With Rose sidelined, Bulls still get revenge on Knicks

729360.png

With Rose sidelined, Bulls still get revenge on Knicks

Even with Derrick Rose missing his 23rd game of the season due to a sprained right ankle, the Bulls had plenty of motivation heading into Tuesday nights game against the Knicks at the United Center, as they lost in an overtime heartbreaker at New York just two days before, on Easter Sunday.

The Bulls, missing their All-Star point guard, turned the tables in the second game of the home-and-home series, avenging the loss in the rematch with a 98-86 win, in which prized offseason acquisition Rip Hamilton had a breakout performance and the squads vaunted depth and defense were on full display.

Turning the tables on the Knicks from Sunday, the Bulls (44-14) blitzed their guests at the outset with an 8-0 run to start the contest, as they pushed the pace to score in transition and executed in their half-court sets via crisp passing, much of which could be credited to Rip Hamilton (20 points, five assists).

However, following a timeout by New York interim head coach Mike Woodson to make adjustments, the visitors quickly stormed back, led by the efficient scoring of All-Star Carmelo Anthony and playmaking of veteran point guard Baron Davis.

With contributions from the likes of second-year swingman Landry Fields also helping the Knicks cause, they not only caught up to the Bulls, but built a slight cushion as their small-ball offense thrived and the hosts stalled with poor shot selection on a number of possessions. At the conclusion of the opening period, the Bulls trailed, 25-22.

Propelled by the energetic, defensive-minded play of the Bench Mob, the Bulls made their own comeback, starting the second stanza on a 14-2 run.

Swingman Ronnie Brewers high activity level was a major factor, as was the blend of scoring and playmaking provided by fan favorite John Lucas III, as well as the dual defensive presence of inside tandem Taj Gibson and Omer Asik, all combining for the home team to take a double-digit lead.

New York (29-28) again crept back into the contest, taking advantage of Bulls turnovers and capitalizing on the other end through Anthonys productive scoring and a spark off the bench from sixth man J.R. Smith (14 points).

However, upon the Bulls regulars being reinserted into the game, Duke products and starting forwards Carlos Boozer (10 points, eight rebounds) and All-Star Luol Deng (19 points, 10 rebounds, four assists) led a late-period charge to help the hosts head into the intermission with a 47-35 lead.

After the break, a chippy, more physical affair ensued, as both squads, who had managed to avoid fouls in the up-tempo first half, started to lay the wood on each other on attempted drives to the bucket.

While Anthony still had it going for New York, so did his All-Star counterpart, Deng, as well as Hamilton, who took a much more aggressive approach to scoring in the third quarter, particularly in transition, which aided the Bulls in maintaining their comfortable winning margin.

Hamiltons continued scoring exploitshe got to the rim, drew fouls and knocked down his trademark mid-range jumperpaired with a dominant team rebounding effort and the energetic play of rookie swingman Jimmy Butler off the bench buoyed the Bulls, allowing them to control the games flow and momentum, despite Anthony carrying New Yorks offensive load, with help from center Tyson Chandler (10 points, 15 rebounds), a former Bulls draft pick, and rookie guard Iman Shumpert (12 points), a Chicago native.

Heading into the games final stanza, the Bulls held a 72-62 edge.

Solid defense and timely plays by the usual cast of role players kept the Bulls in firm control of the contest early in the fourth period, though the Knicks only helped matters, as their high-flying offense got bogged down by bad shot choices and unforced errors.

The hosts effort, back to the high standards of earlier in the season, appeared to be the difference, as the Bulls simply beat their offensive-minded guests to loose balls and also outworked them in other aspects of the game, such as the all-important defensive end of the court, where consistently made big plays to keep New York in a double-digit hole.

As the game entered its stretch run, C.J. Watson (nine points, seven assists), who filled in for Rose as the starting point guard, and designated sharpshooter Kyle Korver (14 points, seven rebounds, three blocked shots), stepped up their games to ensure the gap between the two teams didnt get too close, but a determined Anthony persisted in pouring in points to keep the visitors hopes alive.

However, lockdown defense, Korvers outside marksmanship and a Deng putback layup with under a minute remaining sealed the deal, getting vengeance and some positivity with a Thursday home matchup against Miami looming and Roses status still unsure.

