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.

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."