With the likes of Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and Steve Nash on the court, as well as more scoring-proficient teammates Carlos Boozer, Rip Hamilton and Joakim Noah leading scorer Luol Deng missed his second consecutive game with a strained right hamstring Kirk Hinrich might have been the least likely player one would have predicted to have a scoring explosion.But Monday night at the United Center, the veteran point guard showed that when called upon, hes still capable of being a force to be reckoned with, as his 22 points on 9-for-11 shooting, as well as second-year swingman Jimmy Butlers solid defense on Bryant, propelled the Bulls (24-16) to a 95-83 triumph over the reeling Lakers (17-24).The hosts scored the first six points of the contest, four of which were by Noah (13 rebounds), who obviously wasnt in danger of being benched again by Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau after sitting out the final 22:53 of the squads previous outing, Saturday nights overtime loss to Memphis.Noah, who also made his presence felt with his typically high activity level on both ends, received offensive assistance from veterans Hamilton (13 points) and Boozer (14 points) in the early going, though they were countered by the outside marksmanship of floor general Steve Nash, the aggressive play of former Bull Metta World Peace (12 points) and the contributions of fellow forward Earl Clark (12 points), who started in place of Pau Gasol (15 points, 12 rebounds), now relegated to a reserve role.Hinrich (eight assists, seven rebounds, 3-for-4 3-point shooting), usually the fifth scoring option out of the Bulls starters, didnt permit the Lakers to disregard him offensively, knocking down a pair of early triplesbefore picking up his second foul, continuing his trend of early foul troubleto help the home team build a slim cushion.Hamilton, who looked to drive to the basket more often than usual, continued to be a factor on offense, while Noah played with a lot of energya foregone conclusion, not only because of the aforementioned benching, but his matchup with Howard, as Thibodeau frequently used the departed Omer Asik to defend him in the pastand along with the support of their teammates, the Bulls held a 27-20 advantage at the conclusion of the opening period.Backup point guard Nate Robinson (11 points) took his turn at sparking the Bulls next, hitting a pair of three-pointers, in addition to a late first-quarter triplenot to mention an emphatic post-whistle blocked shot on Howard (eight points, nine rebounds), which energized the crowdto help the hosts, who also got a lift from an active Taj Gibson, acquire a double-digit lead.Veteran Nazr Mohammed was inserted into the contest specifically to defend Howard, leading to the two centers getting tangled up midway through the second period, with the result being a technical foul on the Chicago native.Bryant (16 points on 7-for-22 shooting) started to heat up for the visitors as halftime drew closer and along with the long and athletic Clark, helped narrow the gap, minimizing the Bulls loyalists previously frenzied state.But the hosts maintained their separation from their guests and at the intermission, the Bulls led, 47-40.After the break, the Bulls combination of defense and transition playa sequence in which a Noah block led to a textbook fast break, resulting in a Hinrich layupset the tone and helped the hosts again briefly possess a double-digit winning margin.The Lakers, buoyed by World Peaces hard-nosed style and the continued contributions of Clarkthrough the midway point of the third quarter, Bryant was mostly passive on offense and Howard was a non-factordidnt let things get out of hand, but with the veteran backcourt of Hamilton and Hinrich leading the charge, the Bulls appeared to be in control.The visitors fought back, however, slicing into the deficit, as Nash (18 points, six assists) and Bryant focused on playmaking and Gasol, gave them a boost off the bench to gradually make it a close-knit affair.Although the Lakers briefly seized their first lead of the evening on a Bryant transition layup with less than a minute to play in the period, it was fleeting, as two Butler (10 points, eight rebounds, four assists) free throws tied the score for the Bulls, but still, heading into the final stanza, the game was knotted up at 69 apiece.Butler, who played dogged defense on Bryant all night long, sparked the Bulls at the outset of the fourth quarter and while the game remained tight, working against the hosts was Noah picking up his fifth foul at the 7:26 mark of the period, though Howard was whistled for a fifth of his own with 6:41 remaining, putting both starting centers on the bench as the game entered its stretch run.Hinrichs scoring remained a theme for the Bulls, who bought themselves some breathing room, as the likes of Butler and Belinellithe latters clutch three-point shooting extended the lead to double digitsalso hit timely deep jumpers to keep the visitors at bay for the time being.Another Hinrich jumper, over the defensively-deficient Nash, with 1:56 left, seemed to be the Lakers death knell, as it was followed by a Boozer jumper to give the Bulls a 14-point lead, the biggest spread of the evening.Following a Gasol dunk, Boozer knocked down another free-throw line jumper with under a minute on the clock and it was all academic after that, with the Bulls claiming a victory over the leagues most talented, yet dysfunctional squad.
