Bulls eke out win over short-handed Thunder

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Bulls eke out win over short-handed Thunder

One of Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeaus frequent sayings is fools gold, in which he refers to his teams success, despite not playing the mistake-free style he prefers. That phrase would apply to Tuesday nights preseason contest against the Thunder, in which the Bulls eked out a 94-89 victory, though the team clearly took a step back as they regular season approaches.

A quick start for the hosts, sparked by Luol Dengs (21 points, five rebounds, three steals) scoring and Carlos Boozers (24 points, 12 rebounds, five assists) passing, earned the Bulls a slim cushion, but the short-handed visitorsplaying without the All-Star duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrookcame back to narrow the gap behind the big-man tandem of Serge Ibaka (24 points, eight rebounds, and Kendrick Perkins. However, the home team again gained some separation, buoyed by an 8-0 run and Joakim Noahs (15 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, three blocked shots, two steals) formidable defensive presence and high activity level on the other end of the floor.

But Oklahoma City didnt relent and with the combination of Ibakas much-improved jumper and the replacement starting backcourt of reigning NBA Sixth Man of the Year award winner James Harden (13 points on 2-for-17 shooting, seven rebounds and assists apiece) and Eric Maynor pushing the pace, the gap was narrowed. Increased defensive intensity at the end of the framemost notably, Kirk Hinrichs hustle playsled to a 28-22 Bulls advantage after a period of play.

Surprisingly, former No. 2 overall pick Hasheem Thabeeta 7-foot-3 center, who was previously labeled a bustwas the catalyst for the Thunder making it a close-knit affair at the outset of the second quarter. Outside of second-year swingman Jimmy Butler, the Bulls second unit struggled on both ends, as they allowed the visitors to creep back into the contest before Bulls head coach opted to reinsert most of his regulars.

Boozer got his scoring going for the home team and Hinrich also looked for his shot more, but most importantly, the defense clamped down, frustrating Harden, in particular. By the intermission, the Bulls built a double-digit winning margin and went into the break ahead, 51-40.

As the third quarter started, things began to get a bit testier on the courtthe physical Perkins was engaged in a battle with Boozer and Noahbut although the Bulls appeared somewhat frustrated, they maintained their comfortable edge. And drew the foul-prone Thunder into the bonus even before the periods midway point. On a down note, the Bulls lost Hinrich for the evening with a strained right groin, stretching their point-guard corps, already missing All-Star Derrick Rose, even thinner.

First backup Nate Robinson, then rookie Marquis Teague saw action and while neither was a disaster, the Thunder cut into the deficit as the period waned on. Heading into the final stanza, the Bulls clung to a 73-67 lead.

It would be nice to characterize the low-scoring nature of the early fourth quarter as a defensive struggle, but for the Bulls, it was more of an exercise in offensive futility, with little solace taken for their own defense, as the Thunder had several deep reserves in the contest. Still, despite Ibakas continued outside marksmanship, the hosts were able to keep Oklahoma City at bay behind the interior play of Boozer and Noah.

Down the stretch, Thunder rookie forward Perry Jones III (14 points) came on strong and made it a single-possession game before a contested, fading Boozer jumper with 34.4 seconds left. After a timeout, the talented and athletic Jones responded with an acrobatic layup at the 22.8 mark to make it 89-86 in the Bulls favor, but Robinson split a pair of free throws with 18.5 seconds remaining and though Oklahoma City made repeated comeback attempts, the hosts escaped with the win, with veteran Rip Hamilton salting the game away at the foul line.

Todd Frazier's late RBI single lifts White Sox past Blue Jays

Todd Frazier's late RBI single lifts White Sox past Blue Jays

The White Sox haven’t had much success with runners in scoring position of late. Todd Frazier hasn’t had much all season long.

But Frazier’s two-out RBI single in the eighth inning Friday night broke a tie and the White Sox held on for a 3-2 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays in front of 27,196 at U.S. Cellular Field. The victory was the fourth in five games for the White Sox, who improved to 37-37. Frazier’s hit was the only one with a runner in scoring position in 14 tries for a team that entered the game hitting .245 in those situations. He finished 2-for-4.

Though Frazier has provided the White Sox with plenty of thump, he’s had a trying season with runners in scoring position. He entered his eighth-inning at-bat with Jesse Chavez just 9-for-61 with two home runs and 23 RBIs with runners in scoring position, including a third-inning ground out. But Frazier got a 1-1 fastball from Chavez and ripped it into left field to put the White Sox ahead and end a frustrating night for the offense, particularly the bottom of the order.

The White Sox had left a man in scoring position in all but one inning up until that point. They tied the game at 1 in the fourth inning on an RBI groundout by Avisail Garcia and pulled ahead in the fifth on a solo homer by Melky Cabrera, who went 3-for-4 against his former team.

Prior to Frazier’s single, Cabrera grounded out to first as Edwin Encarnacion made a spectacular stop and fell down in foul territory. Tim Anderson, who doubled and went to third on a fly ball, didn’t advance on the play. But Frazier made it all moot.

Carlos Rodon had another strong outing, though he surrendered the lead right before he exited.

Rodon struck out eight and tamed a red hot offense for 5 2/3 innings. The left-hander fell behind 1-0 in the second inning and looked as if he may be in trouble before escaping the jam with a strikeout of Junior Lake to strand two. That began a stretch in which Rodon retired 11 of 14 batters and allowed the White Sox to rally for a 2-1 lead.

