From Comcast SportsNetNEW YORK (AP) -- As the Celtics staggered to the locker room after getting hit by an NBA record-tying 3-point assault, the halftime musical selection perfectly summed up how they must have felt.It was "You Dropped a Bomb on Me" -- and Carmelo Anthony and two sharpshooting subs sure did.Anthony had 35 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists for his second career triple-double, and the New York Knicks made 19 3-pointers to keep alive their Atlantic Division title hopes with a 118-110 victory over Boston on Tuesday night.JR Smith and Steve Novak both scored 25 points for the Knicks, who overcame a season-high 43 points from Paul Pierce and moved into sole possession of seventh place in the Eastern Conference while trimming Boston's division lead to 3 games.Novak hit eight 3s in the highest-scoring game of his career. Smith made all seven of his 3s in the first half, equaling a team record."Our bench was great tonight," Anthony said. "Novak and JR, them guys combined for 50 points off the bench. When they get hot like that, it's hard to deal with."The Celtics would have wrapped up their fifth straight Atlantic title with a victory. Instead, the Knicks stunned them with a record-tying 14 3-pointers in a 72-point first half and equaled their season high by finishing 19 of 32 behind the arc. They improved to 14-5 under interim coach Mike Woodson.Tyson Chandler had 20 points on 9-of-10 shooting for the Knicks, who finished one short of their franchise record for 3s, set last season."We didn't defend the 3 at all tonight," Pierce said. "We dug ourselves a huge hole that we couldn't climb out of."Kevin Garnett scored 20 points for the Celtics, who fell out of a three-way tie for fourth in the East with Atlanta and Orlando. Rajon Rondo had 13 points and 13 assists.The Celtics watched Anthony score 42 points in a losing effort against Miami on Sunday and apparently overreacted to it, trying so hard to get the ball out of his hands that they didn't pay enough attention to his supporting cast."We panicked," Boston coach Doc Rivers said. "We trapped too early. We were doing things that we shouldn't have done. It happens. We talked about it at halftime. I thought we were better at it and then we did it again in the fourth quarter out of nowhere. Good lesson though. I told our guys it was a really good lesson for us: Don't overreact to one great player and I thought we did that."Playing without the injured Ray Allen, the Celtics got a brief scare in the third quarter when Rondo landed hard on his back going for a rebound and remained on the court for a few minutes while being attended to before remaining in the game.Woodson has repeatedly said the division title was his goal, even though the Knicks' 18-24 record when he took over always made that unlikely. Rivers said he's never talked to the Celtics about winning a division title or congratulated them for doing so, but there's no doubt it's worth having this season. Division winners are guaranteed to be seeded no worse than No. 4, avoiding Chicago or Miami until at least the second round.Allen missed his fifth straight game when he felt pain in his right ankle Tuesday morning. He had gone through the morning shootaround and Rivers assumed he was set to play before the pain returned. Neither was sure if Allen would play Wednesday against Orlando.Allen, the NBA's career leader in 3-pointers made, would have fit in perfectly in this game.The Celtics jumped to an 8-2 lead, but the rest of the first half belonged to the Knicks. New York scored the final 10 points of the first quarter, going up 32-26 behind 12 points from Anthony and 63 percent shooting.The Knicks then scored eight straight points to open the second quarter, capping an 18-0 run when Smith's 3-pointer made it 40-26 with 9:16 left. Consecutive 3s by Mike Bibby and Smith later made it 54-35 midway through the second, and the lead reached 20 points when Novak was fouled while making a 25-footer, falling backward out of bounds and into the arms of Woodson -- the only time anyone got near a Knicks shooter in the half.Novak hit two more before halftime, the Knicks taking a 72-53 lead into the locker room. He is shooting an NBA-best 47.2 percent from behind the arc."He's the best 3-point shooter in our league by far. I mean it's not even close," Smith said. "The guy's shooting 50-something percent from 3, so people are starting to catch onto it but not fast enough."Pierce, who was 17 of 18 from the free throw line, had 17 points in the third quarter to get the Celtics back into it, and the Knicks led 96-84 after three.The Celtics finally got within single digits late in the game, with Pierce scoring four straight to cut it to 112-106 with 3:07 left. But Novak hit two 3-pointers around a jumper by Rondo, putting it away at 118-108.Notes: Woodson said Amare Stoudemire could return Friday at Cleveland. He hasn't played since March 24 because of a bulging disk in his back. ... The Celtics played without swingman Mickael Pietrus, who was sent back to Boston with knee pain that Rivers assumed was caused by playing on three straight nights after a lengthy absence with a head injury. ... The Knicks play their next three on the road and have just one home game remaining, next Wednesday against the Los Angeles Clippers. ... The Celtics finished 1-6 this season on the road against division rivals. ... Milwaukee also hit 14 3-pointers in a half in 2006.
