Celtics drop third straight as Bulls run over them

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Celtics drop third straight as Bulls run over them

CHICAGO And so the good-try, good-effort days continue for the Boston Celtics who once again can take away a few positives from their game against Chicago.

But the one positive that trumps them all - winning - remains as elusive now as it ever was for Boston as the Bulls pulled away in the fourth quarter on Tuesday for a 100-89 win.

Rajon Rondo led all scorers with 26 points to go with eight assists. Chicago's Joakim Noah had a triple-double of 11 points, 10 assists and 13 rebounds while Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer each had 21 points.

Boston (12-12) has now dropped three straight for the first time this season, and run the risk of slipping below .500 for the first time since they were 2-3 following a Nov. 9 home loss to Philadelphia.

The sad part about Tuesday's loss was that it came against a Chicago team that had played - and lost - the night before in Memphis while the Celtics have been in Chicago preparing for this game since Sunday.

You would not have known that by the way the game played out.

For most of the night, the Bulls seemed fresher, more sure of their play compared to the Celtics who too often looked indecisive, unsure and just flat-out bad.

The game quickly became a laugher in the fourth quarter with several Chicago players having their way which included former Celtic Nate Robinson who had 18 points off the bench.

The first quarter was actually a relatively close period with neither team being able to get more than five points of separation.

It was an early back-and-forth tussle with there being six lead changes before the first quarter ended with the Bulls on top, 28-23.

The second quarter saw the Bulls' control of the game only increase as their lead peaked at 13 points.

Boston's problems in the second were no different than their problems most of this season - defense.

The Celtics do a lot more trapping and double-teaming with their defense than they have in past years. The only way that can work effectively is if players rotate to shooters quick enough to avoid them having open looks.

It is that latter point that has given the C's problems throughout this season.

And the person most impacted by the porous team defense is Kevin Garnett, who in addition to having his hands full defending one of the Bulls' potent 1-2 frontcourt punch of Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer, was frequently out of position because he had to help defensively when one of the Celtics' perimeter players allowed dribble penetration into the lane.

So the big first-half numbers by Boozer (12 points, 4 rebounds) and Noah (7 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists) had more to do with Garnett's teammates struggling defensively than they did with his own individual man-to-man defense.

But as poorly as the Celtics played defensively, they still went into the half within striking distance and Rondo was a big reason why.

Rondo, whom Doc Rivers said before the game had been trying to do too much lately, did plenty to keep the Celtics from getting blown out in the first half.

The Celtics closed out the second with a 7-2 spurt that included five points from Rondo to cut Chicago's lead at the half down to 55-48.

But his strong scoring spurt, like most of the what the Celtics did, was not enough of a positive to achieve the only thing that really matters around Boston and that's win games - something this team continues to struggle with doing.

First impressions of the Red Sox' 11-9 loss to the Twins

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First impressions of the Red Sox' 11-9 loss to the Twins

BOSTON -- First impressions of the Boston Red Sox 11-9 loss to the Minnesota Twins:

David Price was once again disappointing.

Minnesota is a team opposing pitchers should long to face.

Their No. 3, 4 and 5 hitters all have averages below .250 with average to below average home run totals.

The only hitter who poses and all-around legitimate threat is Eduardo Nunez, who would probably bat seventh in Boston’s lineup.

While there were other factors at play, Price once again left the ball up in the zone too much. That’s a big problem when nature’s playing a factor in the game.

Either way, with the Twins in town, Price has to be better.

Saturday marked the second time of the season where Sandy Leon registered back-to-back hitless performances.

The previous pair came back on June 29th and July 2nd with a layoff between the two contests.

In his last five contests, Leon is 3-for-17. His power numbers are also down in that stretch, with only two extra-base hits that came on the same night.

It could be a small rough patch given Leon was 7-for-19 with a home run and a double (in separate contests) in the five games preceding this dry spell.

Either ay it’s something to watch as Leon plays more and more.

The wind played a factor in the high-run total.

The second hit of the ball game seemed like a medium-depth fly to right, and nearly carried out of the ballpark.

Michael Martinez was twisting and turning on fly balls changing direction all night -- and there’s evidence it wasn’t just him.

David Ortiz reached on a pop up that Nunez went after, which never left the infield.

Trash and dust were flying everywhere in the first inning. While that intensity didn’t maintain all night, it was definitely an issue players had to consider throughout the game.

The bullpen mop-up crew couldn’t get the job done.

While some of the hits in the five-run seventh were luck, Clay Buchholz and Tommy Layne flat out couldn’t get the job done against a rough lineup.

Neither is a terribly great option -- so the Red Sox might want to reconsider using either one in those situations.

Even Heath Hembree couldn’t put together a decent night. Someone has to stop the bleeding when things get out of control.

The Red Sox pitchers can’t keep throwing away nine-run performances.

With Friday night serving as evidence, the offense will not always have great nights.

So when they do, the pitch has to be decent -- but they couldn’t even do that Saturday.

Nick Friar can be followed on Twitter: @ngfriar

Je-Vaughn Watson scores late, Revs beat Fire 1-0

Je-Vaughn Watson scores late, Revs beat Fire 1-0

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Je-Vaughn Watson scored on a header in the 85th minute and the New England Revolution beat the Chicago Fire 1-0 on Saturday night.

The Revolution (6-7-8) had a flurry of attempts leading up to the goal and Fire (4-10-5) goalkeeper Sean Johnson made three saves in the 2 minutes prior.

But Johnson came off his line to defend Chris Tierney's corner and failed to clear it with his outstretched hand while Watson connected and sent the header into the empty net.

Bobby Shuttleworth earned his fifth shutout of the season for New England.

Could Chris Sale's altercation open the door to get him at a lower cost?

Could Chris Sale's altercation open the door to get him at a lower cost?

Chris Sale -- this year’s American league starting pitcher in the All-Star game -- was a late scratch and sent home before his scheduled Saturday start.

This of course comes after the White Sox have begun to listen to offers for their bonafide ace -- including the Red Sox.

Preceding the game, the White Sox released a statement from senior vice president/general manager Rick Hahn explaining that Sale’s removal was “due to a clubhouse incident before the game.”

After ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reported the altercation was with staff from the front office and had nothing to do with his teammates, there was another report that the issue pertained to the throwback uniforms the White Sox planned to wear for Saturday’s game.

Fox’s Ken Rosenthal has additionally been told the issue “was bigger than that.” 

Sale is a huge addition to any starting rotation -- never mind the Red Sox staff.

His stats are without a doubt impressive. An All-Star every season since 2012 thanks to his career 2.95 ERA and 10.1 K/9 -- this year posting a 3.18 ERA and 8.7 K/9.

But numbers can be deceiving -- especially with players playing for a small market club. That’s not the case with Sale though. While the White Sox haven’t contended in the postseason with the lefty, there’s no denying that Chicago isn’t a small market by any means.

The jump from Chicago to Boston is nothing compared to players coming from places like Miami or Atlanta -- or San Diego. So Sale presents a good fit in terms of approach -- in addition to having good stuff.

The incident makes Sale come across as a prima donna, the fact that the issue went past the uniforms shows there could be a deeper issue at hand -- and not so much an indictment of his mental make-up.

Additionally, this altercation could open the door to get Sale at a lower value. If it was that bad that he was sent home, it could take a lot more than a stern talk and hand shakes to resolve the issue, giving interested teams a much better chance to obtain the Cy Young candidate.

However, if the Red Sox do manage to strike a deal with the White Sox, they’d be wise to throw someone else on throwback nights.

Nick Friar can be followed on Twitter: @ngfriar