Welcome to Gillette for a Patriots-Ravens AFC Championship!

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Welcome to Gillette for a Patriots-Ravens AFC Championship!

FOXBORO -- The buildup inside any stadium on game day is always a slow one. It's no different during the playoffs. 
Players start trickling out of the locker room and onto the field a few hours before kickoff. Today, the Patriots and Ravens are starting to warm up for the AFC Championship game at Gillette. Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco is outside, testing the ball's flight on routes of various distances. Wind is a concern for game time as the National Weather Service has issued an official advisory.Westerly winds of 10 to 20 miles per hour with gusts of up to 45 miles per hour. 
Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski and long snapper Danny Aiken are also out early, likely to see how the ball is traveling. But before getting to work, the pair met Baltimore's three specialists at the south goal's 45-yard line for a lengthy powwow. Gostkowski and Ravens long snapper Morgan Cox became friends after rehabbing injuries together before the 2011 season. 
It doesn't appear to be frigid just yet as a few players have taken to the turf in shorts. The current 40-degree temperature is expected to be cut down by half before this game is over; most guys are wearing hats and gloves as they go through their pregame paces. One might give the weather advantage to New England. Playing well in the snow doesn't mean all Patriots are impervious, however. 
To quote one player, just inside the locker room after practice earlier this week: "It is expletive cold out there, man! WOO!" 
There are some heavy hitters staying warm inside Gillette today -- NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell being an obvious one. Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome, Assistant GM Eric DeCosta, and VP of Football Administration Pat Moriarty also made an appearance in the press box. 
Other than a few VIP sightings and a cramped press box, it feels like any other game week. Don't be fooled, though -- either Baltimore or New England is heading to Super Bowl XLVII and this place will be electric. 
Just wait until the fans get in.

Isaiah Thomas continues to claim Celtics' franchise records

Isaiah Thomas continues to claim Celtics' franchise records

BOSTON – This continues to be a historic season for Isaiah Thomas as more records fell in Wednesday’s 103-100 loss to Milwaukee, and the company he’s keeping becomes even more exclusive. 

Thomas had a game-high 32 points on Wednesday which included five made 3’s on nine attempts. That gave him 223 for the season which is a new franchise single-season record for made 3-pointers. The previous record was 222 set by Antoine Walker during the 2001-2002 season.

And his 32 points scored gives him 2,012 this season. 

Only six players in franchise history (Paul Pierce was the last to do it during the 2005-2006 season) have scored 2,000 or more points in a single season. 

Oh, there’s more. 

With Wednesday being the 66th time this season he has had 20 or more points, Thomas has now tied Pierce (2005-2006) and Larry Bird (1985-1986; 1987-1988) for sixth on the Celtics’ single-season franchise list. 

“I didn’t even know that,” a visibly disappointed Thomas said following Wednesday’s loss. “It doesn’t feel that good right now. But when I look back on it, probably in the offseason, I’ll appreciate it a little more. But I’m just staying in the moment and try and play as best I can to lead this team to as many wins as possible.”

Other season milestones Thomas is in the mix for include the following:

  • The 5-foot-9 guard is one of three players this season to have 50 or more games of 25-plus points, joined by Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook (57) and Houston’s James Harden (54).
  • Thomas has made at least one 3-pointer in a franchise-record 50 straight games (Dec. 3 – March 29). That’s also the longest current streak in the NBA. 
  • With 66 games of 20 or more points this season, Thomas is second in the NBA to Westbrook (67).

Marcus Smart at center of yet another controversial call

Marcus Smart at center of yet another controversial call

BOSTON – One of the more bizarre plays in Boston’s 103-100 loss to Milwaukee came in the second quarter, requiring some explanation from the officials afterwards. 

With 3:55 to play in the second quarter, the officials had originally called a foul on Marcus Smart which he verbally protested that eventually led to him being whistled for a technical foul. 

After the officials reviewed the play, they changed the call to a personal foul against Khris Middleton but no change to the called technical foul against Smart who objected to a call that, upon review, they agreed was the wrong call to make. 

Official Sean Corbin, through pool reporter Ken Powtak of the Associated Press, acknowledged that the original call was a loose ball foul against Smart. 

“The (officiating) crew got together, we met prior to video and we decided that we needed to look at video because both players were on the floor bleeding so we went to the video for a hostile act,” Corbin told Powtak. “In the review we noticed that Khris Middleton initially made contact to Marcus Smart’s face. That’s how the original contact to the play occurred.”

Fortunately for the Celtics, Middleton missed his technical free throw while Smart split a pair of free throws which cut Milwaukee’s lead to 49-40.

Still, that’s no consolation for Smart who was whistled for a technical foul on a play that the official acknowledged was the wrong call to make. 

In the fourth quarter, Smart was at the center of yet another controversial call that was also reviewed by the officials. The verdict wasn't nearly as good for Smart who was whistled for a flagrant foul after getting his feet tangled up with Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo who was called for a non-shooting foul in the play with 4:46 to play. 

Antetokounmpo made one of two free throws and on the Bucks' ensuing possession, he was called for traveling.

Smart was unavailable to talk after the game in part because the aforementioned incident left an abrasion to his mouth and, because of the technical foul, a little lighter in the wallet as well.