Five reasons to watch Bulls-Nets classic tonight


Five reasons to watch Bulls-Nets classic tonight

Tonight at 7:30, Comcast SportsNet unveils the first of it's Bulls Classics series featuring 15 of the greatest games in franchise history. With that in mind, here and five things to watch from the Bulls' classic 128-113 win over the NewJersey Nets on Feb. 26, 1987, in which Michael Jordan scored athen-franchise record 58 points:

1) Jordan averaged 37.1 points per game in his third season as a pro,so his scoring outburst -- a regular-season record, as he scored 63against the Boston Celtics in the 1986 playoffs -- wasn't exactly ashocker. However, his efficiency (he was 15-for-16 from the floor and26-for-27 from the charity stripe) was remarkable. He didn't evenattempt, let alone make, any three-pointers and it's not as if heneglected other aspects of the game, corralling eight rebounds, swipingthree steals and even blocking a pair of shots. Additionally, he playedonly 37 minutes, below the 40 minutes per game he averaged that season,in which he played all 82 games after playing in only 18 the previousyear due to a foot injury.
2) "A championship" was Jordan's answer when the late, great Johnny"Red" Kerr asked him "what's next?" in a postgame interview, but hewould have to wait four more years to realize that goal. The Bullsfinished the 1986-87 season with a 40-42 record, failing to advance tothe playoffs in Doug Collins' first year as head coach. Futuremainstays like Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant were still collegeplayers at the time, but the addition of the forward duo in the 1987NBA Draft built the foundation of the team for the beginning of itsspree of titles.

3) Bulls power forward Charles Oakley was eventually traded to New Yorkin exchange for Bill Cartwright, a move which Jordan reportedly wasn't fond. Oakley would miss out on Chicago's championship run, asCartwright was an important piece of the franchise's first three-peat,often having to defeat Oakley's rival Knicks. A young Oakley, now anassistant coach with the Jordan-owned Charlotte Bobcats, already wasdeveloping into one of the league's premier rebounders -- he led the NBAin the category that season and the next -- made clear by his 17 boardsin this outing and would go on to be known as one of the most ruggeddefenders of his era. However, he hadn't yet become the accuratemid-range shooter that he'd be later in his career, as evidenced by his5-for-18 night from the field, although he did hand out seven assistson the evening.

4) Current Bulls executive vice president John Paxson, who scored 16points and distributed five assists that night, started next to Jordanin the backcourt, a role he held through the organization's first twotitles before passing the torch to B.J. Armstrong for Chicago's thirdchampionship season. In fact, Paxson was the only member of the 1986-87Bulls to remain on the team long enough to win a title, although oneplayer who would return to the Bulls later -- replacing Jordan during hisfirst retirement -- was Pete Myers, who was hired by the Golden StateWarriors as an assistant coach this offseason.

5) That season's edition of the Nets was an interesting group. NewJersey was led in scoring that night by blue-collar power forward BuckWilliams with 25 points, while Orlando Woolridge -- who would lead theteam in scoring after coming from the Bulls the previouscampaign -- chipped in with 20 off the bench. As Sam Smith noted, current NBA referee Leon Wood -- who won an Olympic gold medalwith Jordan in 1984 -- was another Nets reserve, scoring 10 points. MikeGminski turned in a strong effort with 14 points and 13 boards, whilerookie Pearl Washington, a college star at Syracuse turned NBA bust,and Albert King, brother of the more accomplished Bernard, were alsostarters.


Neil Funk and Stacey King will host each game in-studio, sharing their memories from the game.

The full schedule is as follows:

Wednesday, Nov. 2, 7:30 p.m.February 26, 1987:New Jersey Nets at Chicago Bulls

Jordan sets a new all-time Bulls scoring record with 58 points; also sets new Bulls record of 2627 from the free throw line, including 19 straight; terrific post-game interview with the late Johnny Red Kerr asking MJ Whats next?the youthful Jordans response: an NBA Championship.

Wednesday, Nov. 9, 7:30 p.m.February 16, 1989:Milwaukee Bucks at Chicago Bulls

Jordan scores 27 of his 50 points in 4th quarter, including a 20-footer with one second remaining on the clock.

Tuesday, Nov. 15, 7:30 p.m.May 7, 1989:Round 1, Game 5 - Chicago Bulls at Cleveland Cavaliers

The Shot: Jordan hits game-winning shot at buzzer over Craig Ehlo giving the Bulls a huge first round upset against the Cavs.

