Bulls win dogfight against rival Bucks to snap losing streak

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Bulls win dogfight against rival Bucks to snap losing streak

MILWAUKEETo snap the first three-game losing streak of the Tom Thibodeau era, the Bulls (6-6) relied on two elements that have been there for them since the coach first arrived in Chicago: Defense and rebounding. After trying to keep up with the up-tempo Bucks (6-5) initially, the Bulls went back to the basics and behind a Rip Hamilton flashback performance and a monster night from Carlos Boozer, they won a dogfight of a 93-86 game against their Central Division rival Saturday night at the Bradley Center.

Propelled by point guard Brandon Jennings (23 points, seven assists, five steals), who played like he was happy not to see injured Bulls superstar matching up against him, the Bucks started out on the right note, effectively pushing the pace, as theyve done early this season. Countering for the visitors was Hamilton (22 points), who attacked Milwaukees smallish guardsMonta Ellis (17 points) picked up a pair of quick fouls and was hit with a technical on his way off the courtin the post and via his trademark mid-range jumper.

The Bulls had their own foul difficulties, as starters Joakim Noah and Kirk Hinrich each picked up two fouls in the opening period, but managed to stay in the game, as forwards Boozer (22 points, 19 rebounds) and Luol Deng (14 points, eight rebounds) were productive. However, the up-and-down pace favored the hosts, who adopted an up-tempo style to favor their explosive scoring backcourt, and without stout defense to set the tone, the Bulls trailed, 30-28, through a quarter of play.

Milwaukee built a slight cushion early in the second quarter, as reserves like young big men Larry Sanders and Ekpe Udoh, as well as veteran backup guard Beno Udrih and Ellis, who had returned to the contest, all made an impact. Bulls backup swingman Jimmy Butler, who apparently has earned a more increased role in the rotation, provided energy and was even a primary offensive option for a stretch.

Toward the end of the first half, the contest evolved into a fast-paced shootout, featuring the quick triggers of Jennings and Ellis on one end, while the Bulls, also pushing the tempo, but playing a bit more methodically against Milwaukees set defense, leaned on Boozers interior game and Hamilton, who looked to be in his vintage Pistons contender heyday form. At the intermission, the game was deadlocked at 52 all.

After the break, the Bulls were successful in slowing down the Bucks and forcing them to play against a set defense, resulting in less easy scoring opportunities, although Jennings still converted some high degree-of-difficulty shots and starting forwards Ersan Ilyasova and Tobias Harris were also contributors. However, Milwaukee also clamped down on the defensive end, ensuring that the game remained a close-knit affair, despite the continued efforts of Hamilton and Boozer, in addition to Noah, who was attempting to make up for his foul-related first-half troubles.

One of the Bulls constant issues throughout the young season, turnovers, made a third-quarter appearance and although the Bucks didnt immediately capitalize on all of their guests miscues, ball security was quite the momentum killer for the visitors. Still, it remained a back-and-forth contest, and with Deng stepping up in various ways, Butler and Taj Gibson, Noah playing with his typical energy and the entire group making key defensive stops to close out the period, the Bulls headed into the final stanza with a 72-69 advantage.

The visitors, utilizing a defensive-oriented lineup, held on to their slight edge early in the games final frame, before going back to more scoring-proficient starters Boozer and Hamilton, illustrating the unsettled nature of the Bulls rotation, at least down the stretch of games. Milwaukee relied on its guard triostarters Jennings and Ellis, as well as key reserve Udrih, who made timely shots before giving way to the explosive aforementioned duofor point production, while Boozer emerged as a catalyst for the Bulls, with both his scoring and dominant work on the glass.

As crunch time in the contest approached, the Bulls past staplesdefense and reboundingcame through for them in the clutch, as a crucial Deng tip-in, defensive and stops were major moments late, while Boozer fittingly sealed the deal with a monster follow-up dunk with 29.8 seconds left, giving the visitors a 89-85 lead. Adding insult to injury, on the ensuing possession, after missing a shot, Jennings crumpled to the floor in a heap, apparently suffering an ankle injury and getting carried off the court by his teammates before the Milwaukees last-gasp and ultimately failed attempt at a comeback.

