Bulls' poor shooting leads to home loss to Hornets

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Bulls' poor shooting leads to home loss to Hornets

There will be nights like the previous evening, when seemingly every shot goes in for the Bulls (2-1), who shot nearly 64 percent from the field against the Cavaliers, and there will be games like Saturdays 89-82 loss to the Hornets (2-1) at the United Center. The teams offense-by-committee approach, which looks like a model of team basketball when executed to perfection, has its downside when the Bulls miss approximately two-thirds of their shot attempts, which occurred against New Orleans.

Coming off Fridays wire-to-wire dominance in Cleveland, it was surprising to see the Bulls come out lackadaisical against the undermanned HornetsChicago native and No. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis didnt make the trip after suffering a concussion and Eric Gordon, who was present following a trip to a Windy City knee specialist, but on the bench, as he will be for another four to six weeks reportedlyin the back-to-back affair. Al-Farouq Aminu and Austin Rivers, son of the Celtics coachin addition to being Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeaus former boss, Doc is a Chicago nativesparked the visitors with transition scoring and slashing half-court drives, respectively.

The hosts eventually woke up, by virtue of the fast-break play theyve emphasized since the preseason, and began to narrow the gap. An unexpected source, backup shooting Marco Belinelli (13 points), then became the catalyst, having his best stretch since he arrived in Chicagothe Italian sharpshooter knocked down a trey and a high-flying fast-break dunk against his former team, among other positive playsto help the Bulls pull to within 21-18 at the conclusion of the opening period.

Using the momentum from the end of the first quarter, the Bulls continued to make strides, with All-Star Luol Deng (19 points, eight rebounds, four assists) led the second unit as a go-to scorer. Taj Gibson (12 points, five rebounds, three blocked shots) was also a contributor in the home teams comeback effort, which was ultimately successful, as the Bulls seized the lead, as well as control of the game.

Joakim Noah (11 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, two blocks) started to pick up his play, as well, but the New Orleans inside tandem of Robin Lopez (16 points, seven rebounds, four blocked shots) and Ryan Anderson (12 points, 13 rebounds) both got it going, along with veteran reserve Roger Mason, making the contest a close-knit affair. Hornets point guard Greivis Vasquez (18 points, six assists) sparked the guests late in the half and after draining a pair of triples, the Bulls trailed, 46-44, at the intermission.

After the break, Vasquezs solid play continued, as did Lopez in the pivot and with the home team having ball-security issues and lapses on defense, the Hornets gradually acquired some breathing room. Lopezs offensive improvement was noticeable, but his interior presence, along with that of his teammates, were major deterrents at the rim for the hosts.

Deng tried to keep the Bulls in the game with his scoring, but couldnt do it alone and attempts to chip away at the deficit were negligible. Heading into the final stanza, the Bulls were still down. 66-60.

Gibson battled inside and Deng continued to manufacture offense, but timely scoring from various Hornets, particularly Vasquez and reserve big man Jason Smith (16 points), kept the Bullswhich rode a lineup of starters Deng and Noah for extended minutes, alongside backups Belinelli, Gibson and point guard Nate Robinson (15 points) to close out the gameat bay. To the call the contest a defensive struggle would be false, as the Bulls simply missed shots, but managed stay within contact due to hustle plays, getting to the foul line and their defense, though their play on that side of the ball wasnt up to their usual stellar standards.

Down the stretch, the Bulls stayed within striking distance and with under a minute to go, Belinelli had a chance to make it a one-point game, but he missed a three-pointer under duress and to compound the issue, Gibson was called for pushing off while trying to corral the offensive rebound, leading to Smith knocking down a pair of free throws to make it 83-77 with 53.5 seconds to go. The hosts kept fighting, but even with Thibodeau coaching until the final buzzer, the defense forcing turnovers and Robinson hitting long-range bombs, it was too late to make a difference.

James Shields earns first victory as White Sox top Twins

James Shields earns first victory as White Sox top Twins

James Shields received his first standing ovation of the season at U.S. Cellular Field as he headed to the dugout on Wednesday night.

The White Sox starter settled in after another shaky start and his offense kicked it into high gear in an 9-6 victory over the Minnesota Twins in front of 18,571. Shields limited the Twins to a leadoff solo homer in the first inning and pitched into the seventh to earn his first win for the White Sox. Brett Lawrie, Tyler Saladino and Todd Frazier all homered for the White Sox, who have won six of their last nine and are 39-39. Nate Jones earned the save after Matt Purke and Dan Jennings combined to allow five runs in the ninth inning.

The scenario looked all too familiar for Shields as Eduardo Nunez opened the game with a solo home run on an 0-1 pitch to put the Twins ahead.

Shields, who had a 21.81 ERA in his first three starts with the White Sox, two of which resulted in him being booed off the mound by the home crowd, found even more trouble. He recorded pair of outs but walked Brian Dozier and he scooted to third on Trevor Plouffe’s single. But more in line with his last start in Boston, Shields took another big step forward and got out of trouble, stranding two. Two innings later, Shields worked around consecutive singles to start the third as he induced double play off Joe Mauer’s bat and Dozier’s bunt attempt resulted in a comebacker.

