- Created on 11 November 2012
CHICAGO (AP) — With the Chicago Bulls missing star Derrick Rose and two starters going without a basket, the team's revamped bench came through just like the old version did so many times over the last couple of years.
Nate Robinson scored 18 points off the bench, and the Bulls beat Minnesota 87-80 on Saturday night, ending the Timberwolves' three-game winning streak.
Robinson played 31 minutes after starting point guard Kirk Hinrich left the game with a right hip strain in the second quarter. Robinson sparked an 11-point run, helping Chicago beat Minnesota for the sixth straight time.
"I just try to get my teammates involved and bring energy," Robinson said. "Hopefully I did that."
Joakim Noah added 17 points and seven rebounds, and Luol Deng chipped in with 16 points and seven rebounds, as the Bulls (4-2) bounced back from their second home loss in three outings.
"We've got to just keep fighting for as many wins as possible," Noah said. "It's always been like that."
Nikola Pekovic led the short-handed Timberwolves (4-2) with 18 points and eight rebounds. Andrei Kirilenko added 11 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists. Minnesota's three-game streak matched its season high from last season.
"We played good tonight," Pekovic said. "Right to the end. But we had some bad moments."
Hinrich went scoreless in 11 minutes before departing, and forward Carlos Boozer was limited to two points and failed to score a field goal in a game for the first time since Nov. 18, 2003.
"Right now, the ball is just not going in for (Boozer)," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "He's gotten some good looks. It'll come around."
Yet, Chicago had plenty to win with, as coach Tom Thibodeau likes to say, getting 11 points from Marco Belinelli, nine during a spree of three 3-pointers early in the fourth quarter.
"That's part of my game," Belinelli said. "I think it was important tonight, for me and for the team."
Reserve Taj Gibson added eight points, eight rebounds and three blocks.
"I thought our bench was terrific," Thibodeau said. "I thought Marco was terrific. Taj was good. Nazr (Muhammed) was good."
Belinelli's 3-point burst helped the Bulls establish a nine-point lead early fourth, breaking open a tight game. Chicago hit 6 for 13 from behind the arc, its season high for makes. The Bulls entered the game last in the NBA in 3-point makes and attempts.
"We've got some guys who have shown throughout their career that they are good 3-point shooters," Thibodeau said. "We still have to get our timing down and get a flow to what we're doing."
The Bulls led by as many as 10 points down the stretch, going up by that margin when Deng hit a jumper from the corner with 3:53 remaining.
The Timberwolves closed within five points on Dante Cunningham's layup with 42.6 seconds to play, but the Bulls held on down the stretch.
Halfway through the fourth quarter, Minnesota's Chase Budinger left the floor with a twisted left knee and didn't return. After the game, the Timberwolves didn't seem too pleased with the Bulls' physical style of play.
"They were fouling (Budinger) and just pushed him," Minnesota guard Luke Ridnour said. "Gave him a little extra shove.
"That's how they play. Lot of pushing. Lot of fouling. You've just got to play through it. We did and we had a chance to win the game in the fourth quarter."
The severity of Budinger's injury was unknown, but his left leg was wrapped in ice after the game. The team said X-rays of Budinger's knee were negative and he will be re-evaluated on Sunday.
"They've got big people who are very active and they challenge you," Minnesota coach Rick Adelman said. "You've got to respond to it."
Robinson's seven points helped Chicago grab a six-point lead with an 11-point run midway through the second quarter. The run was capped by Noah's feed to Taj Gibson on the baseline for a two-handed dunk.
"I think our bench did a great job," Robinson said. "We come to practice ready to play and we've got our starting five's back."
The Bulls edged back in front with a 23-18 third quarter advantage, capped when rookie Marquis Teague drove the lane and scored with his left hand for his first career points. Teague, Chicago's first-round pick in June, hadn't appeared in a game since Nov. 2.
"It felt good, get a bucket in, just to help my team," Teague said. "I wasn't really overwhelmed. I felt like I was comfortable, ready to play."
