Rivers admits flawed gameplan

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Rivers admits flawed gameplan

TORONTO Part of the game plan on Friday was to find a way to get his starters some in-game rest by subbing some of them out early, and bringing them back into the game late in the second quarter.

Needless to say, that plan is likely to find a place on the playbook scrap heap following the Boston Celtics' 84-79 loss to the Toronto Raptors on Friday.

C's coach Doc Rivers acknowledged his plan to rest some of his players may have been a contributing factor to the team's less than stellar play against a Raptors team that has had very little success this season.

"I messed their rhythm up a little bit in the first half," Rivers said. "I told them I wasn't going to play them a lot of minutes and give them rest, and then try to make a charge in the second half. I don't think we handled that very well."

The starters pulled ahead by as many as nine points in the first quarter, and the bench helped extend the lead to as many as 13 points in the second quarter. Rivers then brought back most of his starters to close out the second quarter.

And that's when trouble arrived.

The double-digit lead was cut all the way down to just six points, 36-30, at the half. And the momentum gained by Toronto to end the half, carried over into the third quarter.

"We knew we had this game in the first half," said Toronto's DeMar DeRozan who had a game-high 22 points. "It was a six-point game at halftime and we knew if we turned it up and just started to be aggressive on both ends, we could win this game and that's what we did."

For Rivers, it was yet another lesson that he hopes both he and the C's can move forward from and maybe most important, build off of tonight against New Jersey.

"Again, you keep learning your team," Rivers said. "I thought we came out almost in a slow, cool mood, and I thought I activated that somehow."

Although most of his players were on the floor for their usual allotment of minutes, it was how those minutes were doled out that Rivers, in hindsight, saw as being problematic.

"By sitting them that long and not playing them a lot in the first half, I thought I may have lost their rhythm."

There was no question that from the C's perspective, there was a lack of fire from the very start of the third quarter. And even as the Raptors steadily pulled away, the urgency was still missing up until the last couple of minutes.

"We should have come out with better urgency in the third quarter," said Paul Pierce. "When you give a team like this some confidence, anything can happen in an NBA game. I thought we gave them a lot of confidence in the third quarter and it carried over."

Said Rajon Rondo: "Give them credit. We dug a hole too deep and we couldn't get out of it."

Fortunately for the Celtics, there's no time to dwell on what went wrong against the Raptors, not with a road game at the New Jersey Nets Saturday night.

The C's will certainly try and get back on track, and they'll look to do so with Rivers likely to go back to playing and resting his starters the way he has done for most of this season - a quick but necessary departure from the plan implemented on Friday that by all accounts - Rivers included - simply did not work.

"I won't do this," Rivers said. "That's for sure."

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.

Bulpett: Ainge 'really protective' of ability to go to free agency this summer

Bulpett: Ainge 'really protective' of ability to go to free agency this summer

Steve Bulpett joins Mike Felger to weigh in on the NBA trade deadline and the lack of moves made by Danny Ainge and the Boston Celtics thus far.