Tuesday, Nov. 22, 7:30 p.m.June 12, 1991:NBA Finals, Game 5 - Chicago Bulls at LA Lakers

Bulls celebrate first NBA Championship, Jordan scores 30 points, to go along with ten assists and five steals. Coverage includes post-game locker room coverage of Jordan clutching the Larry OBrien NBA Championship Trophy with his father James Jordan at his side.

Wednesday, Nov. 30, 7:30 p.m.June 3, 1992:NBA Finals, Game. 1 - Portland Trailblazers at Chicago Bulls

Jordans infamous shrug told the story as he was six of ten from three-point range with 35 points in the first half.

Tuesday, Dec. 6, 7:30 p.m.June 14, 1992:NBA Finals, Game. 6 - Portland Trailblazer at Chicago Bulls

Bulls win back-to-back NBA titles and celebrate their first home court championship at Chicago Stadium.

Tuesday, Dec. 13, 7:30 p.m.May 17, 1993:Round 2, Game 4 - Chicago Bulls at Cleveland Cavaliers

Jordan hits game-ending, series-clinching Shot II" reminiscent of his playoff series-clincher at Cleveland four years earlier.

Tuesday, Dec. 20, 7:30 p.m.May 31, 1993:Eastern Conference Finals, Game 4 - New York Knicks at Chicago Bulls

On this Memorial Day telecast, Jordan shines once again with a stellar 54-point performance that tied the series at 2-2.

Tuesday, Dec. 27, 7:30 p.m.June 16, 1993:NBA Finals, Game 4 - Phoenix Suns at Chicago Bulls

The Bulls go up 3-1 in the Finals against Sir Charles & the Suns as Jordan dominates with 55 points.

Tuesday, Jan. 3, 7:30 p.m.June 20, 1993:NBA Finals, Game 6 - Chicago Bulls at Phoenix Suns

John Paxson hits three-point championship-winning shot with 3.9 seconds left, giving the Bulls their first three-peat.

Monday, Jan. 9, 7:30 p.m.March 28, 1995:Chicago Bulls at New York Knicks

In just his fifth game back from retirement, No. 45 Jordan scores 55 points and sets up Bill Wennington for a game-winning slam dunk at the famed Madison Square Garden.

Monday, Jan. 16, 7:30 p.m.June 16, 1996:NBA Finals, Game 6 - Seattle Supersonics at Chicago Bulls

Bulls cap off record-breaking 72-10 regular season by downing the Sonics at the United Center for their fourth NBA title.

Monday, Jan. 23, 7:30 p.m.June 11, 1997:NBA Finals, Game 5 - Chicago Bulls at Utah Jazz

A flu-stricken, yet determined Michael Jordan scores a game-high 38 points, giving the Bulls a 3-2 Finals series edge.

Monday, Jan. 30, 7:30 p.m.June 13, 1997:NBA Finals, Game. 6 - Utah Jazz at Chicago Bulls
Steve Kerr scores a 17-footer with five seconds left in the fourth quarter, followed by Toni Kukoc cementing the deal with a slam dunk with 0.6 seconds left, as the Bulls send the United Center crowd into delirium winning their fifth NBA title.

Monday, Feb. 6, 7:30 p.m.June 14, 1998:NBA Finals, Game 6 - Chicago Bulls at Utah Jazz
Jordan hits historic game-winning shot as the Bulls clinch their sixth NBA Championship. Jordan finishes with 45 points in his final appearance in a Bulls uniform and named NBA Finals MVP for the sixth time.

All times are Central Time. Schedule subject to change.

What can the Cubs expect from the Cleveland Indians in the World Series?

What can the Cubs expect from the Cleveland Indians in the World Series?’s Dan Hayes and JJ Stankevitz saw plenty of the Cleveland Indians while covering the White Sox in 2016, and set their sights on what kind of a challenge the Tribe will provide the Cubs in the World Series.


The American League’s second-best offense has slowed down considerably in the postseason as its .635 OPS ranks seventh among 10 playoff teams in 2016. But the Indians have received enough clutch hitting from part-timer Coco Crisp and their star in the making, shortstop Francisco Lindor, to make the most of their stellar pitching in the playoffs.

In the regular season, the Indians finished second in the American League in runs scored (777) in part because of an aggressive approach on the base paths and even though the team’s best player, Michael Brantley, was limited to 43 plate appearances because of injury. The Indians ranked second in the majors in extra bases taken with 186, two ahead of the Cubs, according to The team also finished second in the majors with an extra bases taken percentage of 45 and led the AL with 134 stolen bases in 165 tries (81 percent).