WATCH: Blackhawks play Blues in NHL 17 ahead of Winter Classic showdown

WATCH: Blackhawks play Blues in NHL 17 ahead of Winter Classic showdown

For the third time since the event was created, the Blackhawks will participate in the Winter Classic, facing the St. Louis Blues on Jan. 2, 2017.

To build some hype for the Central Division showdown, which will feature two teams that find themselves battling for the top seed in the Western Conference, Ryan Hartman and Trevor van Riemsdyk of the Blackhawks squared off with Joel Edmundson and Robby Fabbri of the Blues in EA Sports' NHL 17.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Edmunson and Fabbri jumped out to an early 1-0 lead, but the finish would be determined in 3-on-3 overtime.

Check out who came out on top in the video below:

Tyson Ross could be one of the final pieces for Cubs’ offseason puzzle

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AP

Tyson Ross could be one of the final pieces for Cubs’ offseason puzzle

Tyson Ross could be one of the final pieces of the offseason puzzle as the Cubs try to defend their World Series title while still planning for the future.

The Cubs left this week’s winter meetings in Maryland still involved in the Ross talks, sources said, monitoring an intriguing pitcher they had targeted before the 2015 trade deadline.

The San Diego Padres didn’t really buy or sell during that pennant race and made another curious decision last week when they didn’t offer Ross a contract for 2017. MLB Trade Rumors projected Ross would have made $9.6 million during his final year in the arbitration system.

After issues involving his right shoulder wiped out almost his entire season, Ross underwent surgery in October to address thoracic outlet syndrome.

Ross was San Diego’s Opening Day starter during a 15-0 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers, but didn’t pitch again, clouding a future that once had him looking like a trade-deadline chip and one of the best pitchers in the free-agent class after the 2017 season.

That’s when Jake Arrieta will be looking for his megadeal and John Lackey might be in retirement and Jon Lester will be turning 34. That’s why the Cubs are so focused on pitching this winter and trying to balance out an organization tilted toward hitters.

[SHOP CUBS: Get your World Series champions gear right here]

Kyle Hendricks proved he will be a pitcher to build around – and the Cubs believe Mike Montgomery can evolve from a swingman into a fifth starter and maybe something far more valuable – but depth is a real issue.

Ross made 30-plus starts in 2014 and 2015, when he earned an All-Star selection and accounted for almost 400 innings combined. He will turn 30 in April and is seen as a positive force within the clubhouse. He has a 6-foot-6 frame, a second-round-pick pedigree and a Cal-Berkeley education.

Reports have already linked the Texas Rangers and Pittsburgh Pirates to Ross and not completely ruled out a return to San Diego. During an offseason where the free-agent market is essentially devoid of reliable frontline starters, there could be sticker shock, even with a rehabbing pitcher.

Trading for Wade Davis meant the Cubs were out of the bidding for Greg Holland, another All-Star closer who helped turn the Kansas City Royals into World Series champions. Holland spent this year recovering from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, but he will still be in position to capitalize after Mark Melancon, Aroldis Chapman and eventually Kenley Jansen reset the market for closers.

With Ross, the Cubs will have to get a better sense of the medical picture and the price for all that upside.

Beyond a winning culture, the Cubs can sell the pitching infrastructure that helped turn Arrieta into a Cy Young Award winner and transform Hendricks into an ERA leader and keep the rotation remarkably healthy.

“Those really talented pitchers are going to be in demand, even those that are coming off an injury,” Cubs president Theo Epstein said this week at National Harbor. “We’ll stay engaged on some of those guys, but they’ll have to be just the right talent.

“We’ll have to feel good about the medical and the return to play. And the fit on the club would have to be right, too. But the true elite guys have a real market, even if they’re coming off down seasons.”