Pierce unhappy with playing time in fourth quarter

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Pierce unhappy with playing time in fourth quarter

BOSTON Paul Pierce was not a happy man, and it wasn't just because the Boston Celtics squandered a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter that paved the way for Cleveland's 88-87 come-from-behind win.

Part of Pierce's anger had to do with C's coach Doc Rivers keeping him on the bench for all but the final 3:42 of the loss.

"I would have liked to have been in there to finish off the game," Pierce said. "But the coaches make their decisions."

At the start of the fourth quarter, Boston led 70-62. With a unit that included E'Twaun Moore, Mickael Pietrus, Sasha Pavlovic, Brandon Bass and Kevin Garnett, the C's pushed their lead to as many as 11 points.

But after a Bass free throw with 4:25 gave the C's an 11-point lead, Cleveland cut the lead down to seven by the time Pierce returned at the 3:42 mark.

By then, the game's momentum had clearly shifted away from the C's.

Pierce had one last shot to win it, but his shot in the game's closing moments was off the mark. Had it gone it, it still would not have counted because he didn't get the shot off in time.

Following the game, Celtics coach Doc Rivers acknowledged that the C's "got cute" and let up some in the fourth, which opened the door for Cleveland's comeback.

"We were trying to do too much with the ball instead of making simple plays and holding on to it, instead the ball - touch, pass to the next guy. I thought that hurt us."

And when asked about Pierce's turnover-prone night, Rivers said, "I thought he did too much tonight with the ball. It's just that simple. He's been playing great for us. And I thought he just pre-determined some passes instead of just making the simple play."

When asked about Rivers' comments about the guys relaxing some in the fourth and getting "cute" with the ball (i.e. fancy, no-look passes or passes into traffic that either got deflected or led to a turnover), Pierce declined to comment.

To Pierce's defense, he has been the Celtics' best player during their four-game winning streak coming into Sunday's game. And with Rajon Rondo (right wrist) still out, Pierce has had to become a ball-distributor as well as a scorer.

Holding both of those jobs has a tendency to increase the likelihood of turning the ball over and making mistakes.

And while Pierce made no secret about being angry and disappointed, he said he understood why Rivers decided to stick with the backups longer than usual.

"At the time, we had a pretty good lead," Pierce said. "So I can understand it."

Still, that doesn't change his belief that the game's outcome would have been different had he been put into the game earlier.

"I wish I was a fortune teller," when asked about how different the game would have been had he re-entered it sooner. "I don't think this would have been the outcome."

Eduardo Rodriguez slated to start in Double-A Thursday; could return early July

Eduardo Rodriguez slated to start in Double-A Thursday; could return early July

BOSTON — Helped by a custom knee brace, starter Eduardo Rodriguez could make an early July return to the Red Sox if all goes right from here.

The lefty threw a sim game Saturday at Fenway Park, his first time facing hitters since a right knee subluxation at the start of June. He’s to stay on a five-day schedule and is slated to start for Double-A Portland on Thursday if he comes out of Saturday feeling well.

Rodriguez threw 68 pitches Saturday, manager John Farrell said, and is to throw 75-80 for Portland.

"The key for me is seeing the height of the leg kick,” Farrell said. “The brace that he's wearing now gives him such a greater feeling of stability in the knee that he can be more assertive with the lower half, so the delivery is much more Eddie-like than when he had to adjust in that game in Baltimore.”

One rehab start would be ideal, Farrell said. Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said on Friday that Doug Fister could theoretically move to the bullpen upon Rodriguez's return. That’s still a few steps away, though. 

One, Rodriguez needs to get all the way back. Two, Fister needs to perform well enough that the Sox feel he’s worth holding on to. Fister’s first start is to come Sunday.

Rodriguez's progress has been encouraging to the Sox since he began to rehab. Without a setback, he'd return before the All-Star break, setting the team up well for the second half.

Bruins go for a defensive project late with Daniel Bukac

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Bruins go for a defensive project late with Daniel Bukac

CHICAGO – The Bruins finished up their 2017 NHL Draft class with a bit of a project, but a 6-foot-5 defenseman with some great skating wheels is a pretty good way to go with a seventh round pick. The B’s nabbed Brandon Wheat Kings defenseman Daniel Bukac with the 204th pick in the draft, and admitted afterward that he’s an ultra-big bodied player that could take some time in the development process.

Bruins assistant GM Scott Bradley said Boston is more than happy to be patient with Bukac given the tools that he’s working with as an 18-year-old prospect. Bukac had two goals and 17 points to go along with 38 penalty minutes in his first season in North America after coming over from the Czech Republic, and Bradley said that B’s scouts noted that he continued to improve and get comfortable as the season wore on.

"He's raw. He's a project. [He’s a] kid from the Czech Republic that played in the Western Hockey League,” said Bradley. “At the start of the year - he's come leaps and bounds with his development. Talking to the people - the coaches, the management, and the GM in Brandon, they're very excited about him coming back to Brandon. They're expecting big things from him. We look forward to seeing him in camp."

Bukac is starting to garner some good international experience after playing for the Czechs in the Under-18’s and the Ivan Hinkla Tournament, but this weekend it was all about his addition to the talented group of Bruins prospects in the hockey world.

"I'm so excited to be drafted by the Boston Bruins," said Bukac, who described himself as a solid two-way defenseman with a good first pass. "It's an awesome feeling. I'm so glad that I was drafted by Boston."