It's unknown if Hinrich will miss time because of his injury as he will be re-evaluated on Sunday. However, Thibodeau said he's confident that Teague will be ready to pick up the slack.
"If he's in that locker room, he can play," Thibodeau said. "I've been very pleased with what he's done in practice."
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.
- Created on 09 November 2012
Chicago Bears star cornerback Charles Tillman said on Twitter he will play Sunday against the Houston Texans, after all.
Tillman's status had been up in the air after he told Chicago radio station WSCR-AM that he might not be available because his wife, Jackie, is due to give birth.
But in a message to ESPN Radio's ''Mike & Mike In The Morning'' show Thursday, he wrote, ''god, family, football . . . Baby is coming Monday don't worry I'll be there Sunday.''
This will be the couple's fourth child. Their daughter, Tiana, needed a heart transplant a few months after she was born in 2008.
- Created on 07 November 2012
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — The Chicago Bears breezed through the first half of their schedule in good shape, leading NFC North at 7-1. Things are about to get much tougher.
Houston visits Sunday night in a matchup of two of the league's best teams, and then comes a game at San Francisco next week between NFC contenders.
To that, coach Lovie Smith said, bring it on.
"I don't want the guys to start thinking, 'Hey, let's hold on, something bad's going to happen,'" he said Monday. "We're a 7-1 team. You are what your record says you are and we're a 7-1 football team. We're a good football team. We're excited about playing the Texans. Each game as you continue to win, the stakes go up a little bit higher.
"We realize that and we're going to embrace it," he added. "We're going to embrace this national stage that we have this Sunday night. I see our team getting better and better. We haven't peaked yet."
They sure looked good dismantling Tennessee, scoring the most points for Chicago since 1980 on their way to a 51-20 win.
They got four forced fumbles from Charles Tillman, and their seventh interception return for a touchdown when Brian Urlacher ran one back, extending their single-season record. They also matched one set in 1942 with their seventh defensive touchdown, and they kicked the romp off with a franchise-record 28 points in the first quarter even though their offense got off to a clunky start.
It didn't matter because the defense forced three turnovers in the first 13 minutes, leading to 14 points, and Corey Wootton returned a blocked punt for a touchdown.
"Right now, we're talking an awful lot about our defense," Smith said. "But before this season is over, hopefully this week, it's going to shift where we're going to be talking an awful lot about the weapons we have and the offensive plays that we're making. You can look at that yesterday."
The Bears found their stride on offense in the second half and wound up with 358 yards after being outgained 145 yards to 136 through the first two quarters.
Jay Cutler threw for 229 yards and finished with a 138.1 rating.
Brandon Marshall had 122 yards and three touchdowns receiving. Matt Forte ran for 103 and a score, but the Bears are going to need more at the start if they're going to get by the rest of the way.
"It took a little bit of time," Cutler said. "I think we shortened up some of our routes, just tried to get the ball out quicker, get it in the receivers' hands and get some rhythm that way."
Only one of the remaining games is against a team with a losing record at the moment and none are against a defense ranked lower than 13th. The next two weeks, the Bears will be facing top three defenses, with Houston ranked third and San Francisco second, meaning the offense could be in for some more difficulties.
"We're not there yet, but we are taking steps forward I think," Forte said.
It still hasn't clicked quite the way the Bears envisioned after that busy offseason.
The Bears rank 25th overall on offense and 29th in the passing game, not quite the way they drew it up.
Marshall, their big acquisition, has been everything they thought he would be with 797 yards and seven touchdown catches. He already has more yards than last year's leading receiver Johnny Knox, who had 727 in 14 appearances before a season-ending back injury.
But protection continues to be an issue.
Only Aaron Rodgers of Green Bay has been sacked more times than Cutler, who has absorbed 28 this season. Tennessee got to him three times and he took several more hits, although Smith said the line wasn't to blame for most of that.
Otherwise, he liked what he saw from the offense, particularly in the second half of that game. They'll need more of that with the schedule taking a tougher turn.
