Bulls eke out win over short-handed Thunder

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Bulls eke out win over short-handed Thunder

One of Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeaus frequent sayings is fools gold, in which he refers to his teams success, despite not playing the mistake-free style he prefers. That phrase would apply to Tuesday nights preseason contest against the Thunder, in which the Bulls eked out a 94-89 victory, though the team clearly took a step back as they regular season approaches.

A quick start for the hosts, sparked by Luol Dengs (21 points, five rebounds, three steals) scoring and Carlos Boozers (24 points, 12 rebounds, five assists) passing, earned the Bulls a slim cushion, but the short-handed visitorsplaying without the All-Star duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrookcame back to narrow the gap behind the big-man tandem of Serge Ibaka (24 points, eight rebounds, and Kendrick Perkins. However, the home team again gained some separation, buoyed by an 8-0 run and Joakim Noahs (15 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, three blocked shots, two steals) formidable defensive presence and high activity level on the other end of the floor.

But Oklahoma City didnt relent and with the combination of Ibakas much-improved jumper and the replacement starting backcourt of reigning NBA Sixth Man of the Year award winner James Harden (13 points on 2-for-17 shooting, seven rebounds and assists apiece) and Eric Maynor pushing the pace, the gap was narrowed. Increased defensive intensity at the end of the framemost notably, Kirk Hinrichs hustle playsled to a 28-22 Bulls advantage after a period of play.

Surprisingly, former No. 2 overall pick Hasheem Thabeeta 7-foot-3 center, who was previously labeled a bustwas the catalyst for the Thunder making it a close-knit affair at the outset of the second quarter. Outside of second-year swingman Jimmy Butler, the Bulls second unit struggled on both ends, as they allowed the visitors to creep back into the contest before Bulls head coach opted to reinsert most of his regulars.

Boozer got his scoring going for the home team and Hinrich also looked for his shot more, but most importantly, the defense clamped down, frustrating Harden, in particular. By the intermission, the Bulls built a double-digit winning margin and went into the break ahead, 51-40.

As the third quarter started, things began to get a bit testier on the courtthe physical Perkins was engaged in a battle with Boozer and Noahbut although the Bulls appeared somewhat frustrated, they maintained their comfortable edge. And drew the foul-prone Thunder into the bonus even before the periods midway point. On a down note, the Bulls lost Hinrich for the evening with a strained right groin, stretching their point-guard corps, already missing All-Star Derrick Rose, even thinner.

First backup Nate Robinson, then rookie Marquis Teague saw action and while neither was a disaster, the Thunder cut into the deficit as the period waned on. Heading into the final stanza, the Bulls clung to a 73-67 lead.

It would be nice to characterize the low-scoring nature of the early fourth quarter as a defensive struggle, but for the Bulls, it was more of an exercise in offensive futility, with little solace taken for their own defense, as the Thunder had several deep reserves in the contest. Still, despite Ibakas continued outside marksmanship, the hosts were able to keep Oklahoma City at bay behind the interior play of Boozer and Noah.

Down the stretch, Thunder rookie forward Perry Jones III (14 points) came on strong and made it a single-possession game before a contested, fading Boozer jumper with 34.4 seconds left. After a timeout, the talented and athletic Jones responded with an acrobatic layup at the 22.8 mark to make it 89-86 in the Bulls favor, but Robinson split a pair of free throws with 18.5 seconds remaining and though Oklahoma City made repeated comeback attempts, the hosts escaped with the win, with veteran Rip Hamilton salting the game away at the foul line.

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks look to bounce back vs. Lightning tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks look to bounce back vs. Lightning tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Blackhawks.

Five Things to Watch:

1. How will Blackhawks respond to worst loss of season?

The Blackhawks suffered their worst loss of the season on Saturday in a 7-0 rout at the hands of the Panthers. It was the first time they've lost by at least seven goals since 2011 when Edmonton beat them 9-2 and the first time they lost 7-0 since 2001 against San Jose; the Blackhawks lost to Washington 6-0 earlier this year. But by no means was Saturday their worst effort of the season. A questionable interference penalty by Marcus Kruger led to a two-man advantage, which Florida cashed in on with a goal and another shortly after, and it opened up the floodgates. Expect a big bounce-back against a hungry Lightning team.

2. Lightning fighting for playoff lives.

Every game is a must-win for the Lightning with eight games remaining on their schedule. They're three points out of the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference with a game in hand on the Bruins, who currently occupy that spot, but still have to jump the Islanders. The Lightning didn't do themselves any favors by losing three straight in regulation last week, but they've won two in a row and tonight will be the first of a four-game homestand for them.

3. Keep the puck off Nikita Kucherov's stick.

There isn't a hotter player in the NHL right now than Kucherov, who has seven goals and two assists in his last four games. He's had two hat tricks in the past month, and he ranks sixth in the league with 78 points and second in goals with 38. You know how lethal Artemi Panarin's slapshot is from the left faceoff circle? That's Kucherov, but on the right side.

4. Staying disciplined.

The Blackhawks are the second-least penalized team in the league, but they acted out of character Saturday by racking up 30 penalty minutes. They were also slapped with a pair of unsportsmanlike penalties, which isn't something you normally see from Joel Quenneville's teams. Ryan Hartman, who along with Marcus Kruger was penalized for "yapping" at the officials, accepted responsibility for it after the game, and insisted it "won't happen again."

5. Special teams to play key factor?

On the flip side, the Lightning are the second-most penalized team, averaging just over 11 penalty minutes per game. Power plays will be key for the Blackhawks in an effort to keep Tampa Bay's collection of talented young goal scorers off the ice. The Lightning also boast a top-five power play unit with a 22 percent success rate. Both teams would be better served staying out of the box and making this a 5-on-5 battle.

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White Sox may have to deal with Francisco Lindor for a while, according to unlikely source

White Sox may have to deal with Francisco Lindor for a while, according to unlikely source

Sources have confirmed that kids really do say the darndest things. 

In a spring training game Sunday afternoon, 6-year-old Brody Chernoff, son of Indians general manager Mike Chernoff, spilled the beans on his dad's prospective moves. Goated by announcer Todd Hamilton, Brody said that his dad was trying to keep Lindor in Cleveland for seven more years.

On one hand, Brody's honesty rivals a young Abraham Lincoln. Not even Adrian Wojnarowski could cultivate a source so honest and to the point. On the other, his dad probably is a little shocked that contract offer leaks are coming from his own family. 

Either way, though, hearing that Lindor may be in Cleveland for a while is bad news for the White Sox. The 23-year-old stud shortstop has hit over .300 in his first two big-league seasons. So definitely not someone you want to have in your division for years to come. Oh, plus he's absolutely nasty with the leather. 

Cubs fans know all about Lindor's talents, too. The shortstop hit .296 in his first World Series and was almost a key reason the Indians captured the crown. Almost!

Watch the hilarious exchange in the video above.