Celtics-Cavaliers review: Pierce, C's get it together

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Celtics-Cavaliers review: Pierce, C's get it together

BOSTON Facing a wounded team without one of their key players, the Boston Celtics did what you're supposed to do - show no mercy.

The Boston Celtics led the entire night in handing the Anderson Varejao-less Cleveland Cavaliers a 103-91 loss.

Varejao, the NBA's rebounding leader with 14.4 per game, did not play due to a right knee injury sustained in Cleveland's loss to Toronto on Tuesday.

His absence was clearly felt by the Cavs (5-22) who have lost five in a row.

But the way the Celtics were playing leading up to Wednesday's game, it didn't matter who they played - they were not playing good basketball.

And that more than anything else, is what they take away from Wednesday's victory that snapped a three-game losing skid.

Offensively, they steadily knocked down one shot after another before finishing with a season-best 59.7 percent shooting from the field.

And Boston had a strong game defensively in limiting the Cavs to 40.9 percent shooting.

"When you play like that it can be contagious," said Paul Pierce who had a season-high 40 points. "Offensively, guys knocking down shots, and then other guys getting up in there and defending."

Pierce's scoring along with solid play defensively were just a couple of factors contributing to Boston's win. Here are some other keys identified prior to the game, and how they played out for the C's in what players and coach Rivers agree was a much-needed victory.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Even though Boston has struggled, the Cavaliers still view them as one of the league's better teams. That's not necessarily a good thing for Boston when you consider the Cavaliers' best play tends to come against the best teams. Of their five wins, three have come against teams with a winning record at the time.

WHAT WE SAW: Boston didn't waste much time getting a firm grip on this game as the Celtics opened with a 7-0 spurt and spent the rest of the game with a lead or tied.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Rajon Rondo and Kyrie Irving. Irving put Rondo and the rest of the NBA on notice a year ago with his late-game heroics against the Celtics, and has done more of the same this season when healthy. His speed, strength and ability to score in a variety of ways will be a good test for Rondo.

WHAT WE SAW: Rondo was a bit more assertive with his scoring as he tallied 20 points to go with eight assists. Irving once again more than held his own against Rondo, but he has to continue to improve as a playmaker. He had 22 points on 9-for-17 shooting, but Irving only racked up two assists while turning the ball over three times.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Kevin Garnett continues to have the fullest plate of any Celtic, and the weight of all that has hurt his ability to have the kind of impact he wants and needs. With tonight being a back-to-back, it'll be interesting to see if Doc Rivers elects to trim his minutes some or sub him in and out differently than he has in the past.

WHAT WE SAW: Doc Rivers' decision to move Jason Collins into the starting lineup clearly benefited Garnett who was able to move back to his natural power forward position. Garnett had 12 points on 5-for-9 shooting with six rebounds, three assists a steal and a season-high three blocked shots.

STAT TO TRACK: How the Celtics defend in the first quarter will go far in determining whether they win tonight. This season, the Celtics are 4-1 when limiting opponents to 19 or fewer points scored in the first.

WHAT WE SAW: The Celtics didn't lock down the Cavaliers as well as they would have liked in the first quarter. But to come out of the quarter with the lead has usually been a good thing for Boston. They led 27-25 after the first, and are now 9-3 when they're ahead or tied after the first quarter.

Report: Bulls tell teams they won't trade Jimmy Butler

Report: Bulls tell teams they won't trade Jimmy Butler

The Bulls reportedly weren’t making Jimmy Butler available for a trade last month.

As the trade deadline approaches, it seems that hasn’t changed.

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:

 

Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

The teams that talked to the Chicago Bulls today were told, “Just about everybody on our roster is available, but Jimmy Butler is not.”

The Bulls are not obliged to stand by that, and there’s no indication they’ve assured Butler anything. If they’re offered a package more valuable than Butler, they’ll trade him.

But that’s a lot of value.

Click here for the complete story.

MLB may make rule changes for '18 season

MLB may make rule changes for '18 season

PHOENIX - Major League Baseball intends to push forward with the process that could lead to possible rule changes involving the strike zone, installation of pitch clocks and limits on trips to the pitcher's mound. While baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred expressed hope the ongoing process would lead to an agreement, he said clubs would reserve the right to act unilaterally, consistent with the rule-change provision of the sport's labor contract.

Union head Tony Clark said last weekend he did not foresee players agreeing to proposed changes for 2017. Under baseball's collective bargaining agreement, management can alter playing rules only with agreement from the union - unless it gives one year notice. With the one year of notice, management can make changes on its own.

"Unfortunately it now appears that there really won't be any meaningful change for the 2017 season due to a lack of cooperation from the MLBPA," Manfred said Tuesday during a news conference. "I've tried to be clear that our game is fundamentally sound, that it does not need to be fixed as some people have suggested, and I think last season was the kind of demonstration of the potential of our league to captivate the nation and of the game's unique place in American culture."

Yet, he also added: "I believe it's a mistake to stick our head in the sand and ignore the fact that our game has changed and continues to change."

Manfred said while he prefers an agreement, "I'm also not willing to walk away." He said he will send a letter to the union in the coming days and plans to continue dialogue with Clark and others in hopes of reaching agreement.

Clark met with Cactus League teams last week, five at a time over Thursday, Friday and Saturday, before departing Monday for Florida to visit each Grapefruit League club - and proposed rules changes were a topic.

"I have great respect for the labor relations process, and I have a pretty good track record for getting things done with the MLBPA," Manfred said. "I have to admit, however, that I am disappointed that we could not even get the MLBPA to agree to modest rule changes like limits on trips to the mound that have little effect on the competitive character of the game."

Clark saw talks differently.

"Unless your definition of `cooperation' is blanket approval, I don't agree that we've failed to cooperate with the commissioner's office on these issues," he wrote in an email to The Associated Press. "Two years ago we negotiated pace of play protocols that had an immediate and positive impact. Last year we took a step backward in some ways, and this offseason we've been in regular contact with MLB and with our members to get a better handle on why that happened. I would be surprised if those discussions with MLB don't continue, notwithstanding today's comments about implementation. As I've said, fundamental changes to the game are going to be an uphill battle, but the lines of communication should remain open."

Clark added "my understanding is that MLB wants to continue with the replay changes (2-minute limit) and the no-pitch intentional walks and the pace of game warning/fine adjustments."

Manfred said he didn't want to share specifics of his priorities for alterations.

"There's a variety of changes that can be undertaken," Manfred said. "I'm committed to the idea that we have a set of proposals out there and we continue to discuss those proposals in private."

MLB has studied whether to restore the lower edge of the strike zone from just beneath the kneecap to its pre-1996 level - at the top of the kneecap. Management would like to install 20-second pitch clocks in an attempt to speed the pace of play - they have been used at Triple-A and Double-A for the past two seasons.

Players also have been against limiting mound meetings. The least controversial change appears to be allowing a team to call for an intentional walk without the pitcher having to throw pitches. In addition, MLB likely can alter some video review rules without the union's agreement- such as shortening the time a manager has to call for a review.

"Most of this stuff that they were talking about I don't think it would have been a major adjustment for us," Royals manager Ned Yost said.

Manfred said starting runners on second base in extra innings sounds unlikely to be implemented in the majors. The change will be experimented with during the World Baseball Classic and perhaps at some short-season Class A leagues. Manfred said it was a special-purpose rule "beneficial in developmental leagues."

Manfred also said Tuesday that a renovated Wrigley Field would be a great choice to host an All-Star Game and Las Vegas could be a "viable market for us."

"I don't think that the presence of legalized gambling in Las Vegas should necessarily disqualify that market as a potential major league city," Manfred said.