Kings can't hang with high-flying Bulls in Chicago


Kings can't hang with high-flying Bulls in Chicago

CHICAGO (AP) The Chicago Bulls are enjoying their best season in more than a decade, and they're trying not to get too fixated on where all this success might lead.Derrick Rose and Kyle Korver scored 18 points apiece as the Bulls blasted the Sacramento Kings 132-92 on Monday night for their ninth win in 10 games."It's fun," Rose said. "I can't complain about anything right now. We're winning games, playing good basketball and the city is going crazy."The win gave the Bulls (50-19) their first 50-win season since 1997-98 and allowed Chicago to remain tied with Boston atop the Eastern Conference. The Celtics beat the New York Knicks on Monday."It was fun to watch tonight," Carlos Boozer said. "It's fun to watch everybody play."That 1997-98 edition of the Bulls won the NBA championship, the last of six titles the franchise won in the 1990s. When that was pointed out to Rose, he said the team is trying not to get too far ahead of itself."We're trying to win one game at a time," Rose said. "Of course, we'd like to win (a title). We still have a lot of things to work on before we get there."Boozer scored 16 points in his return to the Bulls' lineup after missing five games with a sprained left ankle."First game back, I thought (Boozer) was very good," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "I thought he actually scored a lot more efficiently than I thought he would."He missed a lot of time and he got basically one practice. I thought it was very encouraging."Boozer led a balanced Bulls attack that had eight players scoring in double figures in a game that was not close after the first period."It felt great," Boozer said of his ankle. "I was happy with how strong it was through the course of the game. I was also happy to get a lot of rest in the fourth quarter."Luol Deng scored 17 points for the Bulls, Keith Bogans added 15, Joakim Noah and Omer Asik each had 14, and C.J. Watson chipped in with 11 points."I love the balance," Thibodeau said. "We're inside-out, keeping the ball moving, making the extra pass."With the game well in hand, Thibodeau had the luxury of resting his top players. Rose played just 28 minutes, his lowest total of the season. He didn't play in the fourth quarter."I know you guys are all concerned about the minutes," Thibodeau said. "Getting the minutes down was good."The Bulls shot 61.3 percent from the field. More aggressive from the outset, Chicago forced 22 Sacramento turnovers and held a 36-7 edge in fastbreak points. The Bulls set a season high for points."The more we can get into the open floor, the better," Thibodeau said. "Getting the easy baskets makes the game easier."Marcus Thornton led the Kings (17-52) with 25 points."We turn the ball over and they go get a layup," Kings coach Paul Westphal said. "That's not a breakdown in defense, but pretty soon they're shooting 61 percent for the game and they're wearing us out. You can't keep turning the ball over the way we do it against a great team like the Bulls."I think they have legitimate championship aspirations. They're in the conversation with four or five other teams."Kings rookie DeMarcus Cousins struggled, getting in foul trouble early. He finished with 11 points and eight rebounds, but also committed eight turnovers."DeMarcus' turnovers stand out tonight," Westphal said. "However, he is a young, gifted player who has a few things to learn about decision-making."The high-scoring Thornton has scored 20 or more points in nine of Sacramento's last 12 games."We tried to chip away in the second half, but they turned the defense up again on us and we kind of ran out of gas," Thornton said. "They're a great defensive team. Defense wins championships. They're going to make a deep run in the playoffs."The Bulls have won 13 straight at the United Center, their longest home winning streak since 1997-98. At 31-4, the Bulls have the NBA's second-best home record behind San Antonio (32-3).Chicago led by as many as 25 in the third period, reaching that advantage when Bogans lobbed a pass toward the rim on a fastbreak and Rose flew in from the baseline and dunked it with both hands.Sacramento, which entered averaging more turnovers (16.1) than all but two NBA teams, had 12 miscues in the first 18 minutes, leading to 19 Chicago points."We have to be stronger with the ball," said Kings point guard Beno Udrih, who had 13 points and five assists. "Pass it when you see the man open right away instead of holding it too long."Notes: Chicago mascot "Benny the Bull" celebrated his birthday. He was joined by mascots flown in from other teams as party of a halftime party. ... The win might have helped the Bulls overcome the painful memory of Sacramento's last visit to Chicago. On Dec. 21, 2009, the Kings erased a 35-point third quarter deficit and beat Chicago 102-98. It was the NBA's biggest comeback in over 13 years. ... The 1997-98 Bulls won their 50th game on March 20, one day before this year's Bulls reached that mark. ... This is the 14th time in franchise history that the Bulls have won 50 or more games. ... The Bulls improved to 38-2 when holding teams under 95 points or less this season.

