- Created on 26 April 2013
Every play near the basket looked like a traffic accident. There were long scoreless stretches. Shooting from outside was a dicey proposition.
It was ugly for everyone but the Chicago Bulls. This was their type of game.
Carlos Boozer had 22 points and 16 rebounds, Luol Deng added 21 points and 10 boards, and the Bulls held off the Brooklyn Nets 79-76 in Game 3 of their first-round playoff series Thursday night.
"We did what we had to do to win the game," Boozer said. "In the playoffs you have to win different ways. Nothing is perfect."
Chicago had no field goals and two foul shots over the final 5:46 of its second straight win in the series. It will try for a 3-1 lead when the banged-up teams return to the court Saturday afternoon in a quick turnaround.
Brooklyn shot 35 percent for the second straight game. Brook Lopez had 22 points, nine rebounds and seven blocked shots, and Deron Williams finished with 18 points on 5-for-14 shooting.
"When we get the ball swung to the weak side and we get some movement, we're fine," Williams said. "But when we just let them keep us on one side, we're struggling. We're struggling to shoot the ball, score the ball, and we're playing right into what they want to do."
Deng led the way as Chicago grabbed control in the third quarter for the second consecutive game. The All-Star forward scored 12 points in the first 4 minutes of the period, seemingly scoring at will against Gerald Wallace as the Bulls turned a seven-point halftime advantage into a 16-point lead.
"I had a few good minutes," Deng said. "I felt like I could have shot the ball a lot better. I don't know how many minutes, seven or so of great minutes. They could have sent me home after that."
Deng connected on four long jumpers before he drove inside for a three-point play off a foul on Wallace. A free throw by Boozer made it 54-38 with 7:36 remaining.
Brooklyn made one last charge when Lopez had eight points in a 10-2 spurt that trimmed Chicago's lead to 77-74 with 14.4 seconds left. But Nate Robinson and Joakim Noah each hit a free throw and former Bulls guard C.J. Watson missed an open 3 at the buzzer.
"I was surprised I was open and I just tried to get it off before the clock went out and just missed it," he said.
Joe Johnson got a cortisone shot for his ailing left foot and finished 15 points for Brooklyn, while Noah's foul shot was his only point of the game while dealing with his own painful right foot injury. Noah also had eight rebounds, two assists and two blocks.
"I felt pretty good the whole game, other than probably about the last two to three minutes. It had kind of tightened up," Johnson said. "But other than that, I felt all right."
The Nets cruised to an easy victory in the playoff opener and flopped in Game 2, when they managed only 11 points in the third period of a 90-82 loss on Monday night that handed home-court advantage to the Bulls. There was no word on Johnson until the starting lineups came out right before Game 3, but coach P.J. Carlesimo was more focused on Brooklyn playing with more aggression and getting off to a fast start than whether the guard was going to be able to play.
That emphasis worked at the beginning, but it quickly fell apart when the Nets went cold again on offense and the Bulls started to find their rhythm on both ends of the court.
"They came out and jumped on us pretty good," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "So we had to dig out of that hole. Once we did that, I thought for the most part in the second and third quarters we played well."
Williams had eight quick points, matching his total from all of Game 2 and helping Brooklyn to a 17-5 lead with 6:25 left in the first quarter. The Nets then went scoreless for the next 6½ minutes and missed 25 of 26 shots overall while Chicago moved in front.
Hinrich made a layup, Marco Belinelli hit two foul shots and Boozer made a jumper to close out a 28-4 blitz that made it 33-21 with 5 minutes left in the half. But the biggest highlight was a pick and roll with Robinson and Taj Gibson, who finished it off with a poster-worthy dunk over Kris Humphries.
"It's been very difficult for us to finish, we have been struggling inside and we can't win if you're not making shots in the paint," Nets coach P.J. Carlesimo said.
