Close games the norm for Celtics-Knicks this season

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Close games the norm for Celtics-Knicks this season

BOSTON -- The Boston Celtics led by 15 points. The New York Knicks were up by 12. Yet it came as no surprise that Sundays game between the Atlantic Division foes was decided in overtime.

The Celtics and Knicks have met three times this season with the games being decided by a total of eight points. The Knicks took the season opener, 106-104, and the Celtics evened up the series with a 91-89 win in February.

On Sunday, it took an extra five minutes before the Celtics edged out the Knicks, 115-111.

You know what it is, said Paul Pierce. Youve got an Atlantic rivalry. Its not only been this season. Its been since they traded for Amare (Stoudemire) and Carmelo (Anthony) and they became relevant again. Its just something about that New York - Boston rivalry. The games, you see the energy watching the crowd, the energy in the stands. When you go to Madison (Square Garden), when you come here, thats just the way it is. Those games seem to always come down to the last second.

Games between the Celtics and Knicks became more emphasized after the Knicks acquired Anthony last season. The Celtics swept them in the first round of the playoffs last year, only enhancing the significance of their regular season match ups.

Both teams were ready to fight it out until the end on Sunday afternoon. Pierce tied a season high with 34 points, Anthony led the Knicks with 25, and Rondo posted an incredible stat line with 18 points, 17 rebounds, and 20 assists.

The great players, they really like to play in these types of games, said Pierce. 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 types of games versus New York so fun because you always see the great players rise to the finish.

The Celtics (19-17) and Knicks (18-19) are battling for position in the Eastern Conference standings. They will play the final game of their regular season series on April 17 in New York. At that point, the postseason will be right around the corner and both teams will be vying for playoff seedings.

With winning a title on their minds, expect that game to be just as intense as the previous three this season.

The Knicks were a great team back then and they have a good team now, a playoff team now, said Mickael Pietrus. The Celtics have always been a winning team, a franchise with so many banners. I think in the East, they want to compete against each other and they want to prove who has the best team, so thats why I think the games have been so close. At the end of the day, every player is trying to win for their franchise.

Brissett sees room for improvement but feels he's 'moving in the right direction'

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Brissett sees room for improvement but feels he's 'moving in the right direction'

HOUSTON -- It wasn't the mechanics of his throwing motion that he was concerned about. For Jacoby Brissett, it was the way in which he was seeing the Texans defense, the length of time it took to get a feel for the game, and how his night ended that bothered him. 

"I felt like I was getting my rhythm," Brissett said after the Patriots lost their exhibition with the Texans on Saturday, 23-20. "But you can't really remember all that stuff when the last play happens like that. It's the last one."

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Though the outcome of the game meant nothing, Brissett and his teammates were looking for a game-winning touchdown with less than a minute left when Brissett had the ball knocked from his hands and out of the back of the end zone for a touchback. 

Brissett's night finished up with him going 5-for-10 for 36 yards. He was sacked twice and pressured on seven of his 15 drop-backs. 

The reserves playing for the Texans in the fourth quarter made life difficult for Brissett and his teammates as their first two drives resulted in punts. Brissett was hit twice on those drives, and his first third-down attempt failed when Houston sniffed out a screen. The Patriots had what looked like a third-and-21 conversion on their next sequence, but Devin Lucien bobbled a catch deep over the middle of the field that fell incomplete. 

Brissett seemed to make a couple of relatively difficult throws during his time on the field -- he nearly had a game-winning touchdown pass completed to Cody Hollister on a fade to the back corner of Houston's end zone, but Hollister got just one foot in-bounds -- yet he wished he could have done more to spark the Patriots offense quickly.

"I think I'm throwing the ball good," he said. "I don't think that's the issue. I think it's more so just my eyes and the timing of everything. I don't think it's throwing -- actually throwing. I think it's the mechanics of playing the game."

There was some good to be taken from Brissett's brief outing. After taking over possession with less than two minutes left, he helped the Patriots get deep into Texans territory with completions to Lucien, Sam Cotton and a third-down strike to DJ Foster. He also avoided a near sack, getting out of bounds to stop the clock, and he wisely spiked the football into the turf when he realized Houston had figured out another screen was coming.

Brissett looked back on where the third-team offense was at the start of camp -- with players like receivers Tony Washington and KJ Maye having just been added to the roster -- and pointed out that he felt they were significantly ahead of where they were then.

"I think we've gotten a lot better," Brissett said. "Just this two-minute drive is a good example. Last week we didn't make it past, what, the 40-yard line [against Jacksonville]? This week we're in the red zone with a chance to win the game. I think a lot of our young guys are stepping up and making plays and we're getting a little continuity together."

As for Brissett himself? The 2016 third-round pick has been the subject of some media speculation as to whether or not his spot on the 53-man roster is safe. After seeing some inconsistency in his play during camp practices and last week's game against the Jaguars, there were those who wondered if he was progressing at a rate that would help him survive this year's cutdown date. 

Asked to give a self-evaluation after the Texans game, Brissett said, "I definitely want to do more and play better, but there are good things getting done, good learning experiences. Moving in the right direction . . . 

"I feel like I'm still getting better. I think I'm doing good things. I mean, this league is hard. You just continue to work on things and continue to get better. Yeah, [tonight] the end result is a loss, but there were some good things we did out there. Some things it's good to get on film and learn from. It's a learning experience. That's what this is right now."

Whether the coaching staff sees the improvement Brissett described is unclear. 

"We've all got a long way to go," Belichick said following Saturday's game when asked about Brissett's progress. "I don't think anybody's where we need to be. Any player. Any coach. Any anybody . . . Just grinding it out. It's going to take a while."

Brissett insisted that coaches have been just as tight-lipped behind the scenes when it comes to how they've seen him grow summer. 

"I don't know what they think," Brissett said with a smile. "They don't tell me . . . I'm putting my best foot forward. It's up to them if they think I've been getting better or not."