Defending champs fall in final seconds

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Defending champs fall in final seconds

From Comcast SportsNetPHILADELPHIA (AP) -- When Lawrence Tynes got a do-over, LeSean McCoy couldn't watch."I was so nervous, praying please let him miss it," McCoy said.The sellout crowd that prematurely celebrated a victory seconds earlier likely felt the same when Tynes got a second chance because Eagles coach Andy Reid had called a timeout in an attempt to ice the Giants' kicker.But Tynes was short on a 54-yard field goal attempt with 15 seconds left and the Philadelphia Eagles held on for a 19-17 victory over the New York Giants on Sunday night.With McCoy leading the way on the ground, Michael Vick guided Philadelphia (3-1) to its third comeback win.The Eagles became the first team in NFL history to have each of their first three wins by two points or less according to information provided to the team by the Elias Sports Bureau."It's a much easier way to play this game," Vick said. "You can come out and score 28 points and the defense can play well and you can be up and it can be easy."That hasn't been the case so far.Alex Henery kicked a 26-yard field goal with 1:49 left and the Eagles overcame two pass interference penalties on New York's final drive.The defending Super Bowl champion Giants (2-2) have struggled against Philadelphia, losing eight of the last nine meetings."We knew it was going to be a game that was going to come down to the fourth quarter," Eli Manning said. "We knew we were going to have to earn every yard. They're a good defense, they're a good team. We had opportunities, we were close."McCoy had 121 of his 123 yards rushing in the second half. The All-Pro had six carries for 2 yards at halftime."I think we just stuck with it," McCoy said. "I just had that feeling, that feeling I want the ball."Vick threw TD passes in the final two minutes in consecutive 1-point wins over Cleveland and Baltimore the first two weeks before a 26-7 loss at Arizona.After Manning tossed a go-ahead 6-yard TD pass Bear Pascoe, Vick drove the Eagles to the Giants 2 before Osi Umenyiora sacked him for a 6-yard loss on third down. Henery then hit his fourth field goal to put Philadelphia ahead to stay.Henery also connected from 48, 35 and 20 yards.A pass interference penalty on Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie kept the Giants' last drive alive and put the ball at the Eagles 35 after Manning threw an incomplete pass on fourth-and-1. Another pass interference call on Nnamdi Asomugha on third-and-10 moved it to the Eagles 27.Then Ramses Barden got called for offensive pass interference to move it back to the 36."I thought it was on him," Barden said of Asomugha. "But I know he's a competitor, and he came to play tonight. We were both fighting for position and it's just one of those things."After an incomplete pass, the Giants sent out Tynes to try for the winning kick on third-and-18 because they didn't have any timeouts remaining."I don't believe in icing the kicker," Vick said. "You let him kick it and if it's in, it's in. You can't play games. I don't know where that started. We got to end that tradition."Vick was 19 of 30 for 241 yards and the turnover-prone Eagles protected the ball. The Eagles led the NFL with 12 turnovers through three games, but didn't commit any.Manning completed 24 of 42 passes for 309 yards, two TDs and one crucial interception.He threw a pick to Rodgers-Cromartie in the end zone after a 30-yard pass to Victor Cruz on fourth-and-1 got the Giants to Philadelphia's 10 on the final play of the third quarter.Manning redeemed himself on New York's next possession. He completed passes of 31 yards to Barden and 41 yards to Domenik Hixon. He then found Pascoe wide open over the middle for a 17-16 lead with 6:45 left.McCoy finally broke loose by running for 56 yards on consecutive carries in the third. He was stopped at the 1 on a 22-yard gain, and then couldn't get in on three straight carries. The Eagles settled for a 20-yard field goal by Henery that made it 10-3."The O-line found themselves as the game wore on," Reid said. "They were able to block well enough to where McCoy had big yards."The Giants answered after David Wilson ran the kickoff back 45 yards to the 43.Mixing run and pass effectively, the Giants moved to the 14. On third-and-3, Manning threw a TD pass to Cruz, who celebrated with his trademark salsa dance in the stadium where it all started. Cruz burst on the scene with a breakout performance in a 29-16 win at Philadelphia last September.Using a no-huddle offense, the Eagles drove 70 yards on 11 plays late in the first half for their only TD. They converted three third downs on the series, including Vick's 19-yard TD pass to DeSean Jackson on third-and-9.Before the game, the Eagles retired the No. 20 worn by Brian Dawkins for 13 seasons from 1996-2008. The hard-hitting safety went to eight Pro Bowls and was a four-time All-Pro in 16 years with Philadelphia and Denver.Dawkins, one of the most revered athletes to play in this sports-crazed city, sent the sellout crowd at the Linc into a frenzy when he ran out of the tunnel during pregame introductions. Wearing his green No. 20 Eagles jersey, Dawkins did his unique, crawling, gyrating entrance. He then joined the captains at midfield for the coin toss. Dawkins changed back into his navy blue pinstriped suit and led the crowd in signing "Fly! Eagles! Fly!" at halftime.NOTES:The officials got a standing ovation when they walked onto the field an hour before kickoff. ... McCoy has four 100-yard games vs. the Giants. ... Manning wasn't sacked.

