Cubs

Bulls' defense dominates in record-setting win

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Bulls' defense dominates in record-setting win

ORLANDOSans Derrick Rose, the Bulls continue to find different methods to win, but Monday nights rout of the Magic was a return to a familiar formula. Well, Carlos Boozer also played a major role in the 85-59 victory at the Amway Center, but a stifling effort on the defensive endnot to mention timely scoring from new fan favorite John Lucas III early and lateone that set a new franchise mark for holding opponents to the fewest points in a regular-season game, earned Tom Thibodeau his 100th victory, setting an NBA record for being the head coach to accomplish the feat the fastest.

After starting the contest on the wrong end of a 5-0 run, the Bulls (38-10) got their act together quickly, using ball movement and sharp cuts to the basket to reap easy scoring opportunities.

Boozer (24 points, 13 rebounds) was the visitors offensive focal point, but in addition to scoring, the power forward also displayed his underrated passing ability and rebounding prowess in the early going.

Orlando (29-18) recovered from the Bulls onslaught and bounced back, going to newly re-committed All-Star center Dwight Howard (18 points, 12 rebounds, three blocked shots)the subject of intense trade speculation at the deadline before informing the Magic of his decision to return for another seasonon the interior for high-percentage shots.

However, their guests struck back behind reserve point guard John Lucas III (20 points), who drained a trio of long bombs to help the Bulls take a 22-14 lead after a quarter of play.

Chicagos Bench Mob, with starter Luol Deng (14 points) also in the mix, maintained the momentum at the outset of the second period, as Omer Asiks interior defense, Taj Gibsons work on the glass and Dengs all-around talents kept the Magic off balance and allowed the gap between the teams to swell to double digits.

Upon Boozers reinsertion to the gamealong with Noah, in place of Gibson and Asikthe much-maligned big man went to work once again and with the Bulls transition game clicking, the defense forcing turnovers and stellar ball movement, the visitors remained in firm control.

Magic face-up power forward Ryan Anderson stretched the defense with his outside marksmanship and point guard Jameer Nelson, a former All-Star, overcame some early struggles to briefly spark the hosts, but as has become commonplace, the guests simply increased their defensive intensity and made adjustments to counter those developments.

Meanwhile, on the other end of the floor, Boozer and Deng continued to excel, assisting the Bulls in taking a 48-33 advantage into the intermission in front of a dissatisfied Orlando crowd.

The games pace slowed a bit after the break, but the Bulls continued to have the edge in the contest, mostly due to their stout defensethough two Howard interior baskets, sandwiched by an Anderson putback, raised Thibodeaus ire enough for him to call a timeout, in order to refocus his squadas both teams initially had issues scoring the ball.

Orlando chipped away at the deficit, briefly making it a single-digit affair and getting the home fans back into the game.

Boozer, however, had other plans, knocking down his mid-range jumper with remarkable accuracy and again, combined with the Bulls intense defense, ensuring the lead ballooned enough to become a comfortable winning margin, following a 6-0 spurt.

Though the close of the period evened out a bit, the visitors maintained a 60-48 edge through three quarters of play.

The final stanza began as a defensive battle, with each team not giving an inch, yet unable to score proficiently, meaning each basket was that much more crucial and magnifying the importance of the diminutive Lucas high-arcing pull-up jumper over Howard, the three-time reigning league Defensive Player of the Year.

A thunderous Joakim Noah dunk over Glen Big Baby Davis, plus the foul and ensuing free throw raised the Bulls lead to 20 points and although Nelson knocked down a three-pointer on the subsequent possession, the damage was done.

Lucas, though, wasnt done putting the finishing touches on the road win, as his instant-offense scoring was even appreciated by the Magics fans, who had long begun to exit the arena.

Noah, after being mostly dormant throughout the night, also got his offense going late and by the time the contest wound down, the only question was if the Bulls would set a new mark for holding opponents to the fewest points in a regular-season game, which they did, eclipsing the mark set against Milwaukee in 1997.

