Bulls' poor shooting leads to home loss to Hornets

931747.png

Bulls' poor shooting leads to home loss to Hornets

There will be nights like the previous evening, when seemingly every shot goes in for the Bulls (2-1), who shot nearly 64 percent from the field against the Cavaliers, and there will be games like Saturdays 89-82 loss to the Hornets (2-1) at the United Center. The teams offense-by-committee approach, which looks like a model of team basketball when executed to perfection, has its downside when the Bulls miss approximately two-thirds of their shot attempts, which occurred against New Orleans.

Coming off Fridays wire-to-wire dominance in Cleveland, it was surprising to see the Bulls come out lackadaisical against the undermanned HornetsChicago native and No. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis didnt make the trip after suffering a concussion and Eric Gordon, who was present following a trip to a Windy City knee specialist, but on the bench, as he will be for another four to six weeks reportedlyin the back-to-back affair. Al-Farouq Aminu and Austin Rivers, son of the Celtics coachin addition to being Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeaus former boss, Doc is a Chicago nativesparked the visitors with transition scoring and slashing half-court drives, respectively.

The hosts eventually woke up, by virtue of the fast-break play theyve emphasized since the preseason, and began to narrow the gap. An unexpected source, backup shooting Marco Belinelli (13 points), then became the catalyst, having his best stretch since he arrived in Chicagothe Italian sharpshooter knocked down a trey and a high-flying fast-break dunk against his former team, among other positive playsto help the Bulls pull to within 21-18 at the conclusion of the opening period.

Using the momentum from the end of the first quarter, the Bulls continued to make strides, with All-Star Luol Deng (19 points, eight rebounds, four assists) led the second unit as a go-to scorer. Taj Gibson (12 points, five rebounds, three blocked shots) was also a contributor in the home teams comeback effort, which was ultimately successful, as the Bulls seized the lead, as well as control of the game.

Joakim Noah (11 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, two blocks) started to pick up his play, as well, but the New Orleans inside tandem of Robin Lopez (16 points, seven rebounds, four blocked shots) and Ryan Anderson (12 points, 13 rebounds) both got it going, along with veteran reserve Roger Mason, making the contest a close-knit affair. Hornets point guard Greivis Vasquez (18 points, six assists) sparked the guests late in the half and after draining a pair of triples, the Bulls trailed, 46-44, at the intermission.

After the break, Vasquezs solid play continued, as did Lopez in the pivot and with the home team having ball-security issues and lapses on defense, the Hornets gradually acquired some breathing room. Lopezs offensive improvement was noticeable, but his interior presence, along with that of his teammates, were major deterrents at the rim for the hosts.

Deng tried to keep the Bulls in the game with his scoring, but couldnt do it alone and attempts to chip away at the deficit were negligible. Heading into the final stanza, the Bulls were still down. 66-60.

Gibson battled inside and Deng continued to manufacture offense, but timely scoring from various Hornets, particularly Vasquez and reserve big man Jason Smith (16 points), kept the Bullswhich rode a lineup of starters Deng and Noah for extended minutes, alongside backups Belinelli, Gibson and point guard Nate Robinson (15 points) to close out the gameat bay. To the call the contest a defensive struggle would be false, as the Bulls simply missed shots, but managed stay within contact due to hustle plays, getting to the foul line and their defense, though their play on that side of the ball wasnt up to their usual stellar standards.

Down the stretch, the Bulls stayed within striking distance and with under a minute to go, Belinelli had a chance to make it a one-point game, but he missed a three-pointer under duress and to compound the issue, Gibson was called for pushing off while trying to corral the offensive rebound, leading to Smith knocking down a pair of free throws to make it 83-77 with 53.5 seconds to go. The hosts kept fighting, but even with Thibodeau coaching until the final buzzer, the defense forcing turnovers and Robinson hitting long-range bombs, it was too late to make a difference.

It’s World Series or bust for Cubs while carrying Aroldis Chapman’s baggage

It’s World Series or bust for Cubs while carrying Aroldis Chapman’s baggage

Aroldis Chapman is the ultimate baseball mercenary for a team that hasn’t won the World Series since 1908. The Cubs say they are going into this with their eyes wide open, knowing the superstar closer comes with off-the-field baggage and plans to cash in as a free agent this winter.

For all the talking points about being good neighbors and family friendly, the Cubs care about money and winning, which makes them just like any other professional sports franchise.

Chapman behaved in Yankee pinstripes, handled the New York market and performed with game-over efficiency, going 20-for-21 in save chances. The Cubs wanted a lefty with a 105-mph fastball and a 15.2 strikeouts-per-nine-innings-pitched career rate, making a 4-for-1 trade by rationalizing that they would rather be with Chapman in the playoffs than against him.

So the Cubs – and not the first-place Nationals or even-year Giants – had to deal with the bad optics and the lost-in-translation moments before Tuesday’s 3-0 loss to the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field. Chapman did not make a good first impression while getting questions about domestic violence and the 30-game suspension Major League Baseball imposed to start this season.

But if Chapman gets the last out in October, does it even matter if he’s a good guy?

“Ugh,” manager Joe Maddon said. “Was Ty Cobb wonderful? I mean, I don’t know. All these different people that I’ve read about – something happened with (the Sox) in, what was it, 1919?

“At the end of the day, I’m here to get to know him on our terms – me and him. (And) he’s been a great teammate from everybody I’ve read or discussed (it) with.