"I know we have the Texans next, and I have an idea of some of the other teams we have coming up," Smith said. "But I think this team has enough veterans in the room to stay focused. They know how we do things. They're not looking too far, one play at a time."
Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) celebrates with middle linebacker Brian Urlacher (54) after the Bears scored a touchdown against the Tennessee Titans in the fourth quarter of an NFL football game on Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012, in Nashville, Tenn. The Bears beat the Titans 51-20. (AP Photo/Joe Howell)
- Created on 08 November 2012
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — The idea that the Chicago Bears' offense will match its jaw-dropping defense this season just might be a little far-fetched.
That's the word from quarterback Jay Cutler.
"We're not going to catch the defense this year," Cutler said. "It's not going to happen. We're eight, nine years behind those guys. They've been in the same system a long time. We've just go to focus on ourselves. Every guy has just got to get a little bit better each week, every day at practice. If we get a little bit better by the end of the season, we'll be better."
For all the hype coming into the season, the offense remains a work in progress. That hasn't stopped the Bears (7-1, No. 3 In AP Pro32) from grabbing the NFC North lead heading into Sunday's showdown with AFC South leader Houston.
It just hasn't happened quite the way they envisioned. Now, they're going against a dominant defense in a matchup between two of the league's best teams.
It's a big test for an offense that many thought had the potential to be explosive isn't quite living up to the billing.
"I think you guys have to understand we're not going to look like the New England Patriots," star receiver Brandon Marshall said. "We're not going to look like the New Orleans Saints' offense. We're the Chicago Bears' offense."
And it might not be as shiny and flashy, at least not this season.
That didn't stop Marshall from pointing out that the offense scored 37 points in last week's 51-20 win at Tennessee, even though three of that group's touchdowns came on drives of 16 yards or less. The offense really didn't do much in that game until the second half.
He mentioned that the Bears have an elite quarterback in Cutler and running back in Matt Forte. Yet, he also said those expecting the Bears' offense to resemble New England's, New Orleans', Green Bay's or even Denver's when he and Cutler were there should probably forget about that, at least for now.
"We're going to do it our own way," Marshall said.
So when will it really click?
"I'm thinking 2015," he said in jest, before turning serious. "We have goals. We want to win now. We want to win now. We're doing a good job of it and will we be a No. 1 offense this year? I don't know. It doesn't look like it but what we're doing is effective. We just have to be a little bit more productive and start a little bit faster."
The Bears rank 25th overall on offense and 29th in the passing game, a surprise considering how dominant Marshall has been.
Now, they're about to meet a defense that might be overshadowed a bit this week even though it ranks among the league's best. For all the publicity the Bears' defenders are getting, consider what the Texans are doing.
They're third overall on defense, second against the run and fourth against the pass.
They're tied with Chicago for third with 25 sacks along with the New York Giants and Seattle Seahawks, including a league-leading 101/2 by J.J. Watt, and they're going up against a team with well-documented issues when it comes to protection. Cutler has been sacked 28 times and is second only to Aaron Rodgers in that category.
"He has been sacked a lot," Texans outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus said. "They're having a lot of difficulty in pass protection. Any defensive players likes that, so the thing is, we're going to work our best moves and try to get to him as best we can."
And yet, the Texans also realize they could be in for a tough time.
No one needs to remind them about Cutler's mobility and arm strength, Forte's versatility in the backfield or Marshall's sheer dominance so far. The Bears' prized offseason acquisition, he's second in the league with 797 yards receiving on 59 receptions.
"Everybody knows the type of player he is," said Houston safety Danieal Manning, who played in Chicago from 2006-10. "He's been targeted much now that he's back with his guy (Cutler). Those guys are hooking up a lot. Brandon has been catching it well, he's a big-body guy who can run routes and stretch the field. Wherever he is, you'd be crazy not to pay attention to where that guy is. Not only him, they do have other playmakers on that team."
Yet, the Bears are still a bit clunky on offense at times, particularly early in games.
"I think we've got to recognize what they're playing and attack them a certain way according to what coverage and fronts we're seeing," Cutler said. "It's a mixed bag of things, but at the end of the day, with our defense, as long as we make another team's offense go 80, 90 yards, I think we're going to be OK."
