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With Rose sidelined, Bulls still get revenge on Knicks

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With Rose sidelined, Bulls still get revenge on Knicks

Even with Derrick Rose missing his 23rd game of the season due to a sprained right ankle, the Bulls had plenty of motivation heading into Tuesday nights game against the Knicks at the United Center, as they lost in an overtime heartbreaker at New York just two days before, on Easter Sunday.

The Bulls, missing their All-Star point guard, turned the tables in the second game of the home-and-home series, avenging the loss in the rematch with a 98-86 win, in which prized offseason acquisition Rip Hamilton had a breakout performance and the squads vaunted depth and defense were on full display.

Turning the tables on the Knicks from Sunday, the Bulls (44-14) blitzed their guests at the outset with an 8-0 run to start the contest, as they pushed the pace to score in transition and executed in their half-court sets via crisp passing, much of which could be credited to Rip Hamilton (20 points, five assists).

However, following a timeout by New York interim head coach Mike Woodson to make adjustments, the visitors quickly stormed back, led by the efficient scoring of All-Star Carmelo Anthony and playmaking of veteran point guard Baron Davis.

With contributions from the likes of second-year swingman Landry Fields also helping the Knicks cause, they not only caught up to the Bulls, but built a slight cushion as their small-ball offense thrived and the hosts stalled with poor shot selection on a number of possessions. At the conclusion of the opening period, the Bulls trailed, 25-22.

Propelled by the energetic, defensive-minded play of the Bench Mob, the Bulls made their own comeback, starting the second stanza on a 14-2 run.

Swingman Ronnie Brewers high activity level was a major factor, as was the blend of scoring and playmaking provided by fan favorite John Lucas III, as well as the dual defensive presence of inside tandem Taj Gibson and Omer Asik, all combining for the home team to take a double-digit lead.

New York (29-28) again crept back into the contest, taking advantage of Bulls turnovers and capitalizing on the other end through Anthonys productive scoring and a spark off the bench from sixth man J.R. Smith (14 points).

However, upon the Bulls regulars being reinserted into the game, Duke products and starting forwards Carlos Boozer (10 points, eight rebounds) and All-Star Luol Deng (19 points, 10 rebounds, four assists) led a late-period charge to help the hosts head into the intermission with a 47-35 lead.

After the break, a chippy, more physical affair ensued, as both squads, who had managed to avoid fouls in the up-tempo first half, started to lay the wood on each other on attempted drives to the bucket.

While Anthony still had it going for New York, so did his All-Star counterpart, Deng, as well as Hamilton, who took a much more aggressive approach to scoring in the third quarter, particularly in transition, which aided the Bulls in maintaining their comfortable winning margin.

Hamiltons continued scoring exploitshe got to the rim, drew fouls and knocked down his trademark mid-range jumperpaired with a dominant team rebounding effort and the energetic play of rookie swingman Jimmy Butler off the bench buoyed the Bulls, allowing them to control the games flow and momentum, despite Anthony carrying New Yorks offensive load, with help from center Tyson Chandler (10 points, 15 rebounds), a former Bulls draft pick, and rookie guard Iman Shumpert (12 points), a Chicago native.

Heading into the games final stanza, the Bulls held a 72-62 edge.

Solid defense and timely plays by the usual cast of role players kept the Bulls in firm control of the contest early in the fourth period, though the Knicks only helped matters, as their high-flying offense got bogged down by bad shot choices and unforced errors.

The hosts effort, back to the high standards of earlier in the season, appeared to be the difference, as the Bulls simply beat their offensive-minded guests to loose balls and also outworked them in other aspects of the game, such as the all-important defensive end of the court, where consistently made big plays to keep New York in a double-digit hole.

As the game entered its stretch run, C.J. Watson (nine points, seven assists), who filled in for Rose as the starting point guard, and designated sharpshooter Kyle Korver (14 points, seven rebounds, three blocked shots), stepped up their games to ensure the gap between the two teams didnt get too close, but a determined Anthony persisted in pouring in points to keep the visitors hopes alive.

However, lockdown defense, Korvers outside marksmanship and a Deng putback layup with under a minute remaining sealed the deal, getting vengeance and some positivity with a Thursday home matchup against Miami looming and Roses status still unsure.

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If Kyle Schwarber's back, the rest of the National League will have another reason to worry about the second-half Cubs

If Kyle Schwarber's back, the rest of the National League will have another reason to worry about the second-half Cubs

Kyle Schwarber’s proper introduction to the Cubs-Sox rivalry came in the summer of 2015 when a fan on the South Side threw a half-empty “tall boy” at him in left field. A little more than a year removed from college, Schwarber didn’t understand why someone wouldn’t finish all the beer first.  

David Ross chimed in, raising his voice loud enough so Schwarber and a group of reporters could hear him inside the visiting clubhouse: “You should have shotgunned it and then went over there and found him.

“I tell you what: I’d hate to try to wrap up Kyle Schwarber. I guarantee you that whoever threw that beer doesn’t want (any) part of Kyle Schwarber. I promise you that one.”

That was the rookie orientation before Schwarber: blasted five playoff home runs that October; suffered a devastating knee injury that almost wiped out his entire 2016 season; made a dramatic return to the World Series; and experienced newfound fame and fortune that would change his life forever.

Mess with Schwarber? That aura of invincibility is gone after his detour to Triple-A Iowa before the All-Star break. But the first-place Cubs will take Thursday night’s 6-3 win over the White Sox as another sign that he is almost back, yet another reason why the defending champs look ready to continue this second-half surge. 

“I told him that if he had a couple more push-ups in there, he would have had three homers tonight, but we’ll take a triple,” winning pitcher Jon Lester said afterward. “Schwarber’s been swinging the bat great since he’s been back.”

No doubt, the Cubs caught the sell-mode White Sox at the right time during the final days leading up to the July 31 trade deadline. Even in going 3-for-4 and blasting his 16th and 17th home runs – which traveled 814 feet combined at Guaranteed Rate Field – Schwarber is still only hitting .191 with 90 strikeouts in 79 games this season.     

But the Cubs have always given Schwarber the benefit of the doubt and will point to his big personality and encouraging numbers since his Triple-A reset ended on July 6, getting on base almost 37 percent of the time and hitting safely in 10 of 13 games with five homers, three doubles and that triple.

“Retrospectively, we should not have expected that much,” manager Joe Maddon admitted. “I’m guilty of that kind of a narrative or a dialogue also, because I was really eager to watch him play a full season of Major League Baseball.

“But the guy missed the whole season and did really well in a small window of time at the end of the year. So maybe my expectations exceeded what they should have been.

“I do believe he is that good. I do believe you’re going to come back and see him play at the level we anticipated. But he might have just needed more time. And we just didn’t recognize that.

“I might have been as guilty as anybody regarding the promotion of that. But I believe in him fully. I know it’s going to happen. There’s been some really good major-league hitters that have gone through the same thing.” 

At this point, the Cubs (54-47) would love to see what kind of wrecking ball Schwarber could be for a half-season. To his credit, Schwarber has been the same throughout all the ups and downs, someone who looks and sounds like a guy you would drink tall boys with.

“I just want to worry about putting the barrel on the ball,” Schwarber said. “I’m just trying to stay within myself, be short (with my swing) and it’s paying off.”