Bulls hold off Suns in overtime to start 'Circus Trip'

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Bulls hold off Suns in overtime to start 'Circus Trip'

PHOENIXThings might get a bit hairy, but in the Tom Thibodeau era, the annual Circus Trip is no longer an event to be dreaded, as evidenced by the Bulls (5-3) 112-106 overtime victory over the Suns (4-5) Wednesday night at the U.S. Airways Center.

A physical contest that featured three Bulls technical fouls, the Bulls built an 18-point lead in the third quarter, then squandered it as Phoenix made a dramatic comeback, but the visitors stayed resilient and held on to dominate the extra session for the win.

A fast-paced contest at the outset, Carlos Boozer (28 points, 14 rebounds) got off to another quick start, as the power forward finished at the rim, knocked down his mid-range jumper and ran the floor in transition. For Phoenix, point guard Goran Dragic (12 points) best known by Bulls fans for Derrick Roses vicious dunk on him three seasons ago, but a revelation in Houston in the previous campaign before returning to the Suns in free agency over the summer dominated play, but also got forwards and fellow offseason acquisitions Luis Scola (24 points, 14 rebounds) and Michael Beasley (12 points) involved.

The visitors were also hampered by early foul trouble for Joakim Noah (21 points, 12 rebounds, five assists) and Kirk Hinrich (seven assists), the latter of whom returned to the lineup after a one-game absence due to a right hip strain, but it still remained a close-knit affair in the opening period. Through one quarter of play the Bulls held a narrow advantage, 29-27.

Sparked by All-Star Luol Deng (21 points) and reserve guards Nate Robinson (11 points) and Marco Belinelli, the Bulls maintained the teams slight edge early in the second frame. However, the Suns rode Scolas combination of jumpers and crafty interior scoring to stay within striking distance and gradually overtook their hosts, even after the majority of the Bulls starters were inserted back into the game.

Following a technical foul on Rip Hamilton (15 points), Jimmy Butler, playing only spot minutes when Deng gets one of his rare breaks, ignited a 13-0 Bulls run which included Hamiltons first missed free throw of the season after making 17 straight to begin the campaign toward the end of the half. At the intermission, the Bulls led, 57-51.

After the break, the Bulls played with the same fervor that they ended the previous period with, pushing the pace successfully without sacrificing defense to create some breathing room. After seeing his playing curtailed because of first-half foul trouble, Noah made his presence felt in the third quarter and fellow big man Boozer continued his consistent scoring efforts.

Deng also got it going en route to the visitors blowing the contest wide open even Hinrich picking up his fourth foul early in the period couldnt derail their extended spurt, as Robinson picked up the slack nicely and with the defense forcing turnovers, their transition game in gear and unselfish passing leading to quality shot opportunities, the Bulls maintained a comfortable winning margin. Heading into the final stanza, the Bulls were ahead, 83-69.

At the outset of the fourth quarter, the Suns attempted to battle back behind Scola and surprising contributions from the likes of reserves Sebastian Telfair (17 points), Markieff Morris (10 rebounds), P.J. Tucker (eight rebounds) and Maywood, Ill., native Shannon Brown (11 points), but timely plays from the Bulls such as a desperation three-pointer off of one leg by Deng to beat the shot clock helped stave off the hosts. Still, Phoenix continued to make a push and by the midway point of the period, it was a two-possession contest.

It seemed as if the Bulls would eke out a win in regulation, but a combination of gutty plays by the Suns beating the visitors at their own game with a physical nature and outright hustle as well as missed opportunities by the guests led to Phoenix tying the game at 100 apiece with 9.4 seconds to go on a Tucker layup. Out of a timeout, the Bulls got the ball to Hamilton for a potential game-winner, but tough defense by Brown prevented the veteran from knocking down a heavily contested and the contest went into overtime.

In the extra session, the Bulls dominated, as they clamped down on the defensive end and began executing precisely on offense. Deng started things off with a jumper and they rolled from there, as Hamilton made a pair of jumpers, Noah was a force on the glass and clutch free-throw shooting ensured that the door wouldnt be left open for another Suns comeback.

Nikola Mirotic and why the Bulls traded their second-round pick

Nikola Mirotic and why the Bulls traded their second-round pick

The Bulls entered rebuild mode on Thursday night after they dealt Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves. They acquired a pair of guards in Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn, and the No. 7 pick which they used to select Arizona power forward Lauri Markkanen.

But the Bulls opted not to continue adding youth to their roster when they sold their second-round pick, No. 38 overall, to the Golden State Warriors. That pick was Oregon power forward Jordan Bell, who many considered a late first-round prospect.

The move was perplexing for a team that hours earlier had traded away its franchise player to start a youth movement. But VP John Paxson said after the draft that the decision to move the pick was based on team depth, hinting at a significant move the Bulls will make in free agency.