- Created on 25 April 2013
DEERFIELD, Ill. — Joakim Noah feels like he's running on needles and Joe Johnson can probably sympathize.
The Bulls and Nets resume their first-round series in Chicago on Thursday after splitting the first two games in Brooklyn, and both teams have key players battling a similar injury.
Noah remains hobbled by plantar fasciitis in his right foot, and Johnson is dealing with it in his left one. He sat out practice on Wednesday and is a game-time decision, meaning the Nets could be without one of their top scorers.
"We have a lot of guys we can lean on," Brook Lopez said. "We have to obviously worry about playing better defense, playing with better energy and tenacity. I think a lot will depend on how our frontcourt reacts to what they're throwing at us."
Some of that might hinge on just how much Noah can contribute for the Bulls.
Coach Tom Thibodeau said the Bulls' center participated in most of Wednesday's practice and there were no setbacks after playing about 25 minutes in Game 2 on Monday.
Noah provided a big spark in that one with 11 points and 10 rebounds, and the Bulls pulled even in the series. Thibodeau indicated he will remain on a minutes limit after playing about 14 in each of the previous three games.
Noah's still trying to work his way back after missing time down the stretch with an injury that had given him trouble in the past and cropped up again around midseason.
"It feels like you have needles underneath your foot while you're playing," Noah said. "You can imagine. You need to jump. You need to run. You need to do a lot of things while you're playing basketball. You don't want needles on your feet, right?"
It's not exactly an unfamiliar feeling for Noah, given his history. The most recent bouts with the injury have caused him to miss 15 games since the start of February.
He sat out eight straight late in the regular season before playing against Detroit on April 7. He then missed the next four and got in about 14 minutes in the final two regular-season games.
His status for this series was in question after he acknowledged last week that he was in pain, and the way he struggled in Game 1, it didn't look like he would be able to contribute much. But there he was in Game 2, playing a key role as the Bulls shook off an ugly loss to tie the series.
"It's not time to exhale right now," Noah said. "I think that we've dealt with adversity very well this year. Every time we got hit with a punch, we always responded pretty well."
The biggest blow came late in Game 1 of the playoffs last year. They lost Derrick Rose to a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the left knee and wound up bowing out to Philadelphia in the first round after capturing the No. 1 seed.
He hasn't played since then, and his status has been a running soap opera this season.
While their superstar's been recovering, the Bulls have seen just about every key part of their rotation get banged up at some point, yet they're still standing.
Now, they have a chance to grab the lead after seizing homecourt advantage in this series, and even though they're still dealing with a dinged-up Noah, Brooklyn isn't completely healthy, either.
The Bulls aren't buying into the idea that Johnson will sit out, though.
Thibodeau basically rolled his eyes and said, "Oh, he'll play, don't worry."
And Chicago's Jimmy Butler added: "I'm sure he'll rest up and be ready."
- Created on 22 April 2013
NEW YORK — The Chicago Bulls put together a couple of rallies while taking three of four from the Brooklyn Nets during the regular season.
There was no chance for any comeback on Saturday. Not with the defense lacking and Joakim Noah limping.
The top-seeded team in the Eastern Conference the past two seasons, the Bulls failed to match the Nets' energy and trailed by as many as 28 points in a 106-89 loss in Game 1 of their playoff series.
Noah stopped short of giving Brooklyn all the credit.
"I feel like it's more us. We played so poorly. We didn't play well offensively. We didn't execute," Noah said. "Playoffs is all about executing. We didn't execute the defensive game plan and we didn't execute the offensive game plan."
Battling plantar fasciitis in his right foot, Noah managed just four points and five rebounds. The All-Star was a game-time decision, but opted to give it a try and played 14 minutes.
Carlos Boozer had 25 points and eight rebounds for the Bulls, and Nate Robinson scored 17.
"It was the end of the first (quarter) and they hit us with a haymaker, got us back on our heels," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "So end of the first, second quarter, poor defense, poor intensity, poor energy on offense. You can't win like that."