How John Pagano plans to impact Raiders defense: ‘There is always room for change’


How John Pagano plans to impact Raiders defense: ‘There is always room for change’

ALAMEDA – John Pagano can’t implement his scheme in a week. He can’t import his plays and preferences cultivated during five seasons as Chargers defensive coordinator. Full offseason programs and training camps are required for that.

Raiders defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. was fired on Tuesday. Pagano will call his first Raiders game five days later against Denver at Oakland Coliseum. The Raiders’ assistant head coach – defense believes he can impact how the Silver and Black does business.

“There’s always room for change and there’s always room for doing things better,” Pagano said Thursday. “Without telling you our game plan, it’s about how we go out and execute the call, bottom line.”

Head coach Jack Del Rio said the Raiders weren’t playing fast enough. They weren’t creating enough turnovers, weren’t doing well enough on third down and weren’t regularly affecting the quarterback due to a lack of both rush and coverage.

That’s why Norton had to go.

Pagano’s first objective, which must get accomplished in a few days, is getting the Raiders to play with confidence. Then he can add some design wrinkles with some of his personality.

“You have to have that ability of going out there, knowing your assignment and playing faster,” Pagano said. “It’s not to say that there have been times where we’ve simplified things, but taking the thinking out of the game and making them react is, I think, most important. Going out there and playing fast and that’s doing the little extra things, the attention to details of studying and getting those things processed. See ball, go get ball.”

That last sentence sums up how Pagano wants his guys to play. He’s a quality play caller and creative blitzer with a knack making simple plays look complex. He can find and exploit opposing weak links. His defenses have always been good creating pressure and turnovers alike. The Raiders need more of both.

To do that Pagano wants to relieve a player’s mental burden and keep them focused on using talent well.

“The one thing I’ve always stressed and always been about is technique, fundamentals and unbelievable effort,” Pagano said. “I think those three things can get you home.”

The Raiders haven’t been home much as a defense. They’re tied for last with 14 sacks. They’re dead last with six turnovers. They’ve gone 10 games without an interception, the longest single-season drought in NFL history.

A lack of big defensive plays has killed the Raiders this season. It obviously increases points allowed. Good field position has been hard to come by. The offense has to earn everything the hard way. That’s a recipe for losing football, a maddening turn after the Raiders finished second with 30 takeaways last year.

Pagano has a chart listing “MOPs,” short for missed opportunities. There have been many, especially in a secondary he oversaw before this week.

“I talked to these guys this week about we need to do simple better,” Pagano said. “What is simple? It’s fundamentals of covering. It’s tackling. It’s communicating. It’s catching the ball when it comes. We’ve had opportunities. It’s not like we’re out there struggling and straining to dive and layout for the thing. It’s hit us in the hands where we’ve had many, many opportunities.”

Missed opportunities have also plagued a pass rush featuring reigning defensive player of the year Khalil Mack. Pagano brought up a moment early in Sunday’s lost to New England, when Treyvon Hester forced a fumble near three teammates that the Patriots somehow recovered.

Pagano’s goal is to improve performance. Players must buy in to do that. Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin headline a large group close to Norton, one with enough pride and professionalism to get behind a new playcaller in Pagano, who could be here long term.

“There is a human element to this,” Pagano said. “We are family. It’s sad any time a member of your family gets dismissed or something. At the end of the day, we have the Broncos coming in here on Sunday and we have to get our minds right to go play this game. That’s something that they’ve done a great job with this week, truly focusing in on what we need to do.”

Jordan Bell: Rookie year with Warriors 'like being a freshman all over again'


Jordan Bell: Rookie year with Warriors 'like being a freshman all over again'

Warriors rookie Jordan Bell made an instant impact for the team this season. But as of late, his playing time has dwindled. In four of the Warriors' last five games, Bell has been inactive. 

“It's just the life of a rookie,” Bell said to The Athletic. “That's what Steve Kerr always tells me. It's not because I'm playing bad. Just gotta be professional about it and stay ready. It's like being a freshman all over again.”

While Bell wants to be on the court with his teammates, what he appreciates most from Steve Kerr is his communication. Kerr is always honest about when he won't play Bell and he keeps the former Oregon Duck encouraged. 

“He talks to me about it every time he sees me,” Bell said. “Lets me know I'm not going to be active. Keep doing what you're doing, you're doing good. But it still f------ sucks. You're playing well and it doesn't mean anything because you're younger. It sucks, but you got to be professional about it.”

Bell has played in 12 of the Warriors' 18 games this season. The 22-year-old is averaging 3.2 points and 2.2 rebounds per game over 8.3 minutes per game. 

The Warriors bought the 38th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft from the Chicago Bulls and selected Bell. On Friday night, the Warriors, and perhaps Bell, play the Bulls for the first time this season.