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

MESA, Ariz. — The first thing Kyle Schwarber told his new hitting coach?

"His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.'"

The Cubs hired Chili Davis as the team's new hitting coach for myriad reasons. He's got a great track record from years working with the Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics, and that .274/.360/.451 slash line during an illustrious 19-year big league career certainly helps.

But Davis' main immediate task in his new gig will be to help several of the Cubs' key hitters prove Schwarber's assessment correct.

Schwarber had a much-publicized tough go of things in 2017. After he set the world on fire with his rookie campaign in 2015 and returned from what was supposed to be a season-ending knee injury in time to be one of the Cubs' World Series heroes in 2016, he hit just .211 last season, getting sent down to Triple-A Iowa for a stint in the middle of the season. Schwarber still hit 30 home runs, but his 2017 campaign was seen as a failure by a lot of people.

Enter Davis, who now counts Schwarber as one of his most important pupils.

"He's a worker," Davis said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago. "Schwarbs, he knows he's a good player. His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.' He said last year was just a fluke year. He said, 'I've never failed in my life.' And he said, 'I'm going to get back to the player that I was.'

"I think he may have — and this is my thought, he didn't say this to me — I think it may have been, he had a big World Series, hit some homers, and I think he tried to focus on being more of a home run type guy as opposed to being a good hitter.

"His focus has changed. I had nothing to do with that, he came in here with that focus that he wants to be a good hitter first and let whatever happens happen. And he's worked on that. The main thing with Kyle is going to be is just maintaining focus."

The physically transformed Schwarber mentioned last week that he's established a good relationship with Davis, in no small part because Schwarber can relate to what Davis went through when he was a player. And to hear Davis tell it, it sounds like he's describing Schwarber's first three years as a big leaguer to a T.

"Telling him my story was important because it was similar," Davis said. "I was a catcher, got to big league camp, and I was thrown in the outfield. And I hated the outfield. ... But I took on the challenge. I made the adjustment, I had a nice first year, then my second year I started spiraling. I started spiraling down, and I remember one of my coaches saying, 'I'm going to have to throw you a parachute just so you can land softly.' I got sent down to Triple-A at the All-Star break for 15 days.

"When I got sent down, I was disappointed, but I was also really happy. I needed to get away from the big league pressure and kind of find myself again. I went home and refocused myself and thought to myself, 'I'm going to come back as Chili.' Because I tried to change, something changed about me the second year.

"And when I did that, I came back the next year and someone tried to change me and I said, 'Pump the breaks a little bit, let me fail my way, and then I'll come to you if I'm failing.' And they understood that, and I had a nice year, a big year and my career took off.

"I'm telling him, 'Hey, let last year go. It happened, it's in the past. Keep working hard, maintain your focus, and you'll be fine.'"

Getting Schwarber right isn't Davis' only task, of course. Despite the Cubs being one of the highest-scoring teams in baseball last season, they had plenty of guys go through subpar seasons. Jason Heyward still has yet to find his offensive game since coming to Chicago as a high-priced free agent. Ben Zobrist was bothered by a wrist injury last season and put up the worst numbers of his career. Addison Russell had trouble staying healthy, as well, and saw his numbers dip from what they were during the World Series season in 2016.

So Davis has plenty of charges to work with. But he likes what he's seen so far.

"They work," Davis said. "They come here to work. I had a group of guys in Boston that were the same last year, and it makes my job easier. They want to get better, they come out every day, they show up, they want to work. They're excited, and I'm excited to be around them.

And what have the Cubs found out about Davis? Just about everyone answers that question the same way: He likes to talk.

"I'm not going to stop talking," he said. "If I stop talking, something's wrong."

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

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USA TODAY

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

On the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Adam Burish and Pat Boyle discuss which Blackhawks could be on the trading block and what players are building blocks for the Hawks future.

Burish also shares a couple memorable trade deadline days and his “near” return to the Blackhawks in 2012. Plus, he makes his bold trade deadline prediction for the Hawks.

Listen to the full Blackhawks Talk Podcast right here: