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.

Why Jimmy Butler wanted Dwyane Wade to sign with Bulls

Why Jimmy Butler wanted Dwyane Wade to sign with Bulls

When Dwyane Wade’s re-signing with the Miami Heat went from a forgone conclusion to a question mark, the Chicago Bulls and Jimmy Butler got involved in a whirlwind courtship that resulted in Friday's all-smiles press conference.

The Bulls came with the tangibles, the respect in the form of $47 million. Butler came with the intangibles—and respect as the two had critical conversations that lead to Wade finally making the leap to trek back home to Chicago after 13 years on the beach.

It was why Wade was so comfortable at his own introductory news conference to cede the spotlight to Butler Friday afternoon, the savvy veteran understanding Butler was in attendance and giving Butler the affirmation he quietly craved in front of a national TV audience.

“Jimmy Butler, everybody! Jimmy, you gonna come out with your muscles out and everything, though? You got oil on...,” Wade said jokingly, motioning to Butler as Butler stood amongst many to the side, having just finished an on-court workout with his trainer.

Wade was reciprocating what Butler had initiated during free agency during those conversations, as the only question there is to be answered is how the two will mesh on the floor as opposed to the assumption of clashing personalities.

“Just what we can do if we were to play basketball together. I said look man, I’m okay with whatever role you want me to play,” said Butler to CSNChicago.com in an exclusive interview after Team USA beat Venezuela 80-45 Friday at the United Center, with Wade sitting next to Team USA’s bench. “But we can win games if you’re here with us. So that’s basically how it went.

“I was telling him, of all the things that have been said, I’m here to win. I don’t care what role I’m supposed to play, whose team it is, you come here, we’ll win games.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

Free agent acquisitions Wade and Rajon Rondo have openly said Butler is the first name on the basketball masthead, but Butler has termed them “the three Alphas”. Regardless of what Butler has said before publicly about not being concerned with his standing in the locker room of the Chicago Bulls, he’s feeling more and more comfortable with the position of leadership—perhaps emboldened by the validation of the two.

“Outside of all of that, all anybody wants is to be wanted,” Butler said. “He wants me to step up and lead. He wants this to be my team. Just like I wanted him for my team. That mutual respect, us being honest with each other like that, that’s where it starts. That’s the foundation.”

Establishing a pecking order is easier when the players who see this version of Jimmy Butler only know this version of Butler. The player who has evolved into an All-Star and Olympian, not necessarily the 30th pick in the 2011 NBA Draft.

Both attributes are true, but there’s something to be said about initial impressions and how they stick.

“Moving forward, I’m gonna do my best, whatever it takes to help us win games,” Butler said. “I don’t think people understand how serious I am when I say I want to (freaking) win a championship. I’m not playing.”

Rondo and Wade have the championship receipts, so it’s unlikely they’ll allow Butler to go unchecked if his methods aren’t parallel with his words. Given the appointed title Butler gave the three, it doesn’t sound like they would let him slide regardless.

“That’s what I wanted him here, that’s why I wanted Rondo here,” Butler said. “Because they’ve done it, they know what it takes. I want them to show me. If I’m not listening, make me listen.”

When told he could be bullheaded and stubborn, Butler agreed.

“I agree, I can (be). Fine. It only makes me better,” Butler said. “If you’re on my tail all the time it only makes me better. I want that. I like that. If I’m (messing) around, you tell me, you let me know, you’re better than that. You’re right. I’m gonna respond in a positive manner and I’m gonna do what I’m supposed to be doing.”

[RELATED: Third time's a charm as Dwyane Wade embraces Bulls and Jimmy Butler as leader]

Butler used a lot of “my team” and “my guys” but one can surmise it’s less about ownership and possessiveness compared to investment—the sweat equity that earns his respect and admiration more than any single attribute.

“I respect a lot of things but I think your confidence comes from your work,” Butler said. “I’m a firm believer in that. I’m successful because of that. I just put in the time. I know these guys put in the time.”

“I respect that s**t. I’m going to war with you everyday when I know in my heart that your best interest is to help us win. I’m all about that.”

Whether Butler felt some of his old teammates were moving all tides in the same direction, he wouldn’t say—and the former Bulls probably wouldn’t on elaborate on their feelings, either.

“I think man, it was a lot of mixes of everything,” he said. “We weren’t winning games we wanted to win. We were in and out the lineup, so many guys.

“I don’t wanna use any excuses but that had something to do with it. We have a whole new team, we gotta move forward. I’m happy for those new guys, I want them to be successful on their new team.”