Adam Eaton assisted Shields in a big way in the fifth inning when he easily threw out Kurt Suzuki at home. Suzuki, who started the play on first, was forced home as Nunez nearly caught him speeding into third. But Shields stranded Nunez in scoring position as well as another runner in the sixth. He recorded two more outs before giving way after a Byron Buxton double.

As he exited, Shields was showered with applause from the appreciative crowd.

He allowed a run and eight hits in 6 2/3 innings, striking out five and walking one.

One night after they couldn’t provide for Jose Quintana, the White Sox offense went overboard for Shields. Lawrie’s opposite-field solo homer with two outs in the second inning off Ricky Nolasco tied the game at 1. J.B. Shuck then singled, stole second and scored on an RBI single by Avisail Garcia.

The White Sox never looked back as Saladino’s solo shot in the fifth made it a 3-1 game. Frazier started a five-run sixth inning with a solo homer -- the team’s 13th consecutive solo homer. Saladino singled in a run with two outs to chase Nolasco and make it 5-1. Tim Anderson’s two-run single made it a blowout and Eaton singled him in to make it 8-1. Shuck added a sac fly in the seventh for the White Sox, who went 5-for-11 with runners in scoring position.

Denzel Valentine: Bulls' versatility will 'make us so dangerous'

Denzel Valentine: Bulls' versatility will 'make us so dangerous'

The Bulls are undergoing a "retooling" in their backcourt after dealing Derrick Rose to the Knicks, drafting Denzel Valentine and attempting to re-sign E'Twaun Moore in free agency.

That, combined with Jimmy Butler, the addition of Jerian Grant and an already versatile frontcourt will give Fred Hoiberg plenty of options that Valentine believes will make the Bulls "dangerous" in 2016-17.

"I think that's going to make us so dangerous this year, is we are versatile with our guards," He said on Wednesday night's White Sox broadcast. "And in those three positions I feel like we're going to be able to guard and do a lot of things offensively and throw a lot at you when we're coming down on offense. And the defensive end, too.

"I think we're going to have a really good team this year with all that we have, and I'm glad to be part of the building year, or whatever you want to call it."

On paper the Bulls will have more versatility than a year ago. Valentine is capable of playing either wing position and can handle the ball, though he doesn't project as a point guard. Butler can play and defend four positions, and Grant is capable of playing either guard spot. Bringing back E'Twaun Moore would benefit that versatility greatly, as he's capable of playing on or off the ball.

In the frontcourt, the Bulls will need to replace Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah, neither of whom provided much versatility. Robin Lopez is entrenched at center, which will give the Bulls' stretch forwards Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis more room to roam the perimeter.

Wherever Valentine plays, and however Hoiberg uses him in Year 1, the Michigan State rookie said he's ready to do what's asked of him from a franchise known for winning.

"My job is to just come in, do what I can do best and just work on my game and try to lead as best as I can," he said on SportsTalk Live (in the video above). "I'm not coming in to step on anybody's toes but I'm going to do what I can to lead and be a good teammate and try to win some games."

White Sox P Zach Putnam: 'It was definitely time to speak up' about injured elbow

White Sox P Zach Putnam: 'It was definitely time to speak up' about injured elbow

He’s evaluating his options and hopes for the best, but Zach Putnam knew it was time to speak up to the White Sox about his right elbow.  

The White Sox right-hander is on the 15-day disabled list with ulnar neuritis in his right elbow. His options are two types of surgery, including reconstructive elbow surgery, or to rehab the injury. Putnam said he’s constantly dealt with some general soreness in the same area in which he had bone spurs removed during an August 2013 surgery. But some of the pain Putnam -- who has a 2.30 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 27 1/3 innings this season -- recently has felt is beyond what he had previously experienced.

“My last two outings … I started having some pretty serious issues again that I couldn’t ignore,” Putnam said. “It’s one of those things were you’ve got to try to find the line between what you can work through and what’s typical reliever stuff and when to say something. I felt like in my opinion that it was definitely time to speak up.”

“I was having a hard time throwing strikes, losing some feeling in my fingers. It was starting to become an issue. Like I said, we are trying to address it non-surgically and hope for the best. Worst-case scenario, yeah probably end up having something done. But we are going to try to avoid that.”

Putnam has been working out, but hasn’t thrown a baseball. The current plan calls for resting his arm and letting the inflammation die down. But he could at least attempt to play catch again soon, perhaps this weekend when he accompanies the team to Houston.

“I’m just not doing baseball specific stuff,” Putnam said. “I’m not throwing right now. That may change in the next couple of days as we try to ramp it back up. We are not going to waste too much time down from throwing. It kind of defeats the purpose.”

“I’m going to continue to work on it every day and maybe start throwing for the first time over the weekend. Not totally sure. As I say, it’s day to day. Every day I come in, we try to evaluate. Meeting with team doctors every other day to try to figure out where we are at and what the next step is.”