This is slowly becoming more like Willson Contreras’ team, whether or not the Cubs add a veteran catcher like Alex Avila before the July 31 trade deadline. Yadier Molina took the in-game, All-Star photo of Nelson Cruz and Joe West, but Contreras is coming for moments like that, too.
In a Cubs clubhouse filled with calm, serious young players who were fast-tracked to Wrigleyville, Contreras is the one who got left exposed in the Rule 5 draft at the 2014 winter meetings and spent parts of eight seasons in the minors before making his big-league debut.
As much as the Cubs needed that ice-cold demeanor from guys like Kris Bryant and Addison Russell to end the 108-year hex, they will use Contreras’ fire to try to win the World Series again.
“I feel like I’m in the heart of the team,” Contreras said. “I’m behind the plate. I just want to play with my energy, no matter if I hit or not. We need that energy for the second half. And it’s going to be there.”
The Cubs flipped a switch after the All-Star break, sweeping the Baltimore Orioles and Atlanta Braves and moving to within one game of the Milwaukee Brewers, their play screaming at Theo Epstein’s front office to keep buying. Contreras caught the first 45 innings of that six-game winning streak where the rotation finally clicked and hit .409 (9-for-22) with two homers, three doubles and seven RBIs on that road trip.
Contreras is a power source when a 49-45 team talks about going on a run and the defending World Series champs point to all this room to grow in the future. The model will be staring at Contreras this weekend at Wrigley Field when the Cubs try to keep the St. Louis Cardinals down (46-49) and give their front office something to think about (sell?) between now and July 31.
“We look at Yadier Molina,” catching/strategy coach Mike Borzello said. “We know that he’s just an intelligent baseball player. I always try to remind Willson: 'That’s what we’re trying to accomplish, making you not only a threat offensively and defensively, but with your mind.'
“He’s always listening. He wants to learn. He plays with high intensity, high emotion. I always challenge him to be a smart player. That’s the best compliment you can get.”
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After a disappointing first half where it looked like the vaunted pitching infrastructure might collapse — and veteran catcher Miguel Montero went on an epic rant that could have foretold a divided clubhouse in the second half — Contreras seemed to be in the middle of everything.
With Contreras behind the plate, Jake Arrieta began his salary drive toward a megadeal, Jose Quintana dazzled in his Cubs debut, Jon Lester recovered from the worst start of his career and John Lackey pitched well enough to delay any awkward conversations about going home to Texas instead of going to the bullpen.
“It was never tough,” said Arrieta, who has chopped his ERA from 5.44 to 4.17 since the middle of May. “It was just a matter of him getting to understand what we like to do as starters.
“He’s learned really quickly. He’s a tremendous athlete back there. I’m very confident that I can bury a curveball, or I can throw a changeup in the dirt, and I know that guy’s going to block it, even with a guy on first or second base. There’s not a ton of guys around the league that you can feel that much confidence in.
“Willson’s been great, and he’s only going to get better.”
Quintana, who breezed through seven scoreless innings against the Orioles (12 strikeouts, zero walks) after that blockbuster trade with the White Sox, gave this review of Contreras: “We were on the same page really quick, believe me. We talked before the game about how we want to go, how we want to call our pitches. He called a really good game, and I appreciate that.”