The party that started Saturday night on the north side of town had vibes that stretched all the way west of downtown, as the Chicago Bulls players and coaches soaked themselves in Cubs fever.
Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg has been a lifelong Cubs fan due to growing up in Iowa and of course, Dwyane Wade came back home at the right time to witness the Cubs winning the pennant for the first time since 1945.
“It’s been fun, it’s been fun to watch. I’ve talked about how together that team is, how much of confidence, how much of a swagger they play with,” Hoiberg said. “It’s just a fun team that looks like it has unbelievable chemistry.”
Playfully, Hoiberg admitted he went streaking in Wrigleyville after the Cubs finished off the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series at Wrigley Field—although if he actually had been streaking, Hoiberg probably would’ve blended in with the deliriousness that took place well into Saturday night.
Seriously, though, Hoiberg admires the unity and joy the Cubs have played with all season—embracing the expectations without letting themselves get engulfed in them.
“It’s a team that I think you can learn from with what they’re doing and the backing that they have from the city,” Hoiberg said. “Cubs fans, from the time they’re born like myself, they’re just, it’s been awesome to watch and see the celebration after the game.”
Wade agrees, and having been part of three championship teams, knows chemistry when he sees it.
“That team has figured out a way, even during this series when it looked like their back was against the wall they came out swinging. They stuck together,” Wade said. “You have to support each other. No matter who’s on the basketball court for us, who’s on the bench, it’s all about supporting each other and really caring about the other guy. When you start caring about the other person, you don’t want to let that other person down on the court. You become a better team because of that.”
With the World Series starting Tuesday in Cleveland, Wade and good friend LeBron James will likely make a friendly wager, with the two exchanging playful tweets after the Cubs’ clincher.
“It’s been a long, long, long time, and just obviously I felt the buzz when I got back to the city, and everyone thinking that this was the Cubs’ year,” Wade said. “And they’ve been obviously playing amazing, so it’s great. It’s great to be in Chicago at this time with the Cubs being as successful as they are so far, and so it’s good to be here and it’s good to be a sports fan at this time in Chicago, so it’s good.”
Cleveland has gone from a national sports joke to one with an embarrassment of riches in the past six months, while the Cubs are trying to end the longest championship drought in the four major sports.
“Just pride in your city. Cleveland has obviously had droughts in sports and then he went back there to change that drought from the standpoint of basketball, and they accomplished that,” Wade said. “And now Cleveland is trying to do the same, and they got to a World Series, which has been a drought for them.”
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Luckily for the Bulls—or any Chicago sports fan for that matter—Thursday’s season opener doesn’t conflict with a game, but fans won’t be so lucky next Saturday night. The Bulls will play the Indiana Pacers while the Cubs will host Cleveland for Game 4. Wade doesn’t think he’ll have trouble getting into Wrigley Field, but after Scottie Pippen’s unfortunate rendition of “Take me out to the ballgame” Saturday night, Wade wants an opportunity for a reprieve.
“I know Scottie butchered the 7th-inning stretch. I think me and Jimmy (Butler) and (Rajon) Rondo could do a good job together if they ask us to do it,” Wade said. “It’s just cool to be a part of it.”
Hoiberg summed it up succinctly, likely echoing the beliefs of many long-suffering Cubs fans.
“Four more to go,” Hoiberg said. “I like their chances just because of how confident they’re playing.”
Competing in Nebraska may have been foreign for most Chicago Bulls and Atlanta Hawks players, but Doug McDermott and Kyle Korver were right at home.
The veterans, who both starred at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb., returned to their college stomping grounds for NBA preseason action Thursday night. Korver's Hawks got the best of McDermott's Bulls, 97-81, on Creighton's home floor.
Both had illustrious careers for the Blue Jays basketball squad. McDermott, who graduated in 2014, won the Wooden Award his senior season and is the all-time leading scorer. Korver, as you may have guessed, holds the school record for most three-pointers made. Fans at Thursday's game got a flashback from these glory days, as both logged significant minutes and put up offensive numbers.
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McDermott didn't have his best shooting night, but knocked down two triples and finished with 16 points. Korver also scored 16, splashing in four from beyond the arc.
Afterwards, McDermott thanked the Omaha faithful via Twitter.
With the loss, the Bulls' preseason ends with a record of 3-4. They open regular season play on Oct. 27 against the Boston Celtics.