But he admits last season was one to learn from, and falls back on the work that he hopes will lead to others following willingly.

“You grow. You learn. You grow. I’m six years into this thing,” Butler said. “I’ve made a name for myself. I’ve done a lot with basketball since I started. I think I’m only gonna start to get better. I pray I only continue to get better because I do work. I really do work.”

Preview: Arrieta, Cubs look to stay hot vs. Mariners today on CSN

Preview: Arrieta, Cubs look to stay hot vs. Mariners today on CSN

Jake Arrieta and the Cubs look to stay hot against the Mariners today, and you can catch all the action on Comcast SportsNet. Coverage begins with Cubs Pregame Live at 12:30 p.m. Then catch first pitch with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

Starting pitching matchup: Wade Miley (6-8, 5.23 ERA) vs. Jake Arrieta (12-4, 2.76 ERA)

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

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White Sox lose third straight, fall to Twins in 12 innings

White Sox lose third straight, fall to Twins in 12 innings

MINNEAPOLIS -- Now that he’s an All-Star, Jose Quintana feels more responsibility for the well-being of the White Sox, if that’s even possible.

Too bad his teammates haven’t held up their end.

On Friday night, Quintana continued a superb run since he returned from his first All-Star Game with nine strikeouts. But the White Sox couldn’t match their pitcher’s confidence as the offense produced six hits and the bullpen faltered late in a 2-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins in 12 innings in front of 23,983 at Target Field. Tommy Kahnle’s bases-loaded walk of Joe Mauer sent the White Sox, who were without Todd Frazier, to their third straight loss. Their record dropped to 50-53.

“After (the All-Star Game), I feel more confidence in me and more responsibility for my team, too,” Quintana said. “We have good players, a good rotation, everybody is throwing good and good hitters. But sometimes you see tough games like tonight.”

Quintana has been outstanding in three starts since he earned his first-ever All-Star nod earlier this month. He didn’t take long to establish that fact on Friday after the first two batters reached on a double and an error, striking out Minnesota’s 3-4-5 hitters to escape the jam. Starting with those strikeouts, Quintana retired 13 of 15 batters into the sixth inning.

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

While he allowed the Twins to tie it at 1 with a run in the sixth, Quintana escaped a potential game-changing jam. Adam Eaton offered assistance when he threw Miguel Sano out at home on Kennys Vargas’s game-tying RBI single. But Quintana stranded a pair in scoring position when he struck out Eduardo Escobar. He retired two more in the seventh before handing the game over to the bullpen.

Since the All-Star break, Quintana has a 0.93 ERA over 19 1/3 innings in three starts. He has allowed 16 hits and two runs with five walks and 20 strikeouts. Even so, Quintana often goes unrewarded for his effort as his 8-8 record would indicate.

“I stood in on a lot of his bullpens when I was coming back,” said veteran Jusin Morneau, who went 1-for-3 in his first regular season game at Target Field since 2013. “You could just stand there because you didn’t have to worry about him missing his spot too often. He can throw pretty hard and throw where he wants to. It’s unfortunate we don’t score more runs when he’s out there because he could easily be 14 and whatever the way he’s throwing the ball. He’s an important part of this team.”

Another key cog, Frazier was scratched with flu-like symptoms before first pitch. He was only available in an emergency, manager Robin Ventura said. Without Frazier, the White Sox looked listless against Ricky Nolasco, who completed eight innings for the first time since 2014.

Eaton -- who had two outfield assists and has 16 this season -- led off the game with a 451-foot solo homer off Nolasco. From there Nolasco settled down and retired 15 of 17 into the sixth inning. Morneau’s second-inning single just missed being a solo homer. But aside from that, the White Sox did little well.

[RELATED: Robin Ventura doesn't want to see Sale or Quintana traded]

They had a promising chance wiped out in the seventh inning after a leadoff double by Melky Cabrera as Nolasco struck out Jose Abreu and retired Morneau and Dioner Navarro.

Nolasco allowed a run and three hits with six strikeouts in eight innings.

The bullpen then shut the White Sox down for four more innings. Dan Jennings took over in the bottom of the 12th and hit one batter and walked another. Kahnle took over and walked Brian Dozier and Mauer to end the game.

“You feel like you gave it to ‘em,” Ventura said. “We’ve been struggling anyway. But I think with his breaking ball, (Nolasco) just had us fishing for strikes. … It seemed like we were chasing stuff all night.

“All (losses) hurt. But when you’re only chalking up one run and guys are going out and pitching pretty good, that’s the one that hurts.”