Bulls hold off 76ers, move over .500

954177.png

Bulls hold off 76ers, move over .500

Against the team that ousted them from last springs playoffsin the same first-round series that saw superstar Derrick Rose suffer a devastating ACL injury, ending his injury-plagued seasonthe Bulls (8-7) knew it wouldnt be easy, as a revamped 76ers (10-7) squad, without the services of sidelined center Andrew Bynum, has been one of the early surprises of the young NBA campaign.
Saturday nights rematch, the first game between the two clubs since last postseason, actually resembled one of those playoff slugfests, and through a combination of tough defense, balanced scoring and an All-Star level evening from Luol Deng, the Bulls prevailed, 93-88, at the United Center.
Facing a familiar foe, the Bulls offensive approach mirrored the visitors in the early going, though probably not by design. The hosts elected to shoot contested outside jumpers, a tactic likely necessary for the smallish Sixers to thrive, but certainly not one that fits Bulls' head coach Tom Thibodeaus desired inside-out philosophy.
Philadelphia was led by the play of Chicago native Evan Turner (12 points, seven assists), but behind balanced scoring from the starting frontcourt trio of Deng (25 points, seven rebounds, seven assists), Carlos Boozer (12 points, 12 rebounds) and Joakim Noah (12 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists), the Bulls made it a close-knit affair. Through one quarter of play, they led, 22-19.
Thibodeau threw in a slight wrinkle to his rotation in the second quarter, subbing out Deng, the leagues minutes-per-game leader, earlier than usual, for reserve shooting guard Marco Belinelli, who had shown improvement as of late. Then, upon Dengs return to the contest, he left Belinelli in the game, removing swingman Jimmy Butler, who first entered the contest in the opening period, as has been customary recently.
The Bulls held a slight edge for much of the quarter, with the Sixers nipping at their heels the entire time, as point guard Jrue Holiday (23 points, seven assists) propelled the visitors efforts. Despite continued stellar play from the frontcourtthough Noah was saddled with early foul troublethe Bulls allowed their guests to catch up and at the intermission, the game was knotted at 41 apiece.
Holidays blend of playmaking, strong drives to the basket, where he used his size to finish, and pull-up jumpers sparked Philadelphia after the break, aiding the visitors in taking a slim advantage. However, the Bulls utilized the talents of their own backcourt performer, veteran Rip Hamilton (15 points), to keep pace, as the shooting guards trademark mid-range game was clicking until he got hurt with 3:15 left in the frame, suffering an apparent left foot sprain and limping heavily before teammates Deng and Kirk Hinrich helped him to the bench and he subsequently went to the locker room.
The Bulls soldiered on without one of their top offensive threats for the remainder of the quarter and regained the lead, as Deng asserted himself as a scorer. Heading into the final stanza, the Bulls held a 67-64 advantage.
The hosts second unitwith like starters Noah, Deng and Hinrich mixed inmaintained the teams lead by ratcheting things up on the defensive end of the floor, forcing turnovers and capitalizing with transition offense. Butler and Taj Gibson (11 points, eight rebounds), in particular, energized both the crowd and their teammates with high-flying acrobatics and timely scoring in general.
But the Sixers didnt relent, and with Turner functioning as a playmaking point forward and athletic forward Thaddeus Young (22 points, seven rebounds) quietly wreaking havoc against both the Bulls set defense and on the break, Philadelphia remained within striking distance as the contest headed into the stretch run.
Taking Holidays lead, the visitors played valiantly as the game crept up to its conclusion, making clutch shots to give Philadelphia a last-gasp chance, but while it got a little hairy at the enda Young layup made it 90-88 with 16.6 seconds remaininga combination of unselfish Bulls offense, getting stops when it counted and high-pressure free-throw shooting, including three of four foul shots in the final minute by Hamilton, who returned to the contest, managed to preserve the hard-fought win.

White Sox upset by the call that led to ejections of Todd Frazier, Rick Renteria

White Sox upset by the call that led to ejections of Todd Frazier, Rick Renteria

Todd Frazier wasn’t pleased with a call Saturday afternoon that led to the first ejection of his career.

It’s not that the White Sox third baseman is arguing about whether or not he deserved to get thrown out in the seventh inning of a 10-2 loss to the Oakland A’s. Frazier is more miffed by first-base umpire Sam Holbrook’s initial ruling --- that his throw pulled Jose Abreu off the bag --- and the determination by replay officials that the call was correct.

Frazier was ejected shortly after word arrived that the call stands, which means officials in New York didn’t believe they have enough evidence to overturn the original ruling. That fact bothered Frazier, who was charged with an error and began to speak his mind. White Sox manager Rick Renteria was ejected shortly thereafter for the third straight home game.

“It’s just frustrating with the technology we have today,” Frazier said. “It’s just crazy. It boggles your mind. It really does. You know -- I’m the one. I’m vocal. I’m emotional. But when it’s wrong, 100 percent wrong. I saw it on the MLB Network. I saw it in our cameras and our computers. I just don’t understand how we can see it and they can’t see it in New York. It’s just, it’s frustrating as all hell to be honest with you. It turned into a big inning. We were down a lot, don’t get me wrong. But still, Jake (Petricka) is pitching his heart out and next thing you know he gives up an unearned run and two more runs. So it’s really not that hard. Honest. It’s not that hard.”