“That’s the lenses I’m looking at it through right now.”

[RELATED: Hector Rondon says Cubs had to take chance and close Chapman deal]

Chapman joined a team that began the day with a 98.8-percent chance to make the playoffs on the Baseball Prospectus odds report and a 56-1 record when leading entering the ninth inning. This is all about what Chapman can do in October and how his presence can help the Cubs survive three postseason rounds.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch highlighted that the Cardinals haven’t scored a run off Chapman since September 2011, back when Tony La Russa managed a World Series team.

“Again, he did do his suspension,” Maddon said. “He has talked about it. He’s shown remorse. And then everybody else has their right to judge him as a good or bad person.

“That’s your right. But I know there are times where I’ve been less than perfect. I think we’ve all been less than perfect in particular moments that nobody’s ever known about. 

“I want to get to know Aroldis. I think he can be a very significant member. And he’s got the potential, yes, to throw the last out of the World Series. And if he does, I promise you, I will embrace him.”

[MORE: Cubs make business decision to look beyond Chapman's domestic violence suspension]

Inside baseball’s conservative bubble, Maddon has to be the game’s most liberal manager, a hands-off, big-picture guy who lets his players run the clubhouse. The Cubs believe his positive vibes and presence will help Chapman’s transition.

“I’m probably the most non-judgmental person you’ve ever met,” Maddon said. “I don’t go in that direction. I do get upset sometimes when people jump to conclusions without knowing everything.

“(Gather) all the information for yourself and make your own opinion. Draw your own conclusion, as opposed to maybe hearing one thing and then all of a sudden jumping on a negative bandwagon.

“I want to get to know him, get to understand him, have good conversations with him. And then, maybe at that point, I could draw some conclusions. But never having been around him, it’s very hard for me to do that.”

Chapman’s Wrigley Field debut will be electric, the triple digits lighting up the huge video board. At that point, the focus should shift back onto baseball. But the equation doesn’t change in a bottom-line business. There is only one outcome that will truly make Cubs fans happy with this deal.

“They expect me to come here, do my job and try to guide us to the World Series,” Chapman said through coach/translator Henry Blanco. “Especially in this city, they haven’t won a World Series in a long time, so they want me to do everything I can to help us win.”

How Joe Maddon helped inspire James Shields' gem over Cubs

How Joe Maddon helped inspire James Shields' gem over Cubs

Joe Maddon's mere presence may have hurt the team he manages Tuesday night.

As the Cubs invaded U.S. Cellular Field for the final night on the South Side of this Crosstown series, Maddon's current team was tasked with facing one of his old friends.

James Shields pitched for Maddon in Tampa Bay for seven years and the veteran right-hander took the hill for the White Sox Tuesday night, spinning a gem — 7.2 shutout innings allowing four singles and four walks.

After the game, Shields — nicknamed "Big Game James" by some — credited Maddon for his outing.

"I get amped up every game pretty much. But I always want to get amped up in front of my old manager," Shields said. "I have a lot of respect for Joe. He helped build me into who I am today. 

"I always want to go out there and show him, especially being 34 years old, that I’ve got this thing."

Maddon certainly noticed.

The Cubs manager admitted "that's what he looks like" when talking about Shields' outing.

The Cubs had pursued Shields in free agency prior to the 2015 season and came close to deal before the right-hander opted to sign with the San Diego Padres for four years and $75 million.

Part of the reason was Shields' competitiveness and desire to finish every game he starts.

"During the first part of the game, I went up to [John] Lackey and I said Shieldsy went to John Lackey Junior College at some point in his life," Maddon said. "I said I used to compare Shieldsy to you all the time back in Tampa Bay, whenever James would [refuse to come out of a game].

"So Johnny giggled about that. Very similar guys — highly competitive, believe they can beat anybody on any given day. You gotta love that about him. He's very good."

White Sox likely will place 2B Brett Lawrie on disabled list

White Sox likely will place 2B Brett Lawrie on disabled list

The White Sox will "probably" place second baseman Brett Lawrie on the disabled list before Wednesday’s Crosstown game at Wrigley Field, manager Robin Ventura said.

Lawrie initially was diagnosed with a tight left hamstring July 21 against the Detroit Tigers, causing a firestorm of speculation he had been traded when he was removed from the game. He was initially considered day-to-day after undergoing an MRI on Friday, and manager Robin Ventura said before both Monday and Tuesday’s games against the Cubs he could’ve been available in an emergency. 

But Lawrie suffered a setback sometime Tuesday, and with two games under National League rules at Wrigley Field requiring more bench pieces, Ventura didn’t want to head to Clark and Addison short-handed. 

“It just seemed like he was going backwards today, during the game, of his knee,” Ventura said. “There's no way you can go over there and play the National League rules with nobody on the bench.”

[MORE: Shields picks up bullpen as White Sox top Cubs again]

Infielder Carlos Sanchez was removed from Triple-A Charlotte’s game Tuesday night and is expected to replace Lawrie on the White Sox roster. 

Lawrie is hitting .248/.310/.413 with 12 home runs and 22 doubles over 94 games this season. 

Tyler Saladino has done well in his short stint in the starting lineup since Lawrie’s injury, going 4-15 with a walk. His walk-off single on Monday netted the White Sox their third win in what now is a four-game winning streak, the team’s first since May 6-9.