Marchand's wait is almost over

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Marchand's wait is almost over

TAMPA Brad Marchands waiting game is almost over.

The Bruins agitator will serve out the final game of his five-game suspension Tuesday night at the Tampa Times Forum as his teammates suit up to take on the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Once the game in Tampa is over Marchand will officially be out of the leagues doghouse.

Its been a bit of a lonely existence for Marchand practicing long after his teammates have left the rink and getting run through bag skates all by his lonesome. Marchand went through the suspended guy routine one final time on Tuesday following morning skate, and now hes ready to rejoin his teammates for both regular practice and games starting tomorrow. One positive: The games have so been bunched up for the Bruins that Marchand said the time on the sidelines actually felt shorter than the five games hes missed.

But theres no mistaking his enthusiasm to jump back into meaningful hockey with the boys after a forced vacation.

Its been a long week-and-a-half and its always tough to watch the team play, so itll be nice to get back in there, said Marchand. Its more mentally frustrating with watching. Sometimes things arent going the right way and you think that you could help.

When youre watching the games you really cant do anything. Its also a grind because they put you through a tough bag skate workout in the morning and then another one at night. Itll be nice to get back out and feel like youre a part of the team.

What wasn't nice was the 150,000 taken out of Marchands wallet for clipping Sami Salo during Bostons loss to the Vancouver Canucks nearly two weeks ago.

You dont like to lose that kind of money, but Im still making out okay. At the end of the day you learn from it. You realize you might have to change your game if you dont want it to happen again, said Marchand. It was a little frustrating to lose that kind of money . . . especially at my age. It sucks. But life goes on.

With all of that in the rear view, Marchand is revved up to jump back into the lineup Thursday night against the New Jersey Devils. The left wing hopes to put the incident behind him and feels hes got a pretty good grasp on when hell be able to duck an onrushing attacker next.

The way Brendan Shanahan explained it during my meeting was that if were not going at each other physically then its a little more acceptable, said Marchand, who was a little surprised at the suspension's length after thinking he might get hit with a two-game penalty. Maybe its okay if a guy is trying to blindside me or something, but for the most part Im going to try and stay away from the clipping hits.

Marchand's penalty handed the Canucks a pair of power play goals that ultimately provided the difference between the two hockey teams. When Marchand puts together the consequences of the five-minute major in that specific game and the five games missed due to suspension, he still has some lingering issues with the harshness of Shanahans decision.

But something Marchand knows very well is that anytime you fight the law, the law is going to win.

I can understand that thered be a bit of punishment, but not to the extent of what was given. One or two games would have been more than enough especially given that I lost the team our game against Vancouver, said Marchand. That would have been acceptable. I still dont think it should have been five games.

Whatever the amount of games, Benoit Pouliot has done a solid job standing in for Marchand during the last four games with Patrice Bergeron and Tyler Seguin. Pouliot has posted a pair of points and a plus-2 in the first four games of substitute work, and has one game to go against the Lightning.

But theres no replacing the kind of chemistry Marchand has with Bergeron and Seguin, and the team wont have to miss it anymore when Marchand returns to the mix Thursday night against the Devils.

Celtics hold off Heat fourth-quarter rally for 112-108 win

Celtics hold off Heat fourth-quarter rally for 112-108 win

BOSTON –  As the final 10 or so games for playoff-bound teams like the Boston Celtics were poked and prodded to see who would have the toughest go of things down the stretch, the Celtics were deemed to have the easiest go of things.

Somebody forgot to tell their foes because it seems every night the Celtics are in a down-to-the-wire battle that’s not decided until the final minute or so of play.

And Sunday’s game against the Miami Heat was no exception with the Celtics managing to outlast the Heat for a 112-108 win. 

A 3-pointer by Jae Crowder put the Celtics ahead 102-101, which was soon followed by a pair of Isaiah Thomas free throws and a Thomas lay-up which made it a 106-101 game.

Miami's James Johnson scored four straight to make it a one-point game (106-105) with a minute to play. 

But Boston managed to maintain their lead for the remainder of the game as both teams exchanged free throws and defensive stops before the Heat simply ran out of time.

Boston (48-26) has now won four in a row and and eight of its last 10. 

In addition, Sunday's victory matched the team's win total from a year ago, with eight games to play. 

And maybe most important, Boston has now set itself up to at a minimum have home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs with a really strong shot at finishing with the top overall record in the East and with it, home court advantage throughout every round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. 

Both teams swapped one defensive stop for another, a free throw here with a few made baskets sprinkled in for good measure.

And with 4:50 to play, the score was tied at 99 following an Isaiah Thomas lay-up.

Boston went on a 7-2 run capped off by a driving lay-up by Thomas that made it 106-101.

But the Heat responded with a James Johnson dunk followed by a pair of free throws by Johnson which made it a 106-105 game with 1:23 to play.

Boston countered with – who else? – Isaiah Thomas whose driving lay-up which was set up by a Marcus Smart offensive rebound, gave the Celtics a 108-105 lead with 60 seconds to play when Miami called a time-out.

Thomas led all scorers with 30 points while Horford once again flirted with a triple-double, finishing with seven points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. 

This game being so close down the stretch wasn’t all that surprising when you consider it was a relatively close game most of the night.

Trailing 58-53 at the half, the Celtics knew that changes had to be made in order for them to regain control.

It didn’t take long to see that the Celtics’ plan of attack in the second half was to do just that … attack!

They were more aggressive offensively with their drives and ball movement.

Defensively, their close-outs were tighter, rotations more crisp.

Within minutes, the Celtics had the game tied up on an Amir Johnson basket and 3-pointer from Jae Crowder.

Boston began to get some separation behind a 9-2 run that gave them a 79-73 lead, and closed the quarter off by scoring six of the last eight points to lead 85-75 going into the fourth.

NCAA TOURNAMENT: Maye hits late jumper to lift North Carolina to Final Four

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NCAA TOURNAMENT: Maye hits late jumper to lift North Carolina to Final Four

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Luke Maye hit a jumper with 0.3 seconds left, and top-seeded North Carolina held off Kentucky 75-73 to earn the Tar Heels' second straight trip to the Final Four and 20th all-time in Sunday's showdown of college basketball's elite in the South Regional.

The Tar Heels (31-7) will play Midwest champ Oregon on Saturday in Phoenix in the national semifinal.

North Carolina took control with a 12-0 run within the final 5 minutes. Kentucky's freshmen De'Aaron Fox and Malik Monk hit three quick 3s, the last two by Monk and his second with 7.2 seconds left tied it up at 73.

Theo Pinson brought the ball down, passed back to Maye. The sophomore from Huntersville, North Carolina, knocked it down for the win with his feet on the 3-point line.

The Wildcats had one last chance, but Derek Willis' inbound pass went out of bounds on the far end.

Kentucky (32-6) will miss out on the Final Four for the second straight year.