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.

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.