Renteria raced onto the field in an attempt to save Frazier from a quick ejection, but didn’t have enough time. It was the third home game in a row in which a White Sox player was ejected for the first time in their career. Tim Anderson got the boot on Friday night after he argued with plate umpire Jim Wolf. And Avisail Garcia got tossed from the June 15 series finale against the Baltimore Orioles.

Renteria said taking into context who his players are and their track record made him want to further defend their actions.

“I don't ever go into a situation arguing with someone to get thrown out,” Renteria said. “I don't. I think what happens is, like anybody emotionally, when you start talking and expressing yourself, you have a tendency to get heated. You don't plan on doing that. I certainly don't go out there planning on having that happen. I think what happens, and I think it's just human nature, you start thinking about the whole situation, you're losing a player. You're losing a guy that's supposed to be in there for the next two, three innings to help you maybe continue to chip away. Our team has been fighting every day, since day one of spring training. I don’t care what our record is, I don't care what the score is, we fight. And when you take one of those pieces out of the lineup, you get pissed.”

Even though he had a chance to cool off, Frazier still felt the same after the contest. He stuck his head into the team’s video room after the game to check out the play. Teams have a variety of angles from which they can determine whether or not to challenge a call. They also have the option of taking a freeze frame and magnifying the picture, which left no doubt in Frazier’s mind that the call was incorrect.

“Like I said just frustrating,” Frazier said. “It’s just not that hard. And with all the technology like I said, I don’t mean to repeat ourselves, but with all the technology and 8 different angles it’s just one of those things where I just can’t let that go. It turned into a huge inning. You never know. We were down 6 we coulda came back. You gotta be 100 percent. You gotta be 100 percent right on that and I really don’t think he was.”

How a fan's kind gesture surprised Mark Buehrle on his big day

How a fan's kind gesture surprised Mark Buehrle on his big day

It’s one of the more iconic moments in White Sox history, and now Mark Buehrle has a key piece of memorabilia after a fan’s kind gesture.

Already overwhelmed by a series of gifts from the White Sox on Saturday afternoon, Buehrle was in disbelief when 17-year-old Tommy Maloney walked onto the field during a number-retirement ceremony and presented him with the flipped-through-the-legs ball from 2010 Opening Day.

The memento was one of four gifts Buehrle received from the White Sox along with a new truck, a four-seat All-Terrain Vehicle and a personalized piece of art created by White Sox outfielder Ron Kittle commemorating many of the highlights of the pitcher’s White Sox career. It was just another part of an overwhelming, emotional day for Buehrle, who was honored for his 12 seasons in a White Sox uniform.

“Pretty cool,” Buehrle said. “I don’t recall signing it for him when it happened. I don’t really remember where it went. But one, for him to give that up, that was pretty awesome.”

Maloney’s father, Matt, contacted the White Sox earlier this month to see if Buehrle wanted to meet with the fan who had the ball from a moment in White Sox history that has been replayed thousands upon thousands of times.

The Maloneys also reached out to the White Sox back in 2010, too. They informed the club they had the ball that Buehrle retrieved and flipped through his legs to Paul Konerko, who caught it with a barehanded to retire Cleveland’s Lou Marson in the fifth inning of the April 5, 2010 contest. Buehrle autographed the ball in 2010, but neither he nor the White Sox asked for Tommy Maloney, who was 10 at the time, to hand it over.

“At that point it’s just a cool ball, it’s not part of White Sox history,” said Brooks Boyer, White Sox vice president of sales and marketing.

As he looked for a unique artifact for Buehrle to offer another layer to Saturday’s ceremony, Boyer came across Matt Maloney’s most recent email. He definitely thought Buehrle would have interest in reuniting with the fan who held a key artifact from a play that has become legendary around these parts over the years.

But Boyer also asked if the Maloneys would want to donate the ball to Buehrle.

“We didn’t have the unique thing,” Boyer said. “We just didn’t have it.

“Here it is.”

How it had gotten in Tommy Maloney’s hands in the first place was interesting enough. The Munster, Ind., high schooler said his father got tickets for the 2010 season opener and he left school early to watch Buehrle, his favorite pitcher as a kid. The seats were in the first row behind the far right edge of the White Sox dugout, the same ones he was in for Saturday’s ceremony.

After the improbable play to steal a hit from Marson, Buehrle fell to his knees, which brought manager Ozzie Guillen out of the dugout. Somehow Guillen retrieved the ball and upon returning to the dugout, flipped it to Maloney, who had earlier asked him for a ball several times. Even though it was a prized possession, Tommy Maloney said he’d have no problem surrendering it again if he were asked.

The White Sox rewarded Maloney for his sacrifice as club chairman Jerry Reinsdorf determined that the youngster would present Buehrle with the ball on the field. But the White Sox didn’t tell Maloney he would present the ball until Saturday, surprising him with the news about an hour before the game.

“It’s awesome the way it played out,” Maloney said. “He’s such a great guy. He was hugging me in the dugout. He looked at me when I went up there to give him the ball and said, ‘Give me a hug.’ ”

Maloney not only stood on the field before the ceremony, he had a chance to briefly meet Buehrle in the dugout. He also received another autographed baseball. And after he was applauded by the sellout crowd, several fans stopped by Maloney’s seat to pose for a picture.

Buehrle was touched by the gesture.

“I was like, ‘Brooks, we’ve got to do something here,’ ” Buehrle said. “’He can’t just give the ball and walk out of here empty-handed.’ So I ended up signing him a ball and I don’t know if we have something else in mind, but it was pretty awesome.”