"We had some wings on our board that we had targeted that were the only way we were going to keep that (No. 38) pick, and they went before us. And drafting Lauri (Markkanen), and the fact that we have, Niko’s a restricted free agent we intend to bring back, Bobby Portis, we didn’t want to add another big and that’s really all that was left on our board."

Both Paxson and general manager Gar Forman have said since the season ended that Mirotic, who will become a restricted free agent on July 1, is part of their future plans. The Bulls will be able to match any contract that another team offers Mirotic, and they intend to keep the 26-year-old in Chicago. After Butler's departure, Mirotic is now the longest tenured member of the Bulls. He's been with the team for three seasons.

The wings Paxson may have been referring to include Miami's Devon Reed (32nd overall to Phoenix), Kansas State's Wesley Iwundu (33rd overall to Orlando) or SMU's Semi Ojeleye (Boston, 37th overall). Point guards Juwan Evans (Oklahoma State) and Sterling Brown (SMU) were still on the board and potential options, but the Bulls were set on looking for wing help after receiving point guard Kris Dunn and shooting guard Zach LaVine in the Butler trade.

The Bulls frontcourt depth looks filled, as Cristiano Felicio is expected to return behind Brook Lopez. Mirotic, Portis, Markkanen and Joffrey Lauvergne should make up the power forward depth chart. Opting against using the 38th pick, which Golden State bought for a whopping $3.5 million, also leaves the Bulls with room to add a 13th player in the fall.

"It keeps us at 12 roster spots and gives us real flexibility for our roster," Paxson said. "So we didn’t just want to use up a roster spot on a player that we probably wouldn’t have kept."

How White Sox players managed the 'chaos' of Thursday's record-setting rain delay

How White Sox players managed the 'chaos' of Thursday's record-setting rain delay

MINNEAPOLIS -- Some guys played cards. The soccer ball got kicked around in spite of the close quarters in the visiting clubhouse. There was dancing. A magic trick or two was attempted. A few players even tried to get in a nap.

White Sox players found myriad ways to keep themselves occupied during Thursday’s draining 4-hour, 50-minute rain delay -- the longest in Minnesota Twins history.

Yet despite not knowing what time the game may start, White Sox players found a way to overcome the uncertainty and stay engaged. Similar to May 26 when the first game of a doubleheader against the Detroit Tigers was cancelled, the White Sox figured out how to go from zero to 60 in mere seconds. Though there’s no exact formula for success, the White Sox seem to have figured out a way to endure the elements and get out quickly. On early Thursday evening, the White Sox overcame the rain and misery to jump ahead of the Minnesota Twins en route to a 9-0 victory at Target Field.

“We keep it real loose whether,” veteran third baseman Todd Frazier said. “We have a good time. We enjoy each other’s company. Win lose or draw, tomorrow’s a new day. Today we kept working hard and we knew we had a game to play and eventually we were going to play it. We turned it on at the right moment.”

Jose Quintana saw so much of his iPad that eventually he had to turn it off out of sheer boredom. Thursday’s starting pitcher was almost able to complete two feature-length movies during the rain delay. Quintana, who excelled with nine strikeouts in 6 2/3 scoreless innings, watched ‘Fast and Furious 7’ and ‘Get Out’ on his iPad during the delay.

While he liked the action movie, Quintana wasn’t as fond of the latter, though he admits he’s not a big fan of horror movies.

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“I think it was bad because too much time in front of the iPad,” Quintana said. “It made me bored.

“I just tried to stay relaxed, focused on the game. … Tried to come back and work a little bit. It’s a little hard, but we don’t have control so stay focused on the game.”

Whereas the White Sox determined when they played last month at home -- they cancelled Game 1 of a doubleheader at 1 p.m. and pushed the second game back to 8 p.m. because of rain -- this time was in the Twins’ hands. The forecast called for rain all afternoon before things cleared up around 5 p.m.

While the White Sox were in limbo as to when they would play, they had a pretty good idea that eventually they would.

“It’s miserable,” Frazier said. “You try and find some things to do, play cards, hang out with the guys. If you had a set time it would help. But we came out banging in that first inning. It’s huge.”

White Sox manager Rick Renteria is impressed with how his team has handled both long days. The White Sox also defeated the Tigers 8-2 on May 26th. While Renteria and his coaching staff spent a lot of his time preparing for their upcoming home series against the Oakland A’s, he’s pleased with how his players managed themselves through the uncertainty.  

“They’re the ones who are dealing with the chaos,” Renteria said. “They’re the ones who play the game and who have to have their minds to be ready to go out and perform. They’ve been able to respond well. It’s part of who they are, their character, and hopefully it’s something they continue to be able to do and build on.”