CSN's Cubs Pregame and Postgame host David Kaplan and analyst David DeJesus discuss the upcoming matchups in this edition of the Cubs Road Ahead, presented by Chicagoland & NW Indiana Honda Dealers.
The Cubs' bats are finally coming around.
On the back of Anthony Rizzo, who hit three homers this weekend, the North Siders took two out of three from the Cincinnati Reds and have been winners of four out of five overall.
The offense will attempt to stay in their groove against the Pittsburgh Pirates, who swept the Cubs at Wrigley during the teams' last meeting.
Luckily for Chicago's pitching staff, Starling Marte won't be anchoring the Pirates' order. The outfielder is serving a suspension for performance-enhancing drugs.
After Pittsburgh, Joe Maddon's club hits Fenway Park for what should be a wild three-game set against the Red Sox.
Watch David Kaplan and David DeJesus break down the upcoming matchups in the video above.
You could see it building, with Fred Hoiberg's usually-monotone voice rising with his opening answer after his Bulls gave up a 2-0 lead to the Boston Celtics and now have to win at least one more game on the road to win a first-round matchup that's now tied at two games apiece.
Whether he was taking a page from Memphis Grizzlies coach David Fizdale or finally succumbing to his own frustration after pleading with the officials to enforce the rules as he believes them to be, he made his most direct statement as Bulls coach in his assessment of the officiating surrounding Isaiah Thomas.
He believes Thomas carries the ball for a palming violation, a tactic could make an already-difficult player to defend even more so.
"Let me say this: Isaiah Thomas is a hell of a player, an unbelievable competitor, a warrior, everything he's going through right now. He had a hell of a game tonight," Hoiberg said. "When you're allowed to discontinue your dribble on every possession, he's impossible to guard. Impossible to guard. When you're able to put your hand underneath the ball, take two or three steps and put it back down. It's impossible to guard him in those situations."
Thomas scored 33 points and added seven assists with four rebounds in 35 minutes, helping torch virtually anyone who came near him and in his postgame news conference, pronounced himself as being an "impossible cover" to defenders.
"Not one man can guard me," he said. "That's just the confidence I have."
When told about Hoiberg's comments, Thomas said, "That's not the reason. It is what it is. I guess (Hoiberg) is just going to continue to say it. I've been dribbling that way my whole life, I don't know what to say to that."
Thomas repeatedly sliced through the defense for layups and open shots, and repeatedly told Bulls reserve guard Michael Carter-Williams "You can't guard me", to the point of earning a technical foul for the talk through the game.
Palming has become as prevalent through the game as the sneakers and mascots, so the timing of it seemed a bit peculiar. One wonders if it's more a motivation tactic to let his players know he's in the fight with them and maybe get a little something in Thomas' head before Game 5 as opposed to wanting it called every time down.
Several Bulls said they see Thomas do it repeatedly, and Hoiberg said it was a point of emphasis for the officials in the offseason—but Thomas was likely to break down the Bulls defense anyways, as he averages nearly 30 points a game on the season.
Thomas said he doesn't recall being called for a palming violation the entire season, and considering the violation seems so miniscule in the context of this playoff series, it could strike as a form of desperation or even motivation for Hoiberg, should his next check be a little lighter because of an impending fine for criticizing the officials.
Fizdale's statement seemed more in line with his personality, while it seemed Hoiberg was struggling with it a bit.
He didn't want to elaborate on it much when follow-up questions were asked, and when Jimmy Butler was asked to address it, he wouldn't wade into those waters.
"First off, Isaiah is a terrific basketball player," Butler said. "I don't really pay attention to if he's carrying the ball. It's not my job to watch that and call that. Even if I do call it, I can't do anything about it."
What Hoiberg and the Bulls can do is presumably come with a better start and a more sustained effort to Game 5, as opposed to complaints about the officiating on one particular issue.