.

Boston's 32-point drubbing at the hands of Philadelphia on Wednesday night -- the worst loss in the Big Three era -- robbed the Celtics of a chance at taking over the top spot in the division ahead of the Sixers (23-17).

A number of factors have contributed to this season being such a struggle for the Celtics to get the top spot in the Atlantic, a place they have finished each of the past four seasons.

Since the Atlantic Division was formed prior to the 1970-1971 season, only two teams have won it five or more consecutive seasons.

The C's did it first between 1972-1977, and they did it again about a decade later (1983-1988).

Only by winning the division can a team assure themselves of having home court advantage in at least the first round of the playoffs.

And with so many teams in the Atlantic hovering around the .500 mark, winning the division could mean the difference between beginning the playoffs at home, or starting off on the road against Miami or Chicago.

That in itself makes Wednesday's loss a tough one for the Celtics, even if the players won't fully embrace the notion.

For the very same reasons that beating New York on Sunday was important for them -- division rivalry, potential playoff seeding, importance of winning head-to-head matchup -- so should have been the value of Wednesday's game.

Paul Pierce acknowledged the loss to the Sixers was an important game, "we gotta win as many games as possible."

He added, "If we still have a better record than Philly, New York, New Jersey and other teams, then we still get that top seed regardless of our division record."

Rajon Rondo echoed Pierce's comments.

"We want to get the best seed possible, regardless of the division," Rondo said. "We want to try to continue to win games. The bottom line is we want to win, win, win."

Draw with Earthquakes extends Revolution's winless streak

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Draw with Earthquakes extends Revolution's winless streak

SAN JOSE, Calif. - David Bingham had his sixth shutout of the season and the San Jose Earthquakes tied New England 0-0 on Wednesday night, extending the Revolution's winless streak to five games.

Bingham, who was tied for second in MLS soccer with 12 shutouts last season, had three saves - including a stop on Diego Fagundez's shot in the 86th minute.

The Revolution haven't scored since a 3-1 victory over Chicago on Aug. 9, a stretch of more than 270 minutes.

New England (6-11-8) had beaten San Jose three straight times.

San Jose (7-7-10) has just one loss in its last seven matches. 

Quotes, notes and stars: Ortiz the oldest to hit 30 home runs in a season

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Quotes, notes and stars: Ortiz the oldest to hit 30 home runs in a season

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 4-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays:

QUOTES:

"It's one of those freak things. You don't plan on it happening, but it's one of those things. So we'll just see what the results say and move on from there.'' - Andrew Benintendi on his knee injury.

"That's kind of a routine 3-1 play. Unfortunately, it comes at a time when you've got two outs and a guy on the move. But that's a routine play.'' - John Farrell on the deciding play in which Heath Hembree couldn't hold onto the ball at first.

"I felt good. I felt strong.I felt good out there the whole game.'' - Rick Porcello, asked how he felt going back out for the eighth inning.

"I think everybody in the ballpark knew that that ball was leaving.'' - Porcello, on the hanging curveball to Evan Longoria.

 

NOTES:

* The loss snapped a five-game winning streak against the Rays for the Red Sox.

* Three of the four Red Sox walk-off losses this season have occurred because of errors.

* The homer by Evan Longoria was his first off Rick Porcello in 40 career at-bats.

* Rick Porcello has now pitched seven innings or more in six straight starts, the longest run for a Red Sox starter since John Lackey did it in 2013.

* David Ortiz is now the oldest player to ever hit 30 homers in a season

* Ortiz has now reached the 30-homer, 100-RBI level 10 times with the Red Sox, including the last four years in a row.

* The loss was the first of Heath Hembree's career, in his 67th major league appearance.

* Dustin Pedroia tied a career high with two stolen bases, the 12th time he's swiped two bases in the same game.

 

STARS:

1) Evan Longoria

The Rays were down to their final five outs when Longoria struck, hitting a game-tying homer off Rick Porcello.

2) Brad Miller

Miller's two-run double in the third enabled the Rays to stay close until Longoria's homer tied things up five innings later.

3) Rick Porcello

Porcello gave the Sox length and was brilliant in getting out of some early jams before settling in through the middle innings.