Bulls pass final preseason test, top Pacers at Notre Dame

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Bulls pass final preseason test, top Pacers at Notre Dame

SOUTH BEND, IND. With these two teams, the location (the campus of the University of Notre Dame, alma mater of Bulls executive vice president John Paxson, former Fighting Irish star), the host team (despite taking place in Indiana, it was a Bulls home game, which was reflected by the mostly partisan crowd) or time of year (last seasons preseason opener was a dogfight) doesnt matter.

Central Division rivals Chicago and Indiana gutted it out until the end Friday evening, resulting in a hard-fought 97-90 Bulls win in the preseason finale.

The Bulls jumped all over the Pacers from the outset, with Joakim Noahs (12 points, nine rebounds) hard-charging style leading the way and his teammates following suit. Rip Hamiltons (12 points, six rebounds, five assists) potent mid-range game, in either half-court or transition, was clicking, while Nate Robinson (21 points, eight assists) set the table in the absence of Kirk Hinrich and Luol Deng (17 points, seven rebounds) was his typically versatile self.

For the Pacers, All-Star center Roy Hibbert (17 points, eight rebounds) was an offensive force early leading to Noah picking up two quick fouls, though veteran backup Nazr Mohammed picked up the slack, in a continuation of strong preseason but couldnt stifle the Bulls singlehandedly, resulting in Indiana facing a double-digit deficit. After a period of play, the Bulls led, 28-16.

Taj Gibson (nine points, 11 rebounds), who was inserted into the contest after starter Carlos Boozer (13 points, six rebounds, three steals) picked up his second foul, displayed his normal high activity level on the glass, while Deng, in his role of go-to guy with the second unit, carried much of the offensive load, including showing as a post-up threat, a little-used wrinkle.

The reserve backcourt of inexperienced rookie Marquis Teague and veteran newcomer Marco Belinelli, both of whom had struggled throughout the exhibition campaign was solid, as Teague showed poise in directing the offense against his hometown Pacers and the slumping Belinelli hit some contested, high degree-of-difficulty attempts.

Despite the contributions of Indiana reserves Ian Mahinmi and Gerald Green, the Bulls maintained their comfortable winning margin and when Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau came back with his regulars, they continued to hold the Pacers at bay. At the intermission, the Bulls held a 52-43 advantage.

Although the Pacers picked up their intensity after the break, the Bulls didnt wane, as Boozer picked up his game, Noah remained a major factor and Robinsons underrated playmaking helped set up his teammates. It was a physical affair, but as the well-balanced scoring of the Bulls who placed all five starters in double figures on the nightpersisted, the gap between the two teams remained.

Robinsons abilities to distribute and take care of the basketball was significant to the Bulls effort, though the teams defense left something to be desired, regardless of the fast tempo and transition opportunities for both sides in the period. Heading into the final stanza, the Bulls were ahead, 78-66.

A Pacers run to begin the fourth quarter sparked by the inside play of Mahinmi and Greens aerial acrobatics made it a ballgame again, infuriating Thibodeau, who called a timeout to restore order. Whatever he told his players during the stoppage of play apparently worked as did reinserting his regulars, sans Gibson, who made a major impact on the glass, into the lineup as they raised their level of play and for the time being, staved off Indianas threat behind a more scoring-oriented stretch from Robinson.

But the Pacers refused to fade away quietly into the night, capitalizing on errant Bulls shot attempts with timely buckets of their own, making it a one-possession game, 93-90, after a traditional three-point play by power forward David West with 1:09 remaining. But a baseline jumper by Rip Hamilton with under a minute left gave the Bulls some breathing room and a improbable fadeaway by Robinson sealed the deal with 18.6 seconds on the clock.

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Yoan Moncada's first White Sox game had same 'special' feeling as MLB debut

Yoan Moncada's first White Sox game had same 'special' feeling as MLB debut

First came the roar from the home crowd. Then a bunch of fans in the first deck beyond third base stood to watch Yoan Moncada. The patient approach surfaced next.

Moncada made his White Sox debut on Wednesday night and although it didn’t feature any highlight reel moments, there were plenty of good signs. Moncada drew a walk in his first plate appearance and also lined out hard to center field in his last. The rookie second baseman went 0-for-2 as the White Sox lost 9-1 to the Los Angeles Dodgers at Guaranteed Rate Field.

“It was fun to watch him come in,” pitcher Carlos Rodon said. “I saw him in Triple-A for a while, he’s a great talent. It’s good to have some good defense. That first at-bat was obviously really good. Fought it back to 3-2, got that walk. Two good swings.”

“It was cool. It got very loud when he came up to the plate, as we expected. That was fun to watch.”

The hype and energy surrounding the arrival of baseball’s top prospect was easy to detect.

The amount of media members on hand to document Moncada’s first game was akin to an Opening Day crowd. Every camera was aimed on Moncada, who flew in from Rochester, N.Y. earlier in the day to join the White Sox.

News of Moncada’s promotion at 11 p.m. Tuesday boosted the announced crowd of 24,907 by 5,000 fans, according to the team. Fans arrived early, some in Moncada White Sox No. 10 jerseys direct from China, while others brought Twinkies, the second baseman’s favorite snack food. Moncada spotted some of those bearing the sugary snacks when he stepped out of the home dugout and onto the field about 45 minutes before first pitch. Moncada, a former teammate of Jose Abreu’s in Cuba, received a loud ovation as he started to stretch.

“I was excited with the way the fans treated me and how they were cheering me,” Moncada said through an interpreter. “I was really happy in that at-bat and excited because all that atmosphere and the excitement in the ballpark.”

The rumble was even louder when Moncada stepped in for his first Major League plate appearance since he played for the Boston Red Sox last September. Though he quickly fell behind in the count 0-2 against Dodgers starter Kenta Maeda, Moncada never wavered. He took several closes pitches, fouled off two more, and drew a nine-pitch walk.

“He had some nice at-bats,” manager Rick Renteria said. “Obviously worked a walk. Hit two balls well. He looked very comfortable. Turned a nice double play. I think he didn’t look overwhelmed. I think he ended his first day here with us as well as you could have it be. I know he didn’t get any hits but I thought he had some pretty good at-bats.”

Moncada’s second trip resulted in a groundout to first base. He fell behind 0-2 once again before working the count even. Moncada then ripped an 88-mph from Maeda down the right-field line only to have it go foul by several feet before grounding out on the next pitch.

Moncada got ahead 2-0 in the count in his final plate appearance as he faced reliever Ross Strippling. He produced an easy, fluid swing on the 2-0 pitch and ripped a 93-mph fastball for a line drive but it found the glove of center fielder Joc Pederson. The ball exited Moncada’s bat at 102.5 mph, which normally results in a hit 62.5 percent of the time, according to baseballsavant.com.

“I felt good,” Moncada said. “I think that I executed my plan. I didn't get any hits but I hit the ball hard and I executed my plan.”

“I made my debut last year but this one was special, it had kind of the same feeling for me.”