Noah, Bulls tangle with Cavaliers on CSN


Noah, Bulls tangle with Cavaliers on CSN

Center Joakim Noah took the role of an extended offensive role in the Bulls season opener, scoring a game-high 23 points in Chicagos 93-87 win over Sacramento Wednesday at the United Center. Hell face a stiff test tonight when the Bulls travel to Cleveland to take on Kyrie Iriving, Anderson Varejao and the Cavaliers on Comcast SportsNet. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live.

Varejao, who missed the Cavaliers final 41 games last season with a broken wrist, showed no ill-effects in the home opener against the Wizards, scoring nine points, grabbing 23 rebounds and handing out nine assists in a 94-84 win. Varejao also blocked two shots in 37 minutes, which should make for an enticing matchup with Noah.

The Bulls center was aggressive on Wednesday against the Kings frontcourt duo of DeMarcus Cousins and Jason Thompson. Along with his 6-of-12 shooting, Noah also made 11-of-12 free throws, while Cousins played just 25 minutes with four fouls. Varejao also picked up four fouls in Wednesday nights matchup with Washington, and his aggressive defensive play could play right into the hands of Noah and Carlos Boozer, who got to the line five times himself.

Defensively, the Bulls held the Kings to 40.5 percent shooting on Wednesday. Specifically, point guards Isaiah Thomas and Aaron Brooks were a combined 6-of-18 from the field as Kirk Hinrich and Nate Robinson were impressive in Game 1 of the Derrick Rose-less era. But theyll get their first true test tonight against Kyrie Irving, the 2011 No. 1 overall pick who scored 29 points on Opening Night.

Irving missed two of the three matchups against the Bulls his rookie season, but hes one of the up-and-coming bright stars in the NBA who showed no ill effects of having four teeth pulled earlier this week. Irving was the one of two Cavaliers to score more than 12 points on Wednesday, so the defensive plan is simple: shut down Irving, shut down the Cavs. The two veteran point guards in the Bulls backcourt should do the job.

The other key matchups also will be veterans against youngsters, as Boozer matches up against Tristan Thompson, last years No. 4 overall pick. Boozers jump shot was working Wednesday, as he made 5-of-8 shots from the outside that freed up the paint later in the game, where he made his other three field goals. Tonight will also mark Taj Gibson's first game since agreeing to a four-year, 38 million contract extension with the Bulls. It's a sure bet the sixth man will want to assert himself two days after shoring up his future in Chicago.

13-year veteran Richard Hamilton, who scored 19 points in the opener, will match up on rookie Dion Waiters, who added 17 of his own against the Wizards. Hamilton showed spark on the offensive end, but had trouble against Tyreke Evans drives (8-13 FG, 4-4 FT). Like Evans, Waiters wants to get to the basket early and often. Stout defense inside may be the key if Hamilton has problems keeping up.

The veteran-youth disparity between these two teams should play into the Bulls hands. The youthful Cavaliers turned the ball over 20 times in their Wednesday win, while Chicago forced Sacramento into 19 miscues themselves.

Expect a defensive battle tonight against two Central division foes. The Bulls travel on the road for the first time in 2012, but enter Cleveland riding a six-game winning streak. Luol Deng (3-13 FG against Sacramento) should find his touch while stiff defense against a Cavalier team shallow on the bench could cause problems for the young Cavaliers.

In Game 1, Jon Lester doesn't quite live up to his World Series reputation: 'We got a long ways to go'

In Game 1, Jon Lester doesn't quite live up to his World Series reputation: 'We got a long ways to go'

CLEVELAND – While the Cubs came into this World Series as the heavy favorites, the team with the global following and baseball’s best roster on paper, Jon Lester understood the challenge ahead. The Cleveland Indians would counter with their own Game 1 ace, a dynamic reliever changing the way we think about bullpens and a future Hall of Fame manager.

That’s how it played out in a 6-0 game that felt a lot closer, Corey Kluber pitching like a Cy Young Award winner, Andrew Miller handling the seventh and eighth innings and Terry Francona improving his record to 9-0 in World Series games.     

Welcome to “Believeland,” where the Fourth Street bars on Tuesday were buzzing more than seven hours before first pitch. That night, LeBron James and the Cavaliers would get their championship rings and watch the banner-raising ceremony at Quicken Loans Arena, just up the street from Progressive Field.

By the first inning – when pitching coach Chris Bosio had to walk out to the mound to talk to Lester – the red video ribbons lining the stadium said: “CLEVELAND AGAINST THE WORLD.” With the bases loaded, Lester had just drilled Brandon Guyer with a pitch, forcing in a second run, a sequence set in motion by walks to Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana and Jose Ramirez’s soft infield single up the third-base line.

It didn’t matter that Lester would eventually settle down and pretty much control this Cleveland lineup. (Except for that rocket Roberto Perez launched off the left-field railing for a solo homer and a 3-0 lead in the fourth inning.) Or that the Indians didn’t run all over the bases, with Francisco Lindor going 1-for-2 in stolen bases. (“Whatever, it’s happened all year," Lester said.)

[SHOP: Buy a "Try Not to Suck" shirt with proceeds benefiting Joe Maddon's Respect 90 Foundation & other Cubs Charities]  

This is Cleveland’s blueprint for October, maybe its only chance to win its first World Series since 1948.