The offense is centered around designated hitter Carlos Santana, who blasted a career best 34 home runs and posted an .865 OPS. First baseman Mike Napoli and second baseman Jason Kipnis also established career highs in homers with 34 and 23, respectively. Kipnis finished with 68 extra-base hits, including 41 doubles.

Third baseman Jose Ramirez picked up much of the slack for a team that also was without projected outfielder Abraham Almonte for half the season because of a suspension for PEDs. Ramirez had 46 doubles among his 60 extra-base hits and produced an .825 OPS in an outstanding all-around campaign that could garner him a few MVP votes. Rookie Tyler Naquin also filled a big void in the outfield with 14 homers and 43 RBIs in 365 plate appearances.

So far, Indians manager Terry Francona has divided up the plate appearances among his outfielders in October. Only right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall has received consistent playing time as the Indians have platooned Crisp, Naquin, Rajai Davis, who stole 43 bases this season, and Brandon Guyer.

-- Dan Hayes


Andrew Miller may be having the best postseason a relief pitcher has ever had. The big-ticket trade deadline acquisition threw 11 2/3 innings in the ALDS against the Boston Red Sox and ALCS against the Toronto Blue Jays, striking out 21 while allowing only five singles and two walks (that’s good for a laughable .132/.171/.184 opponent slash line). Manager Terry Francona hasn’t been shy about using Miller early in games, too — he inserted the 6-foot-7 lefty in the fifth inning of Cleveland’s ALDS Game 1 win over the Red Sox, and half of his six playoff appearances this year began in the sixth inning or earlier. Miller’s ability to throw multiple innings will put pressure on the Cubs to score early and often against the Indians’ rotation.

Francona’s willingness to use Miller early has been critical toward helping maximize the success of a starting rotation without two of its three best arms in the postseason. Carlos Carrasco (fractured gone in right hand) won’t pitch in the World Series, though Francona hinted that fellow right-handed All-Star Danny Salazar (strained flexor muscle in right forearm) could return to start in the World Series. Right-hander Trevor Bauer, who sliced his right pinky open while repairing his drone and only managed to record two outs before his finger gushed blood in Game 3 of the ALCS, will start Game 2 or 3.

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With or without Salazar and/or Bauer, though, Cleveland’s rotation has been effective. Corey Kluber is the unquestioned ace of the staff and allowed only two runs over 18 1/3 innings in three postseason starts, which stands as a continuation of his strong regular season numbers (18-9, 215 IP, 3.14 ERA, 3.26 FIP). Josh Tomlin has had a short rope, only throwing 10 2/3 innings in his two starts, but allowed three runs in that span with 10 strikeouts and three walks. Rookie left-hander Ryan Merrett threw 4 2/3 shutout innings in a clinching Game 5 win over the Blue Jays last week, too, showing no signs of “shaking in his boots” in his first postseason start.

The rest of Cleveland’s bullpen -- which tied for the second-best ERA in the American League (3.45) in the regular season -- has found success in addition to Miller in the playoffs. Hard-throwing closer Cody Allen has looked unflappable in five save opportunities, allowing five hits and three walks with 12 strikeouts. Right-handers Dan Otero (3.1 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K) and Bryan Shaw (5.2 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 1 HR) have been go-to options if Miller can’t bridge the gap between the starting pitcher and Allen, too.

It doesn’t come as a surprise that Cleveland has found pitching success in the playoffs, even with so many injuries, given their 3.86 staff ERA ranked 7th in baseball.

-- JJ Stankevitz


Nobody has been as outstanding of a defensive team as the Cubs in 2016. But, the Indians are still near the top of the second tier team and have proven a remarkably improved squad over the past two seasons. Much of their improvement stems from the stellar play provided by Lindor, who ranked second in the majors in Ultimate Zone Rating (20.8) among shortstops and fourth in Defensive Runs Saved with 17, according to Combined with Kipnis, who ranked sixth in UZR (7.3) among second baseman, the Indians have a strong double play combo. Ramirez also proved to be a steady defender at third base after taking over as the full-timer following the release of Juan Uribe.

Though the club has missed the presence of starting catcher Yan Gomes, it has handled his absence extremely well. Not only does replacement Roberto Perez rate among the game’s best pitch framers, he also threw out 13 of 26 runners who attempted to steal a base with him behind the dish.