But Rodon couldn’t hold it, in part because of a sixth-inning balk call by first-base ump Angel Hernandez that earned pitching coach Don Cooper an ejection. Rodon hit Michael Saunders to start the sixth and he advanced on the balk and tagged up on a fly out to center. The extra 90 feet became critical when Kevin Pillar’s infield single tied it. Todd Frazier made a diving stop on the play at first base and Rodon took one too many steps to tag first base just behind the slide of Pillar.

Rodon allowed two earned runs and six hits with two walks.

The White Sox bullpen picked up the slack. Matt Albers, Nate Jones and Zach Duke combined for 2 1/3 scoreless innings to get the ball to Robertson. Robertson then pitched out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam for his 19th save in 21 tries.

Sky: Delle Donne's 31 points not enough in loss to Liberty

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Associated Press

Sky: Delle Donne's 31 points not enough in loss to Liberty

NEW YORK (AP) — Not even a broken nose could slow down Tina Charles.

She had 21 points and 13 rebounds to lead New York to an 80-79 victory over the Chicago Sky on Friday night for the Liberty's sixth consecutive win — their longest streak in six years.

"I do what my teammates need me to do," Charles said. "I know how much my team relies on me especially not having (Epiphanny Prince) here."

Charles was sporting a clear mask after she broke her nose Wednesday in a double-overtime win over Atlanta.

"It was the first time in my life that I had to wear a mask," the reigning AP player of the week said. "The situation is what it is. It's a contact sport and injuries do happen. I'm just happy that the Hosptial for Special Surgery and our medical staff was able to give me the mask so I could play tonight."

Charles leads the league in scoring and rebounding and had 12 points in the first half to help New York build a 50-40 halftime advantage.

Sugar Rodgers added 13 points for the Liberty (10-4), who are third in the AP power poll. It's the first time since 2001 that New York has won 10 of its first 14 games.

The Liberty led by 11 midway through the fourth before the Sky rallied to 78-77 with 2:24 left. Neither team would score again until Sugar Rodgers hit an acrobatic backdoor floater with 39.5 seconds remaining. Elena Delle Donne answered with a tough pullup nine seconds later.

Chicago let New York run down the clock on its next possession before Charles missed a hook across the lane. Delle Donne got the rebound setting up one final chance for the Sky with just over 2 seconds left, but her jumper from the wing missed.

"Couple things went wrong and we didn't run it to the way we were supposed to," Delle Donne said of the last play. "Things got a little crazy and had to throw up a desperation shot. We wanted more of a post up and that just didn't happen."

She finished with a season-high 31 points to lead Chicago (6-8). Cappie Pondexter added 20 for the seventh-ranked Sky, who have dropped four of five.

Both teams wore warm-up shirts in honor of Orlando club shooting victims. The Liberty donated $10,000 to the OneOrlando fund that was set up to support the victims' families and survivors.

Contreras helps Cubs end 4-game skid by beating Marlins

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USA Today Sports Images

Contreras helps Cubs end 4-game skid by beating Marlins

MIAMI - One week into his major league career, Chicago Cubs super-sub Willson Contreras says he's simply trying to contribute and enjoy himself.

So how much fun is he having?

"A lot," Contreras said, practically shouting the words. "A lot."

No wonder - he's batting .412 with three homers, and the latest helped the Cubs break their longest losing streak of the season at four games by beating the Miami Marlins 5-4 Friday night.

Contreras hit a two-run homer in a four-run first inning, and his RBI single in the seventh put the team with the best record in the majors ahead to stay.

Manager Joe Maddon said Contreras' contribution as a reinforcement for the injury-hampered Cubs has been indispensable.

"It's like oxygen - it's absolutely necessary," Maddon said. "The life he has brought to the group is absolutely necessary. He's different in all the best ways."

While Contreras again excelled as a reinforcement, the NL Central leaders endured another setback when second baseman Ben Zobrist left the game after he was hit by a pitch that bruised his left ankle. X-rays were negative, but Zobrist said he'll likely miss at least one game.

Four pitchers held the Marlins to two hits, including Justin Bour's grand slam.

Each team scored four runs in the first inning, when Kris Bryant and Contreras homered for the Cubs. It was the first time in the majors this year that both teams scored at least four runs in the first, according to ESPN.

Despite the early onslaught, both starters settled down before departing with the score still 4-all.

The Cubs' Kyle Hendricks pitched five innings and allowed only one hit - Bour's slam. All four runs were unearned because of an error by shortstop Addison Russell.

"That was the most grinding of a one-hitter," Hendricks said. "It was a weird game."

Miami's Tom Koehler gave up six consecutive hits in the first but still pitched six innings.

Trevor Cahill (1-2) threw a scoreless sixth. Hector Rondon retired all four batters he faced for his second four-out save in a row, and his 13th overall.

Mike Dunn (0-1) retired only one of the five hitters he faced in the seventh, walking two and hitting Zobrist.

"I can't remember the last time I went out there and couldn't throw anything over the plate," Dunn said. "I didn't give the team a chance."

Dunn also allowed a one-out run-scoring single by Contreras, who has eight RBIs after seven games in the big leagues.

"He looks like an established big league hitter," Hendricks said. "He just hits balls hard. It's really fun to watch. To be that young and come up and do it, it's unbelievable. And we need it right now."

Contreras started at catcher and moved to first base late in the game. He's expected to be in the lineup again Saturday, although he's unsure where.

"I don't know if I'm going to play left field or first base; I caught a few flyballs in right field today," he said. "So I'll be ready, man."