The Cubs will still be looking for a more-PC version of Montero, whether it’s someone like Avila, who works for his dad, Detroit Tigers general manager Al Avila, or circling back to an old target like Texas Rangers catcher Jonathan Lucroy (essentially off-limits to a division rival when the Brewers shopped him last summer). Dropping Montero in late June forced Victor Caratini up from Triple-A Iowa, making Contreras the senior catcher with a World Series ring at the age of 25.
“It’s almost like a quarterback in the NFL — there’s so much for them to absorb,” manager Joe Maddon said. “When you come from the minors to the major leagues as a catcher, most of the time in the minor leagues, you’re just developing physical abilities, physical tools, blocking, footwork, throwing, maybe pitcher/catcher relationship.
“But understanding the calling of a game — it’s hard to really develop that on the minor-league level. You have the manager, then maybe a pitching coach and there’s a lot going on. You don’t have that time to put into the game plan or to sit down and talk to this guy. It’s a little bit more superficial. I don’t mean that in a disparaging way — it’s just the way it is.”
Whatever the Cubs do next, it will be with the idea of preserving Contreras in mind. Of the six big-league catchers qualified for the batting title, only two other catchers — World Series winners Buster Posey (.917) and Salvador Perez (.824) — have a higher OPS than Contreras (.822) so far this season. Among National League catchers, Contreras also has the most errors (13) and runners thrown out (19). Outside of Bryzzo, Contreras has the highest WAR (2.6) on the team.
If you think Contreras is emotional, energetic and entertaining now, just imagine what he will be like when he really knows what he’s doing.
“He asks all the right questions,” said Borzello, who won four World Series rings as a New York Yankees staffer. “We go over every game, and between every inning, we talk. We’re working in the right direction. I think he wants it as much as anyone I’ve ever been around.”
With training camp starting next week, CSN Chicago’s Chris Boden and JJ Stankevitz are looking at three burning questions for each of the Bears’ position groups heading into Bourbonnais. Thursday's unit: the tight ends.
1. Will Zach Miller make the 53-man roster?
Miller didn’t play a single down from 2012-14, and has missed seven games in two seasons with the Bears, but he’s been productive when on the field: 110 targets, 81 receptions, 925 yards and nine touchdowns. But the Bears signed Dion Sims to an $18 million contract and then drafted Adam Shaheen in the second round of the draft, moves that seemingly put Miller in a precarious position heading into Bourbonnais. Not helping Miller’s case is the Lisfranc fracture he suffered last November, which kept him sidelined through OTAs and veteran minicamp in May and June. He’d be a valuable player for the Bears to keep around, but at the same time, training camp could be a perfect storm for Miller to be among the cuts.
“They’re going to cutting it close for training camp,” coach John Fox said of Miller (and Danny Trevathan) in June. “But right now they’re right on target and that’s kind of what we expected all offseason.”
2. What can we expect from Adam Shaheen?
Shaheen was among the bright spots during May and June, hardly looking like someone who played his college ball at Division II Ashland while going against NFL defenders. But those were just shorts-and-helmets practices without any contact, so it’d be premature to project anything about Shaheen off of them. The real test for Shaheen will be when he puts the pads on in Bourbonnais and gets his first experience with the physicality of the NFL after a few years of being head and shoulders — literally — above his competition in college. It’s unlikely Shaheen will live up to his “Baby Gronk” hype in Year 1, but if he handles training camp well, he could be a valuable red zone asset for Mike Glennon as a rookie.
“You don’t know until you put the pads on,” Shaheen said. “That’s what I’m excited for.”
3. How productive can this unit be?
Between Sims — who had a career high four touchdowns last year with the Miami Dolphins — and Shaheen, the Bears have two new, big targets for an offense that tied for 24th in the NFL with 19 passing touchdowns a year ago. If Miller sticks around, this group would have enviable depth. But even if he doesn’t, the Bears liked what they saw from Brown last year (16 receptions, 124 yards, 1 TD in six games). There are fewer questions about the tight ends heading into training camp than the receivers, and it wouldn’t be surprising if Glennon leans on this unit, especially early in the season.