New-look Bulls display same old resiliency in overtime win

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New-look Bulls display same old resiliency in overtime win

PHOENIXBy no means was the Bulls overtime victory over the Suns a clean performance. The visitors to the U.S. Airways Center did a lot of good things Wednesday night, but there were also a lot of negatives.

First off, their inability to completely shut the door on teams is glaring, as the Bulls allowed a rebuilding -- and honestly -- underwhelming Phoenix team to fight back from an 18-point deficit in the third quarter to make it a ballgame in the final stanza and send the contest into an extra session.

Then, there was the fact that the Bulls, known as a blue-collar, defensive-minded, physical team that tends to dominate the glass, let the Suns outwork them inside.

We did a lot of good things to build the lead, to get it to 18 and in the fourth quarter, the initial part of the defense was good, but the thing that got us was Tucker crushing us with the second shot, so not finishing our defense is what got us and their ball pressure, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau explained. Sometimes, I think, on the road, youre not going to get calls, so you have to be strong and you have to go to your pressure releases, you go to your cutting game and once we started going to the cutting game, we got some easy buckets and we also started getting to the free-throw line, so those are things that we have to do better.

On the road, you have to look at why. Was it a result of dribble penetration? Are we getting to bodies? And if youre not getting calls, youve got to make it so you do whatever is necessary to get the ball, he continued. When a teams rebounding like that, you have to look at the makeup of their team and we talked about it before the game. When you have guys like Dudley and Morris and Beasley and Scola and Gortat and Tucker, those guys, theyre big and theyre physical and theyre tough, so when the balls up on the board, youve got to get in that fight. Youre not going to out-rebound a team like that with just one or two guys. It has to be gang-rebounding, our guards have got to get in there, everybodys got to mix it up.

Added Joakim Noah, who pointed the finger at himself: We did a lot of switching, so we have to do a better job of rebounding as a group. I feel like we havent been rebounding as well as we can. I think I personally have to do a better job rebounding, as a center. I know I can rebound better.

Indeed, the Suns won the battle of the boards, 51-46, but that doesnt tell the whole story.

While that and the 31 fourth-quarter points the Bulls gave up were certainly significant, so was their resiliency to pull out a contest that Phoenix clearly had the momentum in going into overtime.

A lot of guys stepped up and played well for us. Carlos was tremendous throughout the game. Joakim, Luol was the usual. Rip played really hard. Kirk and Nate did a great job at the pointso, a lot of guys stepping up. Youve got to play tough on the road. The lesson that we have to learn is we have to play tough with the lead. We got a little loose were throwing lobs, were not strong with the ball so those are things weve got to clean up, but we did a lot of good things to build that lead and then we hung tough in the end, and we found a way to win, Thibodeau said. We solidified our defense, we recognized the way the game was being called and I think you also have to adjust. If the game is being called that way, then youve got to make the adjustment. There was physical play inside and we should enjoy that. Its a good part of the game.

It comes back to we want to keep improving every day. Its a good bounce-back after a tough loss at home, come out, get the next one and now we have to move on to the next game, L.A., the coach, his raspy voice almost hoarse afterwards, went on to say. They showed a lot of toughness. In the end, youve just got to find a way to win. Whatevers necessary, thats what you have to do and I think we did that tonight.

Hamilton told CSNChicago.com: We stayed focused. That was the thing about it. We didnt get down on ourselves when they made a run, but we just said, Okay, weve got to get back to what we started the game with, and thats defending, sharing the ball, making the easy play.

Chimed in Deng: We just stuck with it. They made their run, we kind of lost our composure a little bit, but we executed when it mattered, especially in overtime.

Theyre playing well, theyve got their fans, their guys are scoring. We didnt take them light. We came here to get the win, he continued. We lost three home games. I just felt like it was good for us to get on the road, the team to be together. Its good that we got the win, just try to get the next win now.

Weve got a lot of vets on this team. We did a great job of being calm and letting it come to us.

This is the regular season and for a Thibodeau-coached squad, every game counts. But on the annual Circus Trip, with a team full of newcomers and lowered expectations due to the absence of superstar Derrick Rose, even beating a Phoenix team with thats clearly rebuilding is major step in the sense that this seasons edition of the Bulls are putting together a foundation for down the line.

It feels good to win. They made a hard-fought run. We were up a lot and we just found a way to get the win. Its a good feeling right now to get this win and start the Circus Trip on the right track, Noah observed. Basketball is a game of momentum and they had their crowd into it. They were charged emotionally, they were into it and I think that for us, it was just staying focused and just getting ready for the next plays. It was all about the next play and we got the win.

Added Boozer: "It just was a grind-out game, man. Im going to be honest: On the road, its tough to get wins, so tonight, I thought we did a good job of getting going early. Give them credit: They fought back, put in some guys that played hard.

They took out some of the skilled guys and put all hard workers, he continued. You know how the road is, man. Youve got to come together. Every team plays good at home, so getting a road win is not given to you in the NBA. Its tough to get road wins, I dont care who you play and it was great for our team camaraderie.

"Everybody played great, stepped up. We had guys that made big plays at the end of the game, big free throws. I thought Joakim was amazing, especially in the fourth quarter and overtime. Luol was great, Rip hit some big shots, Kirk made some big free throws, Nate made some big plays. It was fun for us to play a game like this. We hadnt gone to overtime yet. It was fun for us to win a game like this.

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.”