Bulls pull out second consecutive OT win

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Bulls pull out second consecutive OT win

AUBURN HILLS, Mich.Who needs Websters to define letdown game when the Bulls, following a high-profile, thrilling triumph over the Heat at home Thursday, exemplified the phrase throughout much of Sunday evenings game against the Pistons at the Palace of Auburn Hills?

Once again playing down to inferior competition, a pattern theyve followed throughout their successful season, the Bulls pulled out a 100-94 overtime road victory, a game in which Derrick Rose showed he was closer to returning to his reigning league MVP level, in part by draining a three-pointer to send the game into the extra period of play.

Rose (24 points, nine assists) quickly proved he was feeling better, as he opened the games scoring with a driving layup, then followed it up with a pull-up jumper, part of an 8-2 Bulls spurt to start the game before Pistons (22-38) head coach Lawrence Frank called a timeout to make adjustments.

Even aside from Rose, the Bulls (46-14) were a well-oiled offensive machine in the early going, as the All-Star point guard tried to return to his previous form, displaying explosiveness, making good decisions and getting in rhythm.

Joakim Noah (20 poins, 17 rebounds) was his active self, particularly on the offensive glass and Rip Hamilton (13 points)the longtime Piston was productive while engaged in a mini-duel with former teammate Rodney Stuckey (32 points)but Detroit didnt let things get out of hand, as second-year big man Greg Monroe (13 points, eight rebounds) kept the hosts within striking distance.

At the conclusion of the opening period, however, the visitors led, 26-19.

The unlikeliest of suspects, Pistons veteran reserve forward Charlie Villanueva (13 points)Luol Dengs high school teammate had played all of 40 minutes for the entire season, due to being in Franks doghouseturned the game around for the home team in the second quarter.

From offensive rebounds, to driving dunks and three-pointers, the disappointing free-agent acquisitionalong with former Bulls guard Ben Gordonfrom three summers ago looked rejuvenated and was the Pistons best offensive threat for the bulk of the period.

Chicago sacrificed the lead to the Pistons, but upon the reinsertion of the Bulls regulars by head coach Tom Thibodeau, the guests to the Palace of Auburn of Hills made a push to reclaim their advantage. Noah continued to kill the Pistons on the offensive boards and Rose again showed progress in his attempt to return to full strength, giving the Bulls a 49-41 edge at the intermission.

After the break, the Bulls lead ballooned to double figures behind the backcourt of Rose and Hamilton, as well as an improved defensive effort. Hamiltons exploits werent unfamiliar to his old team, as the veteran shooting guard knocked down mid-range and three-point jumpers alike, wriggled his way to the basket for layups and using his perpetual-motion style of play, led his defender around a maze of screens, while Rose maintained his aggressiveness in attacking the basket and also distributed the ball effectively as a playmaker.

But behind guards Stuckey, rookie point guard Brandon Knight (13 points, seven assists) and Gordon, a reserve, the Pistons climbed back into the game and tied it on a monster follow-up flush by Maxiell late in the third quarter.

Detroit went on to snatch the lead once again and through three quarters of play, the Bulls trailed by a 66-64 deficit.

Things didnt get any better at the beginning of the final stanza, as the Pistons increased the lead with contributions from reserve forwards Villanueva and Damien Wilkins, infuriating Thibodeau and leading to a Bulls timeout, as well as Roses return to the contest.

Rose made an instant impact as both a scorer and playmakerthough he launched his fourth airball of the contest, a product of rust, as he actually shot the ball fairly proficiently in the gameand combined with sharpshooter Kyle Korvers (13 points) outside marksmanship, the visitors made a run and the game escalated a notch after Villanuevas flagrant foul on Rose in transition, which was ruled a flagrant and led to Rose suffering a cut on his nose and Villanueva being assessed a technical for woofing with Rose after the play.

The officiating became increasing tight as the close-knit affair waned on, with both teams being called for fouls for even the slightest contact as the game entered its stretch run, and despite the Bulls blowing repeated chances to seize opportunities lateCarlos Boozers (15 points, nine rebounds) baseline jumper with under a minute remaining put the Bulls within a single point, but after a crucial defensive stop on the other end, he failed to convert inside; a questionable awarding of a timeout to the Pistons, then a five-second call on Deng on an inbounds play with 15 seconds to go didnt help mattersthe Bulls still had a chance.

Stuckey twice split a pair of free throws with under 20 seconds left and after the his second trip, Rose raced downcourt and knocked down a game-tying triple with 6.4 seconds left to the game at 86 apiece and send the contest into an extra session.

In overtime, Stuckeywho missed a potential game-winner at the buzzer in regulationtried his best to redeem himself for his previous failings, but the big-man tandem of Noah and Boozer delivered as the squads offensive focal points.

After Korvers long bomb made it a two-possession game, Noahs putback layup gave the Bulls a six-point lead with 29.9 seconds on the clock, giving the visitors the necessary breathing room to know that a crisis was averted, although Stuckey would attempt further late-game heroics and Detroit would send a parade of Bulls to the foul line in an attempt to extend the contest.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Breaking down the World Series hangover

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Breaking down the World Series hangover

Do the Cubs have a World Series hangover?

