Bears

Bulls dominate Cavaliers in laugher

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Bulls dominate Cavaliers in laugher

CLEVELANDPerhaps they were motivated by losing an exhibition game to them, but the Bulls (2-0) took the Cavaliers (1-1) to the woodshed Friday night, winning a 115-86 laugher at Quicken Loans Arena, showing no mercy in the process.

While it was another balanced effort from the teams startersforwards Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer sparked them early, while Rip Hamilton had a strong third quarterdiminutive backup point guard Nate Robinson stole the show.

Again emphasizing their transition game, the Bulls jumped out to a quick start, with Boozer (19 points, seven rebounds, six assists)a former Cavaliers draft pick, who controversially left via free agency, something fans still rememberleading the way. Boozer continued to show off his high level of conditioning by running the floor for two fast-break dunks, as well as knocking down his mid-range jumper, to help the visitors gain a bit of separation early.

Deng (14 points, five rebounds) displayed a similar effectiveness against both Clevelands set defense and on the breakin the halfcourt, the All-Star utilized his back-to-the-basket gameand picked up where his fellow Duke product left off. Kirk Hinrich got in the mix toward the end of the period, attacking off the dribble, and at the end of the first quarter, the Bulls led, 32-16, by virtue of 74 percent shooting from the field.

Chicagos second unit, plus Deng, maintained and then extended the wide winning margin with stifling defense that forced the hosts into turnovers and led to more transition scoring, as well as solid execution on set plays, of which Taj Gibson was a prime beneficiary. A well-balanced attack offensively, combined with their usual stellar defense clearly bothered an inexperienced Cavs bunch, which struggled to both manufacture offense and get stops defensively.

Robinson (16 points, 12 assists), in what looks like it could become a pattern, sparked the team off the bench with both his playmaking and when the regulars returned to the court, the Bulls kept their vice grip on the home team intact, despite Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving (15 points), last seasons NBA Rookie of the Year, starting to assert himself late in the period. Robinson and Cleveland swingman Alonzo Gee exchanged three-pointers in the waning moments of the second quarterthe latter coming at the halftime buzzerand at the intermission, the Bulls were ahead, 60-35.

After the break, the Bulls level of execution saw some slippage and although there wasnt much noticeable damage on the scoreboard, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau clearly wasnt pleased. Hinrich going to the bench with his fourth foul early in the third quarter didnt help matters, as Irving remained persistent in attacking off the dribble, aided by the efforts of the athletic Gee.

The visitors emphasized ball movement to find their groove again, as Hamiltons (19 points) patented mid-range game started clicking and with the Cavaliers still having ball-security issues, their guests first-half dominance reappeared. Heading into the final stanza, the Bulls held an 83-56 advantage.

At the outset of the extended garbage time otherwise known as the fourth quarter, the Bulls quickly pushed their lead to above a 30-point spread, prompting Thibodeau to put an all-reserve lineup on the floor, though it didnt change the results. However, the coach grew dissatisfied with the play of his second unit and reinserted four of his five startersMarco Belinelli played in place of Hamiltonand the contest remained out of reach for Cleveland.

Eventually, whatever bothered Thibodeau was resolved, at least enough for him to remove his regulars and allow the likes of rookie Marquis Teague, making his regular-season NBA debut, and deep reserve Vladimir Radmanovic to see some action. In all, it was a remarkably impressive early-season performance, one that showed that the Bulls by-committee approach still leaves them amongst the leagues upper-echelon clubs.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: How hot is John Fox's seat?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: How hot is John Fox's seat?

Seth Gruen (Bleacher Report/”Big Ten Unfiltered” podcast), Chris Emma (670TheScore.com) and Matt Zahn (CBS 2) join Kap on the panel. If the Bears lose badly to the Lions, should Sunday be John Fox’s last game? 

Plus Bulls Insider Vincent Goodwill joins the panel to talk Bulls as well as the Niko/Portis cold war.