Blakely: Game 4 loss shows just how much Celtics miss Isaiah

Blakely: Game 4 loss shows just how much Celtics miss Isaiah

CLEVELAND --  Down the stretch in Game 4, the Celtics were desperate for someone, anyone, who could slow down Kyrie Irving.
 
But short of that, Boston could have used an offensive closer, too. You know, someone like Isaiah Thomas.

GAME 4: CAVS 112, CELTICS 99

 

The Celtics have relied on the two-time All-Star to carry much of the offensive burden this season, but he was almost always at his best in the fourth quarter.
 
A right hip injury knocked him out of this series after 1 1/2 games. Still, Boston managed to win Game 3 without him and, for large chunks of Tuesday night, seemed poised to beat the Cavs again on their home floor.
 
But as much as Game 4 was a reminder of just how special a talent Irving is (42 points, 21 in the third quarter when the game’s momentum swung in Cleveland's favor), it also provided a clue to the clueless who thought the Celtics were actually better without Isaiah Thomas.
 
Defensively?
 
Absolutely.
 
It’s no secret that teams go to great lengths to try and use his 5-foot-9 stature against him. And as we have seen, the deeper we get into the postseason the more trouble he and the Celtics seem to encounter from a defensive standpoint.
 
But just as we praise Irving for being such a special talent, Thomas has shown that he, too, has offensive gifts that, throughout this season, have left many fans, media and defenders befuddled as to how “the little fella” keeps coming up with one big play, one big shot after another.
 
But as we have learned, he has been dealing with a sore right hip injury for several weeks. The pain and discomfort eventually became too much to bear and so the Celtics did the right thing and shut him down.
 
Without him, the C's are still a good team that on any given night can knock off anyone, even the defending champs.
 
But as Game 4 reminded us, they need Thomas in order to be their best.
 
When Irving torched Boston’s entire defense with jumpers, ankle-breaking crossovers, Euro-step lay-ups and free throws, the Celtics had no one to turn to who could maybe, just maybe, go back at Irving at the other end of the floor.
 
That's what Thomas does that makes him such a special, unique talent in this league.
 
He can score in a variety of ways, with the best in the NBA.
 
We saw that this past season, when he led all players in the Eastern Conference in scoring with a 28.9 points-per-game average.
 
Boston’s excellent ball movement and high assist numbers are certainly important to the team’s success. But to make a deep and meaningful playoff run, you need one or two guys who can just go get buckets regardless of what the opponent does defensively.
 
That’s not Avery Bradley.
 
That’s not Al Horford.
 
That’s not Kelly Olynyk.
 
You can search, poke and prod this roster all you want, and you'll come up empty when it comes to finding a player like that . . . other than Isaiah Thomas.
 
The fact the Celtics were able to avoid getting swept is a victory of sorts in itself. Boston’s coaching staff, as well as the front office, has repeatedly said that as talented as their team is, they aren’t on the same level of the defending champion Cavaliers.
 
And yet here we are four games into this series and the Celtics are basically a bad half of basketball away from being tied, 2-2.
 
It says a lot about their mental toughness, their ability to handle and navigate past adversity to give themselves a chance to be competitive against any team -- including the Cavs.
 
But their success this season has always been about the collective group, regardless of how many late-game shots Isaiah Thomas knocks down.
 
And while he has his shortcomings defensively, not having him available is going to hurt them in those late-game moments when they need a closer. It’s not a coincidence the Celtics were just 2-4 when he didn’t play during the regular season.
 
So as cool as it was for them to win Game 3 without Thomas, he’s still the straw that stirs the Celtics emotionally, bringing them to levels few think they're capable of reaching.
 
They were able to get by for one night without him, but remember this: It took Marcus Smart having an Isaiah Thomas-like game of 27 points and seven made 3’s, for them to win.
 
No one did anything remotely close to that Tuesday night.
 
They looked like the Isaiah Thomas-less Celtics, which is a look they don’t need this time of year.
 
Because that look is so not about winning.