High-flying Nuggets end Bulls' four-game winning streak

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High-flying Nuggets end Bulls' four-game winning streak

The short-handed Bulls finally met their match Monday night, as the deep, dangerous and talented Nuggets came into the United Center and absolutely ran them out of the United Center with a second-half blitz that led to a 108-91 victory.

The loss ended a four-game winning streak for the team with the NBAs best record, a squad that had played with fire in recent outings and didnt come up with the necessary energy to subdue one of the leagues top transition teams.

Three consecutive Carlos Boozer (14 points, seven rebounds) jumpers to begin the contest, followed by a Ronnie Brewer steal and transition dunk propelled the Bulls (40-11) to an 8-0 lead, but it wouldnt last long.

Denver (27-23) mounted a swift comeback, led almost exclusively by the starting backcourt of shooting guard Arron Afflalo (22 points) and point guard Ty Lawson, (27 points, nine assists) to quickly climb back into the contest.

C.J. Watson (17 points, 3-for-4 three-point shooting, eight assists), starting at point guard as Derrick Rose missed his seventh consecutive game with a strained right groin, became the Bulls offensive focal point, as both a scorer and playmaker, but it wasnt enough to slow down the Nuggets potent transition attack, which gained steam with veteran sixth man Al Harrington (17 points) in the game.

After weathering the storm and seeing the visitors overtake them, the hosts, buoyed the presence of backup center Omer Asik, fought back to finish the opening quarter with a 27-25 advantage.

The outset of the second period saw the Bench Mob, led by fan favorite John Lucas IIIs (17 points, 5-for-8 three-point shooting) scoring prowess and Kyle Korvers (14 points, 4-for-4 three-point shooting) outside marksmanship, extended the Bulls winning margin.

Denver countered with Harrington and the playmaking of veteran point guard Andre Miller (12 points, 10 assists), and once again made it a close-knit affair.

Korvers torrid shooting and the inside-outside game of Boozer, inserted back into the game midway through the quarter, were what the Bulls hung their hat on, but with Lawsons speed, Millers savvy and JaVale McGees defensive presence as equalizers, their guests again surged in front.

At the intermission, the home team faced a 54-52 deficit.

After the break, Denver immediately blitzed the Bulls, going on a 12-0 run to start the third quarter, as McGee and rookie Kenneth Faried wreaked havoc on the interior, giving the visitors a double-digit lead. The Nuggets fast-break simply overwhelmed the Bulls, as Lawsons open-court explosiveness was just too much to handle and armed with an array of finishers, he either converted himself or dished off for easy baskets.

Watson remained effective for the hosts, but had to sit when he picked up his fourth foul later in the period and with his teammates mostly unable to muster up enough offense to spark a comeback, the Bulls fell into a deeper hole.

At the conclusion of three periods, Denver had a comfortable 81-68 lead, as the games uneven officiating raised the ire of the home crowd.

In the final stanza, rookie swingman Jimmy Butler provided a spark in the early going and with Lucas providing his usual instant-offense contributions; it appeared as if the hosts would make one of their patented dramatic comebacks.

However, the Nuggets proved to be rude guests, and extended the lead with their depth, balance and overall talent, featuring the likes of Afflalo, Harrington, Lawson and Miller all making an impact.

Atypical to what occurs in most Bulls games, the hosts defense failed them, as they couldnt stop Denver in transition or prevent the visitors accuracy from deep range and uncharacteristically watched the deficit balloon as time went on, sending a good number of fans to the exits much earlier than usual.

Despite the Bulls shooting 13-for-20 from behind the arc, the Nuggets put the game far out of reach with flurry after flurry, demoralizing their normally defensively-sound hosts until the final buzzer mercifully ended the rare home loss.

Blackhawks have options, for the right price

Blackhawks have options, for the right price

Those tremors you felt Wednesday was the hockey world shaking things up.

