Celtics clinch division, best Magic 102-98

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Celtics clinch division, best Magic 102-98

BOSTON Rajon Rondo (sore back) was not at the TD Garden for Wednesday night's game against Orlando, but you would have sworn he somehow managed to take on the form of Paul Pierce.
But when the game was on the line, Pierce played like, well, Paul Pierce.
The Captain delivered a very Rondo-esque performance in leading the Celtics to a 102-98 win over the Magic, but it was his clutch jumper with 7.6 seconds to play over former teammate Glen Davis and a pair of clutch free throws with 2.9 seconds to play, that ultimately propelled the C's to victory.
Pierce finished with a game-high 29 points in addition to a career-high 14 assists.With the win, Boston (37-26) clinched their fifth straight Atlantic Division title. And depending on how they fare in their final three regular season games, the C's may very well clinch home court advantage in the first round, too.
In addition to Rondo, who took a hard spill and landed on his tailbone in Boston's loss at New York on Tuesday, the Celtics were also without Ray Allen (ankle) and Mickael Pietrus (knee).
C's coach Doc Rivers expects both Allen and Pietrus not to play in Friday's game at Atlanta.
With so many players out, much of the burden for carrying the C's fell on the shoulders of Pierce, who had a season-high 43 points against the Knicks.
Instead of playing his customary role as the Celtics' primary scorer, Pierce became the C's primary facilitator -- a role usually held by Rondo.
And the result was a career-night for the veteran, with many of his assists going to Avery Bradley, who may be gaining some momentum for the league's Most Improved award with his play of late.
In addition to playing solid defense, Bradley also had 23 points on 10-for-14 shooting from the field. It was the second time he has eclipsed the 20-point barrier in the last three games, and third time this season.
For Orlando, which was playing without their best player Dwight Howard (back), picking up the slack in his absence was former Celtics big man Glen Davis.
Davis, who came into the game averaging 17.1 points and 10.3 rebounds for Orlando in the month of April, he led all Orlando scorers with 23 points.

Nash scores a pair of goals in Bruins 2-1 win over Islanders

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Nash scores a pair of goals in Bruins 2-1 win over Islanders

BROOKLYN, NY – The Bruins knew they needed to find stellar performances somewhere in order to come out of a must-win game vs. the Islanders with two points, and they got exactly that.

Riley Nash had his best game as a member of the Bruins with a pair of goals scored in a 2-1 win over the Islanders at the Barclays Center that snapped a four game losing streak, and pushed them back into the wild card playoff spot.

It wasn’t a perfect game for the Black and Gold by any means and it was nip-and-tuck all the way, but it was important for the Bruins to show they could pull out those kinds of games late in the season.

Things didn’t look all that great early when John Tavares cut through the Bruins defense in the first period, and whistled a wrist shot from the high slot that went through Adam McQuaid’s legs before beating Anton Khudobin. The Bruins responded, however, on the very next shift with Nash stealing the puck from Scott Mayfield in the neutral zone, and beating Thomas Greiss short side for the important game-tying goal.

It looked like the Bruins had their go-ahead score in the first period on a second-effort power play goal by Frank Vatrano, but that was wiped out by a coach’s challenge that ruled David Backes interfered with Greiss in front of the New York net.

So the Bruins needed to wait until the third period when Boston’s fourth line stepped up and won the massively important game for Boston. Dominic Moore fed Riley Nash hustling into the offensive zone, and he weaved through the Islanders defense before snapping a shot past Greiss for his second goal of the game and his seventh on the season for the Bruins. 

NCAA TOURNAMENT: Gonzaga beats Xavier 83-59 to reach first Final Four

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NCAA TOURNAMENT: Gonzaga beats Xavier 83-59 to reach first Final Four

SAN JOSE, Calif. - Nigel Williams-Goss scored 23 points while orchestrating Gonzaga's efficient offense, and the Zags finally shook their overrated tag by routing Xavier 83-59 on Saturday to reach the Final Four for the first time.

Gonzaga (36-1) has been dogged by criticism through the years despite winning consistently, in part for playing in a weak conference but also for never making the Final Four.

On the cusp of history, the Zags took it head on with a superb all-around game to give coach Mark Few the one missing piece of his resume.

Gonzaga found the range from the perimeter after struggling the first three NCAA games, making 12 of 24 from 3-point range. The defense, a soft spot in the past, shut down the underdog and 11th-seeded Musketeers (24-14) to win the West Region.

The Zags will face the winner between South Carolina and Florida in next week's Final Four in Arizona.

J.P Macura led the Musketeers with 18 points.

The Musketeers brought their turn-the-page jar of ashes to the NCAA Tournament, where they burned through a string of upsets to reach their third Elite Eight and first since 2008. They beat Maryland, Florida State and took down No. 2 Arizona in the regional semifinals, setting up a matchup of small Jesuit schools seeking their first Final Four.

The Final Four was the only thing missing on Few's resume, which includes 18 straight NCAA Tournaments, eight trips to the Sweet 16 and a third Elite Eight after surviving West Virginia's constant pressure in the regional semifinals.

The Zags struggled to find an offensive rhythm against the Mountaineers - who doesn't? - but had it flowing against Xavier.

Gonzaga came into the Elite Eight hitting 29 percent of its 3-point shots after making 37 percent during the season. The Zags found the range early against Xavier, hitting 8 of 13 from the arc in the first half, mostly against the Musketeers' zone or on kick-outs from center Przemek Karnowski.

Xavier got off to a good start offensively by working the ball around, but hit a dry spell and made 1 of 5 from 3-point range as Gonzaga stretched to lead to 49-39 by halftime.

Halftime did little to slow the Zags, who pushed the lead to 59-42 on 3-pointers by Williams-Goss and Jordan Mathews. Gonzaga kept the machine rolling in the second half, continuing to make shots while its defense prevented the Musketeers from making any kind of run.