- Created on 07 November 2012
For nearly three quarters, the Orlando Magic looked like the team that has been the surprise of young NBA season.
Then, the Chicago Bulls found the right mix.
Luol Deng scored 15 of his 23 points in the second half to lead the Chicago Bulls to a 99-93 win over Orlando on Tuesday night, the Magic's first loss of the season.
Deng and Nate Robinson keyed a 15-2 second-half burst when Chicago turned a five-point deficit into an eight-point lead. Robinson hit two straight jumpers to put Chicago ahead 74-70 early in the fourth, the Bulls' first lead since midway through the third period.
''We executed well,'' Deng said. ''I thought Nate did a good job of looking for his shot and running the plays we were calling.''
Deng teamed with fellow starter Joakim Noah and three reserves for most of the run, with Robinson, Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson making key contributions.
''The guys we had in, Taj and Jimmy, gave us a big lift,'' Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. ''Nate also was really good out there. I thought in the second half, we played a lot harder.''
Noah had 20 points, nine rebounds and five blocks for Chicago, while Robinson added 11 points and six assists off the bench. Robinson's layup with 2:35 to play put Chicago up 91-81, its biggest lead of the game.
''(Winning is) all that counts, but we need to play better,'' Noah said. ''This isn't going to cut it against a better team. We've just got to keep fighting.
''They're an underrated team. I feel like they've got a lot of offensive firepower, they spread the floor,'' he added. ''It was a good win tonight.''
Arron Afflalo led the Magic with 28 points, 19 in the second half. E'Twaun Moore added a career-high 17 points.
''Our lull offensively gave them an opportunity to hit some shots in the fourth quarter,'' Afflalo said. ''It's unfortunate, because it was a game I thought we could have won.''
Glen Davis, who entered the game fourth in the NBA with 25.5 points per game, scored 16 points but shot just 7 of 22 from the floor and fouled out.
''The Bulls did a good job of getting us out of our stuff,'' Davis said. ''You have to give them credit. They're a great defensive team.''
Nicola Vucevic had 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Magic, who had won three of their last four in Chicago entering the game.
Orlando had started the season 2-0, surprising many around the league after trading star center Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers over the summer. The Magic came up short in its bid to go 3-0 for just the fourth time in franchise history.
''We can't play one-on-one basketball,'' Vaughn said. ''When we shared the basketball we got good looks. But when we turn it into a one-on-one contest, we're not going to get good looks.''
The Magic led 70-65 when the Bulls started their decisive run late in the third quarter. Deng tied the game with a jumper with 10:58 to play. Later, Robinson capped the run with a layup in transition.
''I think we wanted it more,'' Robinson said. ''I think at the end we were more gritty. Coach said whatever it takes to get the win. So tonight, we had to gut it out.''
Orlando trimmed the lead to four on Affalo's 3 in the final minute, but Chicago held on down the stretch. Gibson's dunk and free throw with 39 seconds remaining iced it for the Bulls.
The Magic pushed the lead to seven in the second quarter behind seven points from Moore before Richard Hamilton closed the lead to 48-45 with a pull-up jumper in transition to close the first half.
J.J. Redick continued his hot shooting early with a 3-pointer and a midrange jumper during the spree. Redick hit 16 of 25 shots in Orlando's first two games.
After making his first two shots, Redick hit just one of the next seven before hitting a 3-pointer in the fourth quarter, with Butler sticking to him for most of the second half.
''We just found a way,'' Noah said. ''We fought hard at the end. Jimmy (Butler) gave us a great spark.''
The Bulls needed the win after losing to New Orleans on Saturday and with Oklahoma City visiting the United Center on Thursday. The Bulls have not lost two straight at home since a five-game skid from March 1 to 19, 2010.
''This was a tough game,'' Deng said. ''They're playing well and we lost our last game. It's one of those we needed to win. You don't want to lose two, then we've got Oklahoma (City) coming in. The fourth quarter was really good for the team.''