They were the most exciting 30 minutes of offseason we’ve seen in some time, with the Montreal Canadiens sending P.K. Subban to Nashville for Shea Weber and Edmonton trading Taylor Hall to New Jersey for Adam Larsson. Oh, and coveted potential unrestricted free agent Steven Stamkos re-signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning, sending teams like Toronto, Detroit and Buffalo to their Plan Bs.

For the Blackhawks, they weren’t players for any of the top-tier guys. But with the free-agent “frenzy” about to begin on Friday, the Blackhawks, who have a little shopping to do, can’t get caught in the ripple effect.

Most of the top UFAs are already off the board, from Stamkos to Keith Yandle to Alex Goligoski. Prices could go up on those remaining, and that could include some guys the Blackhawks were targeting.

As general manager Stan Bowman said last Saturday following the NHL Draft, the Blackhawks no longer have a salary-cap problem. Generalfanager.com shows the Blackhawks have a little more than $5 million in cap space. That’s after the Blackhawks made two cap friendly re-signings with forward Brandon Mashinter and defenseman Michal Rozsival. According to Pierre LeBrun, Mashinter and Rozsival will earn $575,00 and $600,000, respectively, this season.

So the Blackhawks enter the weekend with some spending cash, and they may be spending some of it immediately on a familiar guy. Andy Strickland reported on Thursday that Brian Campbell, who was part of the 2010 Stanley Cup team, could return on a one-year deal. Nothing would be official until Friday, when free agency begins.

If Campbell does return it probably won’t be for much cash. But Campbell knows the Blackhawks are still built to win and he won’t be hurting for money. It could be another sensible move like Brad Richards from the summer of 2014. Richards, just bought out by the New York Rangers after the team’s trip to the Stanley Cup final, just wanted to get back to the final. He signed a one-year deal worth $2 million here. While Richards was up and down in the regular season he was great in the playoffs, capping the Blackhawks’ Cup run with that beautiful pass to Patrick Kane in Game 6. The Blackhawks aren’t what they were in 2014 but they’re not in bad shape, either. A good, affordable tweak or two could have them thinking about another lengthy postseason run.

Keep something else in mind: just about every July the Blackhawks pick up someone we didn’t anticipate. Richards was a good example of that, too.

The Blackhawks have a little cash to spend but they also have future considerations; please see Artemi Panarin, who the Blackhawks can start negotiating with on Friday. It’s not just about what they spend this season, it’s about what they save for that potential deal that would start next season.

The options are out there to improve this team but the Blackhawks have to be prudent. They can’t afford not to be.

White Sox outlast Twins to move back above .500 mark

White Sox outlast Twins to move back above .500 mark

It hasn’t been easy for the White Sox over the last seven weeks so why should Thursday afternoon be any different?

A day after they nearly squandered an eight-run advantage in the ninth, the White Sox beat the Minnesota Twins 6-5 in front of 26,158 at U.S. Cellular Field despite giving away two more leads. J.B. Shuck’s two-out RBI single in the eighth inning paved the way for the team to earn it’s third straight series victory. David Robertson converted his 21st save in 23 tries for the White Sox, who moved back above .500 for the first time since June 10.

Shuck already had two hits in three at-bats when he was gifted an eighth-inning plate appearance courtesy of a pair of two-out walks by Fernando Abad. Abad walked Avisail Garcia and Jason Coats to bring up Shuck, who singled to left to produce the winning run. Shuck tied a career-high with three hits.

Carlos Rodon twice struggled with the lead, surrendering it once.

Ahead 2-0 in the fourth, Rodon gave up back-to-back homers to Robbie Grossman and Brian Dozier with two outs. Before that, Rodon retired the first 11 batters he faced, including five strikeouts.

The White Sox regained a three-run advantage in the fourth inning and Rodon responded with a perfect fifth. But he struggled in the sixth and allowed Minnesota to creep back within a run. Rodon gave up a double and a RBI single before he walked Grossman with one out and Dozier followed with an RBI single. Matt Albers stranded a pair to keep the White Sox ahead 5-4.

Rodon exited after allowing four earned runs and five hits in 5 2/3 innings. He walked one and struck out six.

The White Sox offense figured out how to attack Tommy Milone and forced him out of the game in the fourth inning.