On the latest edition of the Cubs Talk Podcast, NBC Sports Bay Area Giants Insider Alex Pavlovic joins CSN's Patrick Mooney to talk about the World Series hangover, how last year's playoff loss lingered in San Francisco, Johnny Cueto's quirks, the legend of Madison Bumgarner and Jeff Samardzija's ups and downs.

Plus Kelly Crull, Jeff Nelson and Tony Andracki break down the Cubs’ defensive struggles this year compared to an historic 2016 and how Ian Happ fits into the Cubs’ lineup in both the short and long term.

Listen to the latest episode below:

What does Caleb Swanigan's departure for NBA mean for Purdue and the 2018 Big Ten title race?

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USA TODAY

What does Caleb Swanigan's departure for NBA mean for Purdue and the 2018 Big Ten title race?

Caleb Swanigan, unsurprisingly, is heading to the NBA.

Last season’s Big Ten Player of the Year announced Wednesday that he’ll pass up the final two seasons of his NCAA eligibility for a paying gig at the professional level, an awesome opportunity for a kid who battled obesity and homelessness to become one of the best basketball players in the country.

But Swanigan’s departure from West Lafayette means a heck of a lot to the Big Ten.

Without the league’s most dominant big man, what becomes of Purdue’s chances at winning a conference title? Similarly, with a weakened — though still strong — group of Boilermakers, what does the Big Ten race look like going into 2017-18?

First, Purdue. Matt Painter’s program is plenty healthy, and while there’s no doubt that losing Swanigan is a big deal, the Boilers got some really good news, too, Wednesday when Vincent Edwards announced he’ll be returning for his senior season. Seven-footer Isaac Haas also made the decision to return to West Lafayette, meaning the towering frontcourt hasn’t been completely decimated just because tha man called “Biggie” is gone.

Purdue will also return Carsen Edwards, who had an impressive freshman campaign, and Dakota Mathias, a terrific defender and 3-point shooter. Two more important pieces — P.J. Thompson and Ryan Cline — are back, as well. And Painter will welcome in freshman Nojel Eastern, a highly touted guard from Evanston.

So the Boilers are still in very good shape. There will be a big magnifying glass on Haas, who despite his physical attributes hasn’t always found consistent on-court success. But there have been plenty of flashes of brilliance from the big man. A big step forward in his game would go a long way in easing the blow of losing Swanigan and could keep Purdue as one of the frontrunners for a conference title.

That brings us to the Big Ten race. Ever since Miles Bridges, the conference’s reigning Freshman of the Year, announced he’d be returning to Michigan State for his sophomore season, the Spartans have been the near-unanimous favorite. Only something like Swanigan deciding to stay at Purdue could’ve changed that. And with Swanigan expectedly heading to the NBA, Michigan State remains the preseason pick to win the conference crown.

Like any good year in the Big Ten, though, there will be challengers.

But Michigan State is the popular choice to win it because of Tom Izzo’s insane 2016 recruiting class is returning completely intact: Bridges, Nick Ward, Cassius Winston and Joshua Langford are all back. And Izzo brings in one of the top 2017 recruits in forward Jaren Jackson.

But Sparty isn’t the only one with an impressive returning group. Purdue’s experienced roster has already been covered. Northwestern, a surprise contender in 2016-17, should be even better as Bryant McIntosh, Vic Law and Scottie Lindsey enter their fourth year playing together. Dererk Pardon, a shot-blocking whiz at center, is also back, as is sharp-shooter Aaron Falzon, who sat out the 2016-17 season with an injury after starting during his freshman year in 2015-16.

There will be big shoes to fill for some perennial contenders like Maryland — which must replace Melo Trimble — and Michigan, which watched eligibility run out on Derrick Walton Jr. and Zak Irvin before D.J. Wilson decided to head to the professional ranks Wednesday. But those teams have plenty of talent returning, too. The Terps will have all three of their fab freshmen — Justin Jackson, Anthony Cowan and Kevin Huerter — back for sophomore seasons, while the Wolverines have Moe Wagner back in the fold alongside Xavier Simpson and Duncan Robinson, among others.

And what of last year’s shocking contender, Minnesota? The Golden Gophers didn’t lose too much this offseason and will return almost every main player from last year’s 24-10 squad: Amir Coffey, Nate Mason, Reggie Lynch, Jordan Murphy, Dupree McBrayer and Eric Curry.

There are up-and-comers to think about, too, such as last year’s freshman-heavy squads at Iowa and Penn State. And could new head coaches Brad Underwood and Archie Miller make instant splashes at Illinois and Indiana, respectively?

If it sounds a little too much like the annual coach speak that “any team can win on any night” in the Big Ten, that’s because there is a good deal of truth to that oft-used phrase.

There are definitely tiers to this thing, though. Even without Swanigan, Purdue is still in one of those upper tiers. But there might be no team besides Michigan State at the very top of the heap, something underscored by Swanigan turning pro.