-- Dan Hayes


Francona won two World Series trophies with the Boston Red Sox, including the one in 2004 that ended that franchise’s 87-year title drought. He’s led Cleveland to two postseason berths since taking over in 2013, and the Tribe haven’t had a losing record in his four years at the helm.

The 57-year-old has been lauded for his aggressive use of Miller in the playoffs, deploying the lights-out lefty as a study bridge between a starting rotation beset by injuries and dominant closer Allen.

First baseman/catcher/designated hitter Santana is hardly a prototypical leadoff man, but he’s hit first in six of Cleveland’s eight games in the postseason after leading off 85 games in the regular season. And that’s the batting order position he’s been most effective from --- In the regular season, Santana hit .260/.385/.502 with more walks (67) than strikeouts (60) as a leadoff man. Francona’s willingness to eschew stolen bases and speed on the base paths has put early pressure on starting pitchers by having Santana on base so frequently.

Said Cubs starter Jon Lester, who pitched for Francona in the Red Sox 2007 championship run: “I know that manager on their side’s going to be prepared, I know their coaching staff’s going to be ready.”

-- JJ Stankevitz

Jon Lester says Cubs haven’t done anything yet: ‘Nobody likes second place’

Jon Lester says Cubs haven’t done anything yet: ‘Nobody likes second place’

As Cubs players and generations of fans celebrated Christmas in October, Jon Lester had to be The Grinch for a moment. Sure, the Cubs would party from Saturday night into Sunday morning, probably get “a little bit” drunk and enjoy the franchise’s first National League pennant in 71 years. But the reality of the Cleveland Indians would set in once the Cubs got rid of this hangover.

“We ain’t done anything yet,” Lester said during the Wrigley Field celebration after the Cubs eliminated the Los Angeles Dodgers. “Nobody likes second place.”

There are enough Boston Red Sox connections in this World Series that Lester already knows what to expect, starting with Indians manager Terry Francona, who became a father figure as he dealt with a cancer scare as a rookie.

There are ex-teammates from those championship teams in 2007 (Coco Crisp) and 2013 (Mike Napoli, Andrew Miller) at Fenway Park. There is the accumulated experience from throwing 119 postseason innings (2.50 ERA) and becoming one of the best big-game pitchers of his generation.

“I don’t want to sound like a smart-ass, but we got a long ways to go,” Lester said. “I know that manager on their side’s going to be prepared. I know their coaching staff’s going to be ready. I know their players are going to be ready, just based on one player alone, and that’s Mike Napoli. I know what he brings to the table. He helped transform our 2013 team.

“Come Tuesday, we got to put the gloves back on. We got to get ready to fight and grind and do what we’ve done well all year. We got four more games to win.”

After limiting the Dodgers to two runs in 13 innings, and being named the NL Championship Series’ co-MVP along with Javier Baez, Lester should be a worthy Game 1 starter opposite Corey Kluber, the 2014 American League Cy Young Award winner.

This is why Lester took a leap of faith with Cubs bosses/ex-Red Sox executives Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer and chairman Tom Ricketts’ family and what had been a last-place team in 2014.

Two seasons into the $155 million contract that signaled the Cubs would be serious about contending – and not just in the Baseball America/Baseball Prospectus prospect rankings – the franchise has won 200 games and four playoff rounds and remained in position to dominate for years to come.

“Theo and Jed and the front office and Tom and all these guys had a belief,” Lester said. “I believed in that belief. The talent here speaks for itself. I didn’t do anything – I came here because I wanted to win in Chicago. I’m just happy to be here and be a part of this and get to this point.

“(But) we’re four hard wins away from doing what we set out to do in spring training.”

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As bright as the future looks on the North Side, Lester will be 33 next season and his left arm has already accounted for more than 2,000 innings during his decorated career. John Lackey turned 38 on Sunday. Jake Arrieta only has one more season before becoming a free agent.

The Cubs built their franchise around young hitters, with the idea that they can figure out the pitching later with free agents, change-of-scenery trades and bounce-back guys. Easier said than done. They have a true No. 1 starter now in Lester, who as a free agent watched a recruiting video that imagined what it would be like when the Cubs win the World Series.

“This isn’t it,” Lester said. “It’s been a tough playoffs for us to this point and it’s only going to get tougher. We’re going to enjoy it. We’re going to show up Tuesday in Cleveland ready to play. We’ll see what happens.”