Morning Update: Bulls fall to Blazers; Could Chris Sale be on the move?

chris_sale_d-wade.jpg
USA TODAY

Morning Update: Bulls fall to Blazers; Could Chris Sale be on the move?

Five Things to Watch: Bulls in Detroit for fourth game in five nights on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks host Coyotes tonight on CSN+

Despite Chris Sale rumors, White Sox say they have contingencies in place for a rebuild

Kenley Jansen? Wade Davis? Cubs keeping an open mind for the ninth inning

Slow start to fourth dooms Bulls in loss to Blazers

Back from scary concussion, Leonard Floyd playing like franchise pass rusher Bears craved

Scott Darling takes the reins for Blackhawks in Corey Crawford’s absence

White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf knows 'it will be very hard to trade' Chris Sale

Cubs: The next steps for Kyle Schwarber

Rajon Rondo used foul language with Bulls assistant coaches following loss to Mavs

Bears DL Akiem Hicks making the most of a chance the Saints never gave him

Bears DL Akiem Hicks making the most of a chance the Saints never gave him

Living well is indeed the best revenge, and sometimes nothing feels sweeter than proving doubters wrong. Akiem Hicks is savoring that exact feeling.

When the New Orleans Saints made Hicks their third-round pick in the 2013 draft, they typecast their big (6-5, 318 pounds) young defensive lineman as a one-trick pony.

“There were people in New Orleans that said, ‘You can’t rush the passer,’” Hicks recalled after the Bears’ win Sunday over the San Francisco 49ers. “They told me from my rookie year, ‘You’re going to be a run-stopper.’”

This despite Hicks collecting 6.5 sacks and 3 pass breakups as a senior at Regina in Canada. The Saints forced Hicks into the slot they’d decided he fit – nose tackle – then eventually grew disenchanted with him and traded him to New England last year – where he collect 3 sacks in spot duty.

Interestingly, Bears GM Ryan Pace was part of the Saints’ personnel operation. Whether Pace agreed with coaches’ handling of Hicks then isn’t known, but when Pace had the chance to bring Hicks to Chicago for a role different than the one the Saints forced Hicks into, Pace made it happen.

Pace likely saw those New England sacks as a foreshadowing or a sign that the New Orleans staff had miscast Hicks. The Bears defensive end now is under consideration for NFC defensive player of the week after his 10-tackle performance against San Francisco. Signing with the Bears last March 13 as a free agent was the career break Hicks has craved. For him it was a career lifeline.

“They have given me the ability to go rush the passer,” Hicks said. “So I love this organization – [GM] Ryan Pace, coach Fox, Vic [Fangio, defensive coordinator] – for just giving a guy the capability to put it out there and do what you feel like you can do.”

[MORE BEARS: Back from scary concussion, Leonard Floyd playing like franchise pass rusher Bears craved]

Hicks has been showing what he can do, to quarterbacks. For him the best part of win over the 49ers was the two third-quarter sacks of 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Those sacks gave the massive lineman, who the Saints said couldn’t rush the passer, 6 sacks for the season – more than any member of the Saints defense this season. It has been a classic instance of putting a player in position to maximize his skills, not jam someone into a bad fit.

“Akiem has been in a couple of different types of packages before with New Orleans and New England,” said coach John Fox. The Patriots switched from a long-time 3-4 scheme to a 4-3 but “we’re more of a New England-type style. But we’re playing him more at end; he played mostly a nose tackle [in New Orleans]. He’s fit really well for us as far as his physical stature.

"But he does have pass rush ability. It shows a little about his athleticism. So he’s got a combination of both.”

That “combination” has been allowed to flourish at a new level, and the Bears’ plan for Hicks was the foundation of why he wanted to sign in Chicago as a free agent. The Bears do not play their defensive linemen in a clear one-gap, get-upfield-fast scheme tailored to speed players. Nor do they play a classic two-gap, linemen-control-blockers scheme typically built on three massive space-eaters on the defensive line.

They play what one player has called a “gap and a half” system, which requires being stout as well as nimble.

One Hicks rush on Kaepernick featured a deft spin move out of a block, not the norm for 336-pound linemen. He got one sack with a quick slide out of a double-team.

“I’m not freelancing,” Hicks said. “But I’m rushing ‘fast.’ There’s a portion of the defense where you have the [run] responsibility and don’t have the freedom or liberty [to rush]. It’s a great system for me and I love what they’ve let me do.”