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Even in a loss, Rondo's effort was historic

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Even in a loss, Rondo's effort was historic

From Comcast SportsNet
MIAMI (AP) -- Back and forth they went in overtime, Rajon Rondo and the Miami Heat. Rondo scored. The Heat answered. Then again. And again. Eventually, Rondo missed, one of the rare times he didn't deliver on an unforgettable night. Moments later, the Heat took the lead for good, finally able to close out a wild Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals. LeBron James scored 34 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, Dwyane Wade scored eight of his 23 points in the extra session and the Heat rallied from 15 down to beat the Boston Celtics 115-111 on Wednesday night -- taking a 2-0 lead in the series by pulling off the biggest comeback in franchise postseason history. "One of the best games I've played in, win or lose," Heat forward Shane Battier said. "It's easier said when you win -- but it's unbelievable." Rondo scored all 12 of Boston's points in overtime, capping a 44-point, 10-assist, eight-rebound effort in which he played every second of a 53-minute game. The Heat expected Boston's best -- and the Celtics didn't disappoint, yet still head home for Game 3 on Friday night facing a deficit no Boston team has rallied from to win a series since 1969. "Listen, we played terrific," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "I told them, we played extremely hard. I thought we played with great heart tonight, but I didn't think we played smart all the time. And there's things we can absolutely fix, and we'll do that. We'll be ready for Friday." Mario Chalmers scored 22 for the Heat, who took 47 free throws -- 24 by James -- to Boston's 29. "This group had resolve," Wade said of the Celtics. "They came out and played a great game. It was physical early. They brought the game to us. That can't happen. We used our crowd and the energy to get back into the game and we had to play better." Paul Pierce scored 21 points, Kevin Garnett added 18 and Ray Allen 13 for Boston. Rondo finished 16 of 24 from the floor, 10 of 12 from the foul line and made both his 3-point tries. "He showed why he's one of the best point guards in this league," Chalmers said. Rondo shrugged off his night. "We lost," Rondo said. "Simple as that." Allen's 3-pointer with 34.3 seconds left tied the game at 99-all. James missed two shots, first a layup -- he got the rebound of his own miss -- and then a jumper on the final possession of regulation, and to overtime they went. "We had to do it the tough way," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. The Heat had come back to win from 14 points down in playoff games twice before, first in Game 6 of the 2006 NBA finals -- their title clincher -- and again last season against Philadelphia. And this one was slipping away, more than once. James missed two free throws 21 seconds into overtime, and Miami looked in trouble, especially since Rondo was simply taking over. When Rondo missed a layup -- he thought he was fouled, and the Celtics agreed -- with 1:33 left, Miami took advantage, with Udonis Haslem getting a dunk to put the Heat up 105-103. And after a turnover on the next Boston possession, Wade drove the lane, hit the deck and watched as his layup bounced on the rim and dropped through. Garnett stood over Wade and glared, to no avail. Wade hit the free throw, and Miami was up 110-105 with 59.7 seconds left. By then, the no-call on Rondo had the Celtics seething. "It was obvious," Rondo said. Added Allen: "We all thought he got hit. I'll say it. He did, but what can you do about it?" Miami was down by 15 in the first half and by as many as 11 in the third quarter, before a pair of 3-pointers by James started a comeback. Wade made consecutive jumpers midway through the third to shake off a slow start to his night and get the Heat within three both times, and the 2006 NBA finals MVP set up Haslem for a three-point play with 2:55 left that gave Miami its first lead since the opening minutes, 73-71. As Haslem's shot dropped, Wade spun at midcourt and punched the air. More highlights followed. Miami's lead got to as much as seven in the third after James blocked Pierce's shot near the rim, sending the ball high into the air and starting a sequence that was capped by a three-point play from Wade, pushing the margin to 78-71. It capped a 12-0 run for the Heat, who took an 81-75 lead into the fourth. It was the fifth straight game where Miami outscored its opponent by double-digits in the third quarter. In each of the previous four of those outings, Miami never trailed in the final period. That streak ended in this one. "It's been very key for us, whether we're up, whether we're down, to win that quarter," Wade said. "But in the fourth quarter, even when we were down, we felt like we were close enough. ... We never felt like we were out of it." They weren't out of it -- but a call that Boston argued against played a big role in the Celtics getting the lead back. James stole the ball from Rondo early in the fourth, drove down the court and got wrapped up by Pietrus, who was assessed a clear-path foul, meaning Miami got two free throws and the ball. James missed both foul shots, Mike Miller missed a 3-pointer later in the possession, and the lead stayed at 85-81. Barely a minute later, it was gone. Pietrus hit a 3-pointer, Rondo followed with a steal and layup and Boston led 86-85. The Celtics led by five with 3:50 left after a jumper by Pierce, and the Celtics looked to be in control. It was temporary. The Heat scored the next nine points, Haslem's jumper with 1:08 remaining put Miami up 98-94. So of course, back came Boston -- Allen's 3-pointer tying the game a few moments after Pierce fouled out. "Rondo was absolutely amazing," James said. "The performance he put on tonight will go down in the record books. ... It was a battle, and we never felt like we won the game or lost the game when there were zeros on the clock." NOTES: Celebrities in attendance included UCLA coach Ben Howland, rapper Flo Rida and former Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino, a regular in the Heat crowd. ... Celtics F Greg Stiemsma had four fouls in the first quarter, the first NBA player to do that since 2009. ... Rondo's only other 22-point first half was Feb. 22, 2009 at Phoenix. ... Allen, considered one of the game's absolute best shooters for many years, said he's been getting plenty of unsolicited advice lately on how to get rolling again. "I've only been doing this for 20 years," Allen said at the morning shootaround. ... Haslem (6) had more rebounds than Boston (5) in the third quarter. ... Heat C Ronny Turiaf started, played the first 4:51 and did not return. Joel Anthony started the second half in Turiaf's place.