Chicago is still without Derrick Rose, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in last year's playoff opener. Thibodeau hasn't ruled out the former MVP returning in this series, noting the end would be two weeks from Saturday if it went the distance.
It's been a trying season while dealing with a slew of injuries for key players, and Noah expects the Bulls to come out fighting in Game 2 on Monday night at Barclays Center.
"You know what, we've got to bounce back," he said. "No time to feel sorry for ourselves. We've showed resiliency all year and I think we've got a lot of basketball left.
"We dealt with adversity all year. We got smacked in the face and it's on us to bounce back."
Deron Williams scored 22 points, Brook Lopez had 21 and the Nets made 16 of 20 shots in the second period on their way to 60 percent in the first half.
"That's a hell of a performance," Nets interim coach P.J. Carlesimo said.
Joe Johnson finished with 16 for the Nets, who made their successful first season in Brooklyn even better with a victory in their first playoff appearance since 2007.
The Nets wore their road black uniforms and fans were encouraged to wear black as well to make it a "blackout" for the first major postseason game in Brooklyn since Oct. 10, 1956, when the Yankees beat the Dodgers in Game 7 of the World Series at Ebbets Field.
The Nets then came out white-hot, shooting nearly 56 percent and putting six players in double figures.
"Everybody was excited for this game," Williams said. "I think it has been a long time coming for this franchise, this organization with the move and everything. We expected to be here, so we came out playing like we wanted to be here ... we were locked in today."
The sellout crowd of 17,732 was roaring long before Nets reserve Jerry Stackhouse, who wears the No. 42 that Jackie Robinson once sported in Brooklyn, sang the national anthem.
Owner Mikhail Prokhorov, who committed hundreds of millions on player contracts last summer expecting a longtime loser in New Jersey to win big in Brooklyn, came on the court to thank fans for their passion and support, telling them that this playoff appearance was only the beginning.
And what a beginning it was.
Williams even had a reverse dunk in the third quarter, showing how much better he feels after ankle pain had him playing well below his usual level before the All-Star break, when he could barely jump.
Gerald Wallace and C.J. Watson each scored 14 for the Nets, while Andray Blatche had 12.
Chicago won three of four during the regular season, holding the Nets to 87.5 points per game, but Brooklyn had 89 after the third quarter of this one.
"It was disappointing," Noah said. "We didn't play well. We didn't come out with the right mindset. They scored way too many points in the paint. We didn't execute well offensively. But you know what, we've got to bounce back. No time to feel sorry for ourselves. We've showed resiliency all year and I think we've got a lot of basketball left."
- Created on 23 April 2013
Blake Tekotte was picked off second base by catcher Carlos Santana with two on and none out. Moments later, Matt Thornton threw the ball into center field for a pivotal error.
It was an all-too-familiar scene for White Sox manager Robin Ventura just 19 games into the season.
"You just keep shooting yourself in the foot," Ventura said after Chicago lost 3-2 to the Cleveland Indians on Monday night. "You give major league teams opportunities and they're going to take advantage of them. And until we clean it up, we're going to lose games. It's just that simple. It's not hard to figure out."
Asdrubal Cabrera delivered a clutch two-run single in his return to the lineup and Justin Masterson pitched seven effective innings, helping Cleveland to its third consecutive win since a five-game losing streak. The Indians also improved to 3-1 against the White Sox this season.
"It was nice to win a ballgame. We've got some big home runs, but to group together some singles, that was huge," manager Terry Francona said.
Cleveland had runners on first and second with one out in the eighth when Thornton (0-1) threw wildly to second while trying to pick off Drew Stubbs. Both runners moved up as the ball went into center field.
"It was a set play, spun and threw it between Stubbs' legs. No chance for us to get that ball," Thornton said. "So, I gave the game away."