Todd Frazier got things rolling with a solo homer in the second inning — the 14th consecutive solo homer hit by the White Sox — to make it a 1-0 game. The team is one shy of tying a franchise record with 15 straight solo home runs, which was set from Sept. 2-25, 1965.

Jose Abreu singled in a run in the third to put the White Sox up two.

The White Sox regained the lead for Rodon in the fourth after Minnesota tied it in the top half. Avisail Garcia singled in Brett Lawrie, who started the inning with a double.

Garcia stole second base and he scored on an RBI single by Matt Davidson. It was the first big league RBI for Davidson since Sept. 27, 2013 with Arizona. Davidson later left the game with a fracture in his right foot.

After Shuck doubled and Tim Anderson walked to load the bases — his first career free pass in 86 plate appearances — Milone hit Adam Eaton to force in a run and make it 5-2. But Neil Ramirez took over and got Abreu to bounce into an inning-ending double play.

With Anderson, who reached base four times, on second and one out in the seventh, Abreu struck out and Frazier flew out. 

World Series Champs: White Sox draftees help Coastal Carolina win first college title

World Series Champs: White Sox draftees help Coastal Carolina win first college title

OMAHA, Neb.— Coastal Carolina capitalized on two errors on the same play for four unearned runs in the sixth inning, and the Chanticleers won their first national championship in any sport with a 4-3 victory over Arizona in Game 3 of the College World Series finals on Thursday.

Coastal Carolina (55-18) became the first team since Minnesota in 1956 to win the title in its first CWS appearance. Arizona (49-24) was trying for its second national title since 2012.

Andrew Beckwith (15-1), the national leader in wins, went 5 2/3 innings after pitching two complete games and picked up his third victory of the CWS. He was named the Most Outstanding Player. Alex Cunningham earned his first save, striking out Ryan Haug with a full-count fastball to end the game after Arizona had pulled within a run in the bottom of the ninth.

Arizona's Bobby Dalbec (11-6) also worked 5 2/3 innings, with all the runs coming against him. He struck out eight to increase his CWS total to 25 in 20 innings.

The championship was also the first in a team sport in the 33-year history of the Big South Conference. But the Big South only has about eight hours to savor the accomplishment -- the Chanticleers become members of the Sun Belt Conference on Friday.

Arizona, which came into the day with just two errors in seven CWS games, saw second baseman Cody Ramer commit two on the same play to open the door to a four-run sixth inning for Coastal Carolina. Ramer couldn't get a handle on Zach Remillard's grounder, allowing David Parrett to score from third. Then Ramer tried to get Michael Paez running from second to third, but he overthrew infielder Kyle Lewis, which allowed Paez to come home.

Next, G.K. Young launched a no-doubt homer into the seats above the right-field bullpen for a 4-0 lead. All four runs were unearned, and Dalbec was relieved by Cameron Ming after facing one more batter. Before the sixth inning, Ramer hadn't committed an error in 17 games.

The Wildcats cut the lead in half with two unearned runs in the bottom half against a tiring Beckwith. An error on first baseman Kevin Woodall Jr. and a walk loaded the bases before Jared Oliva's two-RBI single knocked out Beckwith. Bobby Holmes relieved and struck out No. 9 batter Louis Boyd to end the inning.

Coastal Carolina caught a break in the third inning after Ramer sent a liner into right field that got under Connor Owings' glove and rolled to the wall. Ramer made it to third on the two-base error. Zach Gibbons then hit a comebacker to Beckwith, who went home as Ramer tried to score. After catching Beckwith's wide throw, catcher Parrett reached back to put the tag on Ramer, who was called out on an extremely close play.

Arizona's first two batters in the bottom of the ninth reached base against Cunningham, and Gibbons' sacrifice fly made it a one-run game with two outs. Ryan Aguilar then doubled into the left-field corner, but Ramer was held at third to bring up Haug.

After Cunningham struck out Haug, he turned to his dugout, beat his chest with his fist three times and saluted before flipping his glove away to start celebrating with his teammates.