Why Cubs core's desire to sign extensions might not matter anymore

Why Cubs core's desire to sign extensions might not matter anymore

The day after Kris Bryant suggested that first-time fatherhood and the dramatic reality of world events have changed how he looks at his future with the Cubs, general manager Jed Hoyer outlined why it might be all but moot.

Setting aside the fact that the Cubs aren’t focusing on contract extensions with anyone at this time of health and economic turmoil, the volatility and unpredictability of a raging COVID-19 pandemic in this country and its economic fallout have thrown even mid-range and long-term roster plans into chaos.

“This is without question the most difficult time we’ve ever had as far as projecting those things,” Hoyer said. “All season in projecting this year, you weren’t sure how many games we were going to get in. Projecting next season obviously has challenges, and who knows where the country’s going to be and the economy’s going to be.”

Bryant, a three-time All-Star and former MVP, is eligible for free agency after next season. He and the club have not engaged in extension talks for three years. And those gained little traction while it has looked increasingly likely since then that Bryant’s agent, Scott Boras, would eventually take his star client to market — making Bryant a widely circulated name in trade talks all winter.

MORE: Scott Boras: Why Kris Bryant's free agency won't be impacted by economic crisis

The Cubs instead focused last winter on talks with All-Star shortstop Javy Báez, making “good” or little progress depending on which side you talked to on a given day — until the pandemic shut down everything in March.

Báez, Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber are both also eligible for free agency after next season, with All-Star catcher Willson Contreras right behind them a year later.

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None has a multiyear contract, and exactly what the Cubs are willing to do about that even if MLB pulls off its 60-game plan this year is hard for even the team’s front office executives to know without knowing how hard the pandemic will continue to hammer America’s health and financial well-being into the winter and next year.

Even with a vaccine and treatments by then, what will job markets look like? The economy at large? The economy of sports? Will anyone want to gather with 40,000 others in a stadium to watch a game anytime soon?

And even if anyone could answer all those questions, who can be sure how the domino effect will impact salary markets for athletes?

“There’s no doubt that forecasting going forward is now much more challenging from a financial standpoint,” Hoyer said. “But that’s league-wide. Anyone that says they have a feel for where the nation’s economy and where the pandemic is come next April is lying.”

The Cubs front office already was in a tenuous place financially, its payroll budget stretched past its limit and a threat to exceed MLB’s luxury tax threshold for a second consecutive season.

And after a quick playoff exit in 2018 followed by the disappointment of missing the playoffs in 2019, every player on the roster was in play for a possible trade over the winter — and even more so at this season’s trade deadline without a strong start to the season.

Now what?

For starters, forget about dumping short-term assets or big contracts for anything of value from somebody’s farm system. Even if baseball can get to this year’s Aug. 31 trade deadline with a league intact and playing, nobody is predicting more than small level trades at that point — certainly not anything close to a blockbuster.

After that, it may not get any clearer for the sport in general, much less the Cubs with their roster and contract dilemmas.

“We have a lot of conversations about it internally, both within the baseball side and then with the business side as well,” Hoyer said. “But it’s going to take a long time and probably some sort of macro things happening for us to really have a good feel for where we’re going to be in ’21 and beyond.”

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Cubs' GM Jed Hoyer: Everyone in MLB has to take COVID-19 'equally' serious

Cubs' GM Jed Hoyer: Everyone in MLB has to take COVID-19 'equally' serious

Veteran umpire Joe West made waves Tuesday downplaying the severity of COVID-19 in an interview with The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. 

“I don’t believe in my heart that all these deaths have been from the coronavirus," West said. "I believe it may have contributed to some of the deaths.”

As far as the Cubs are concerned, those comments don’t represent how to treat the virus. In fact, they’ve gone out of their way to ensure everyone treats it with equal severity.

“That’s one of the things we've really tried internally to instill in our players and our coaches,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said Tuesday, “[that] everyone here has to take it equally [serious].”

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Hoyer noted like the world, MLB isn’t immune to people having different viewpoints on the virus — those who show concern and those who don’t. This echoes comments made by manager David Ross earlier on Tuesday, and Hoyer said those he’s talked to with the Cubs don’t feel the same way as West.

The Cubs had an up close and personal look at pitching coach Tommy Hottovy’s battle with COVID-19 during baseball’s shutdown. It took the 38-year-old former big leaguer 30 harrowing days to test negative, and in the past week many Cubs have said watching him go through that hit home. 

“When you get a 38-year-old guy in wonderful health and he talks about his challenges with it,” Hoyer said, “I think that it takes away some of those different viewpoints.”

To ensure everyone stays safe and puts the league in the best position to complete a season, MLB needs strict adherence to its protocols.

“I think that's one of our goals and one of the things that we feel is vital is that we have to make sure everyone views this the same way, because we can't have a subset of people within our group that don't view it with the same severity,” Hoyer said.

“That’s not gonna work. We're not gonna be successful."

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