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here:

Collecting some final thoughts on if Tarik Cohen isn't getting enough snaps for the Bears

Collecting some final thoughts on if Tarik Cohen isn't getting enough snaps for the Bears

John Fox on Friday sought to clarify some comments he made earlier in the week about Tarik Cohen that seemed to follow some spurious logic. Here’s what Fox said on Wednesday when asked if he’d like to see Cohen be more involved in the offensive game plan:

“You’re looking at one game,” Fox said, referencing Cohen only playing 13 of 60 snaps against the Green Bay Packers. “Sometimes the defense dictates who gets the ball. I think from a running standpoint it was a game where we didn’t run the ball very effectively. I think we only ran it 17 times. I believe Jordan Howard, being the fifth leading rusher in the league, probably commanded most of that. I think he had 15 carries. 

“It’s a situation where we’d like to get him more touches, but it just didn’t materialize that well on that day. But I’d remind people that he’s pretty high up there in both punt returns, he’s our leading receiver with 29 catches, so it’s not like we don’t know who he is.”

There were some clear holes to poke in that line of reasoning, since the question wasn’t about Cohen’s touches, but his snap count. Cohen creates matchup problems when he’s on the field for opposing defenses, who can be caught having to double-team him (thus leaving a player uncovered, i.e. Kendall Wright) or matching up a linebacker against him (a positive for the Bears). The ball doesn’t have to be thrown Cohen’s way for his impact to be made, especially if he’s on the field at the same time as Howard. 

“They don’t know who’s getting the ball, really, and they don’t know how to defend it properly,” Howard said. “… It definitely can dictate matchups.”

There are certain scenarios in which the Bears don’t feel comfortable having Cohen on the field, like in third-and-long and two-minute drills, where Benny Cunningham’s veteran experience and pass protection skills are valued. It may be harder to create a mismatch or draw a double team with Cohen against a nickel package. It's easier to justify leaving a 5-foot-6 running back on the sidelines in those situations. 

But if the Bears need Cohen to be their best playmaker, as offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said last month, they need to find a way for him to be on the field more than a shade over one in every five plays. As Fox explained it on Friday, though, it’s more about finding the right spots for Cohen, not allowing opposing defenses to dictate when he’s on the field. 

“We have Tarik Cohen out there, we're talking about touches, not play time, we're talking about touches so if they double or triple cover him odds are the ball is not going to him, in fact we'd probably prefer it didn’t,” Fox said. “So what I meant by dictating where the ball goes, that's more related to touches than it is play time. I just want to make sure I clarify that. So it's not so much that they dictate personnel to you. Now if it's in a nickel defense they have a certain package they run that may create a bad matchup for you, that might dictate what personnel group you have out there not just as it relates to Tarik Cohen but to your offense in general. You don't want to create a bad matchup for your own team. I hope that makes sense.”

There’s another wrinkle here, though, that should be addressed: Loggains said this week that defenses rarely stick to the tendencies they show on film when Cohen is on the field. That’s not only a problem for Cohen, but it’s a problem for Mitchell Trubisky, who hasn’t always had success against defensive looks he hasn’t seen on film before. And if the Bears are trying to minimize the curveballs Trubisky sees, not having Cohen on the field for a high volume of plays would be one way to solve that. 

This is also where the Bears’ lack of offensive weapons factors in. Darren Sproles, who Cohen will inexorably be linked to, didn’t play much as a rookie — but that was on a San Diego Chargers team that had LaDanian Tomlinson, Keenan McCardell and Antonio Gates putting up big numbers. There were other options on that team; the Bears have a productive Howard and a possibly-emerging Dontrelle Inman, but not much else. 

So as long as Cohen receives only a handful of snaps on a team with a paucity of playmakers, this will continue to be a topic of discussion. Though if you’re looking more at the future of the franchise instead of the short-term payoffs, that we’re having a discussion about a fourth-round pick not being used enough is a good thing.