Jason Kipnis struck out for the second out, but Cabrera hit a liner to center to give Cleveland a 3-2 lead. He clapped his hands as he rounded first following the big hit.
"I love those situations," Cabrera said.
Dylan Axelrod pitched six sparkling innings for Chicago, and Conor Gillaspie had a solo homer. Hector Gimenez hit a tiebreaking double in the fourth, but left in the seventh after he was hit on his lower left shin by a pitch from Masterson.
"I think it's going to be OK," Gimenez said. "Let's see how I feel tomorrow. I'll be here early and just be ready."
The slumping White Sox have lost four straight and 10 of 13. They managed just five hits and the baserunning blunder by Tekotte, who came in to run for Gimenez, was followed by an inning-ending double play from Alejandro De Aza.
"We always have confidence in our guys here," Thornton said. "Everyone's doing what they can every single day. We have a good team and believe in ourselves. We keep pulling for each other and pushing each other and stuff, so we'll be fine."
Cabrera went 1 for 4 in his first game since he bruised his left wrist when he fell down the steps on the way to the dugout in Houston on Saturday. He rested during a 5-4 victory on Sunday, but that didn't stop his teammates from making a tape outline of a body with Cabrera's No. 13 on it on the stairs where he fell.
Cabrera took it in stride, laughing and taking pictures of their handiwork. He is off to a slow start and remains in search of his first multihit game, but no one seems all that concerned.
"Maybe this is the start hopefully of him getting hot," said Francona, who celebrated his 54th birthday, "because he's going to get really hot at some point."
Masterson (4-1) walked four, but managed to hold the White Sox to two runs and four hits. The right-hander also tossed a five-hitter in a 1-0 victory over Chicago on April 12.
"The boys played great defense," he said. "Again, Santana was exceptional, especially making that play at second base."
Vinnie Pestano worked a perfect eighth and Chris Perez pitched around a one-out single while earning his third save in four opportunities.
Gillaspie led off the second with a drive to right for his first homer since he was acquired in a February trade with San Francisco. Then he played a role in Chicago's second run when he walked with one out in the fourth.
Gillaspie was erased when Alexei Ramirez bounced into a fielder's choice, but Gimenez followed with a double to deep left-center to give the White Sox a 2-1 lead. Masterson struck out Jordan Danks for the second time to limit the damage.
Axelrod allowed one run and three hits, struck out four and walked two.
"I can't ask myself to do anything else but keep us in it and be ahead coming out of the game," he said. "It's unfortunate that we're in a little bit of a rut. We just need to find a way to get it done."
- Created on 19 April 2013
Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington said he was glad Thursday's game against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field was played.
That was pretty much the only thing he had to be glad about.
Starter Alexi Ogando was chased in the third inning, Texas batters got only four hits and the Rangers lost to the Chicago Cubs 6-2 on a soggy afternoon.
Despite torrential rains that caused citywide floods, the teams were able to play in an occasional drizzle. The Cubs and Texas were rained out Wednesday.
Alfonso Soriano hit his first home run of the season and Anthony Rizzo also homered for the Cubs.
Even with outcome, Washington was OK that the teams played.
"Wish for better results, but I am," Washington said. "It's one game we don't have to play when we return."
Ogando (2-1), however, might have liked the day off.
Before Thursday, Ogando had been 5-0 with a 1.88 ERA in eight career April starts. He had allowed just two earned runs in 16 2-3 innings this season.
Ogando lasted only 2 1-3 innings, giving up five runs on six hits while walking two.
The Texas right-hander said he was slipping on the mound, and had members of the grounds crew try to fix it during the Cubs' four-run third.
"On top of being out of control today, that mound didn't really help at all today," Ogando said.
"It was difficult to command my fastball and that's going to affect all my other pitches," Ogando said. "That's why I had a difficult time today."
Cubs manager Dale Sveum said Ogando "looked a little out of whack."
"And we probably had a little bit to do with that," he said.