“It’s always important (to get a lead), no matter what time of year it is,” Lester said. “It makes a manager’s job a lot easier. It makes your job a lot easier. When you give a guy like Kluber – who’s locked in from pitch one – two runs in the first, it makes his job a lot easier. I know the feeling on the other side. You’re just able to attack differently.

“With the bullpens and all that stuff that they’re setting up nowadays, all you got to do is get through six.”

Lester kept it a 3-0 game, but didn’t finish the sixth inning, a rare October night where he didn’t seem to be automatic. Until Tuesday night, he had gone 3-0 in three World Series starts, allowing only one earned run in 21 innings.

Lester won his two World Series rings with the Boston Red Sox, overlapping with Francona and Miller at different points. This is why the Cubs gave Lester a $155 million contract, to set the tone on the mound and within the clubhouse.

Near the end of a 103-win regular season – and even after winning the franchise’s first pennant in 71 years – Lester has offered colorful versions of: We haven’t done anything yet.

But Lester – the National League Championship Series co-MVP after putting up a 1.38 ERA against the Los Angeles Dodgers and watching the Cubs win both of those starts – also doesn’t do overreactions to losses.

“We got a long ways to go,” Lester said. “If we win tomorrow, we’re right back in it. Just like LA – everybody counted us out after Game 3. They said we were the worst best team in baseball. We’re here. We’re not giving up.

“I know my guys. I know my team. And I know that nobody in this clubhouse is giving anything up.”

Andrew Miller's outstanding postseason continues with escape to beat Cubs

Andrew Miller's outstanding postseason continues with escape to beat Cubs

CLEVELAND — Andrew Miller added another impressive chapter to an already legendary postseason performance on Tuesday night.

The Cleveland Indians reliever pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the seventh inning to preserve a three-run lead and help his team achieve a 6-0 victory over the Cubs in Game 1 of the World Series in front of 38,091 at Progressive Field.

Despite putting four men on base, Miller added two more scoreless innings to his 2016 playoff résumé. Miller also struck out more three batters, giving him 24 in 13 2/3 innings this postseason, the second most by any reliever in playoff history. Critical to the effort was the strikeout of Cubs veteran David Ross with a checked swing on a 3-2 slider to strand the bases loaded in the seventh.

“You’re just trying to see the ball as long as you can and stay up the middle,” Ross said. “The 3-1, that’s the one that kinda messed me up. It didn’t break as much, so now you’re like ‘OK, let’s protect and just battle.’ ... Looking back at it, I wish I just stood there and not swung at all. If I could rewind. If it were that easy. I wish it was. And then he’d throw one right down the middle and America hates me.”

Ross has had his share of success against Miller before, though it all came when the left-hander was still a struggling starting pitcher. The veteran catcher is 3-for-5 with a walk against Miller in his career. But that wasn’t the reason Cubs manager Joe Maddon opted to stay with Ross instead of pinch hit for him with either Jorge Soler or Albert Almora Jr. with two outs in the seventh inning and Miller struggling for the first time all postseason.

With a man on and nobody out, Miller took over for Corey Kluber and walked Kyle Schwarber — only Miller’s third free pass of the postseason. Javy Baez followed with a single to load the bases.

But Miller rebounded quickly and retired Willson Contreras on a fly out to shallow center before he struck out Addison Russell. Based on his experience, Maddon thought Ross was the right man for the spot.

[SHOP: Buy a "Try Not to Suck" shirt with proceeds benefiting Joe Maddon's Respect 90 Foundation & other Cubs Charities]

“I thought David could hit him or David would accept his walk more than the other guys,” Maddon said. “David works good at-bats in that moment. So I felt good about him, actually. I felt better about him.

“I think with Soler coming off the bench or Albert they had less of a chance than David because I thought there was a two-fold opportunity to either get the hit or draw the walk.”

Ross worked the count to his favor quickly as he took a fastball for a ball, and after swinging and missing a slider, took two more balls to get ahead 3-1. But Miller dropped a slider in for a called strike and then turned to it once again, getting Ross to commit just enough for the third strike. The strikeout improved the Indians’ chances of winning by 26.5 percent, up to 94.7, according to

“I was trying to throw a really good one because if he hits it, it goes a long way,” Miller said. “That’s David Ross. I think even he would say, you can pitch to him, but if you throw something in his wheelhouse it’s going to go a long way and do some damage. Fortunate that it worked out. I threw a good one that was in a spot that he went after in the situation.”

Miller struggled again in the eighth inning as he walked Kris Bryant and allowed a Ben Zobrist single with two outs. But Miller — who allowed two hits and two walks for the first time all season in 77 appearances — struck out Kyle Schwarber to strand the pair.

The Indians’ key acquisition before the July 31 trade deadline threw 46 pitches, the most he’s thrown in a game since Sept. 8, 2011, when he was still a starter.

Indians manager Terry Francona wouldn’t commit to whether or not he’d use Miller in Game 2 on Wednesday. Francona cited how Miller bounced back after throwing 40 pitches in a Game 1 victory over Boston in the American League Division Series and would have been ready if needed. But any number of factors could keep Miller from pitching, and Francona is happy to have a 1-0 series lead in his pocket.

“I don’t know,” Francona said. “He was ready to come back and pitch the next night. I just think there’s a lot that can happen.

“But we won tonight. I think when you have a lead, you try to win.”