Bulls

Colts avoid making the wrong kind of history

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Colts avoid making the wrong kind of history

From Comcast SportsNet

INDIANAPOLIS (AP)The Indianapolis Colts piled up wins for more than a decade. Their victory Sunday might go down as one of their most memorable.

After 14 straight losses, 50 weeks without a win and 14 years between non-Peyton Manning victories, the Colts dont have to worry about 0-16 anymore. Theyre 1-13.

Dan Orlovsky threw a touchdown pass and had the key block to spring an 80-yard touchdown run that sealed Indianapolis 27-13 victory over Tennessee, giving Orlovsky the first win of his NFL career.

To finally get one, and in the aspect of a lot of certain situations, it feels great, Orlovsky said. Im very humbled to be a part of it. Im happy for a lot of people on this team, for a lot of people in this organization. It is a lot better than the feeling we have had lately.

And for a change, the Colts had plenty to smile about.

Orlovsky had lost his nine previous NFL starts including the season-finale in Detroits 0-16 season. Hes the first quarterback not named Manning to win a game for the Colts since December 1997 when Jim Harbaugh was the quarterback.

Brown ran 16 times for a career-high 161 yards, tying Tom Mattes franchise record for longest run, set in 1964. The breakout performance might also temporarily quiet some of Browns biggest critics, who have labeled him a first-round draft bust.

Indys much-maligned defense forced three turnovers, scored a touchdown on Jacob Laceys 32-yard interception return and stopped Tennessee (7-7) on fourth down with less than 2 minutes left so Orlovsky could run out the clock with the traditional kneel-down.

Even coach Jim Caldwell got some support.

I just want to say how happy I am for Coach Caldwell, our coaching staff and for our players for how diligently and spectacularly theyve worked and prepared through all this difficulty, team vice chairman Bill Polian said.

But the celebration was muted. After the last defensive stop, Indys players and coaches simply raised their arms as the remaining fans cheered loudly.

The good news was that Colts avoided becoming the first team in franchise history to go 0-14.

The bad news: Theyre still playing for the No. 1 draft pick, which goes to the team with the worst overall record and will have to do it without Manning. Polian ruled him out of the last two games just minutes after the victory.

It (winning) means a lot, but were a proud ballclub so one game out of 13 or 14, we still have a ways to go, defensive end Robert Mathis said. Everybody held the fort today. We just kept chopping wood and the tree fell today.

For Tennessee, its an inexplicable loss that could keep them out of the playoffs.

By closing the season with three straight wins, the Titans could have controlled their own destiny. Now, theyll probably have to win their last two and get help.

In the first half, we played uninspired football on the offensive side of the ball and we still had a 6-3 lead because the defense played very well, Titans coach Mike Munchak said. You have to run the football and we couldnt. Not only could we not run it, we were losing yards and that put us in a tough spot. The turnovers start creeping in and (Jared) Cook fumbles the one that couldve been the chance to get something going then the interception happened. Thats really what killed us.

There were plenty of other problems, too.

Matt Hasselbeck returned from his calf injury but didnt play well, finishing 27 of 40 for 223 yards with no TDs and two interceptions. Chris Johnson ran 15 times for 55 yards. And when Jake Locker got the Titans back in the game after relieving Hasselbeck, the defense couldnt corral Brown.

Lockers 7-yard TD pass to Nate Washington with 3:43 left got the Titans to 20-13.

But on Indys next offensive play, Tennessees defense appeared to have Brown cornered in the backfield. Thats when Brown reversed field and Orlovsky jumped in front of the defender closest to him, running a basketball pick. It was just enough to get Brown a wide-open lane, and he sprinted right through it 80 yards for Indys longest run since Matte in 1964.

He was about to go down. Akeem Ayers came in there for the tackle. Donald just got out of it. I went in for the tackle, and the quarterback cut me off, safety Michael Griffin said. From there I dont know what happened, but we have to tackle better.

Indy opened the scoring with a 47-yard field goal that ended a of more than 500 minutes in which the Colts never had the lead

Rob Bironas answered with two field goals before halftime to give the Titans the 6-3 lead.

This time, Indy needed only about 10 minutes to retake the lead. Orlovskys 18-yard TD pass to Reggie Wayne made it 10-6. Lacey followed that with his interception return and Vinatieri made it 20-6 after Indy forced a punt following a muffed kickoff that went out of bounds inside the 1.

Lockers TD put the game back in doubt, but Brown wrapped it up with the long run.

You just feel like a dark cloud has been removed for the time being, of course, the excited Mathis said. Back to work Tuesday, trying to do it again.

Lauri Markkanen battling the rookie wall

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USA TODAY

Lauri Markkanen battling the rookie wall

MINNEAPOLIS — The misses have come wide, long and short for Lauri Markkanen in the last couple games, perhaps a sign he’s hit the popular but unseen “Rookie Wall.”

Since coming back from the All-Star break, Markkanen has hit the same amount of jump shots as a dead man, only scoring with two dunks and missing all seven 3-point attempts.

He’s hit the point of the season where the legs turn to spaghetti as the grind of the season catches up. Last year at Arizona, he played 37 games and then went through Summer League following the draft before playing for the Finland national team. The Bulls have been careful with his minutes, particularly early on in the season when they didn’t have the depth at power forward, but Markkanen is still adjusting to the rigors of the NBA.

After seemingly peaking in January, averaging 17 points and 8.4 rebounds on 48 percent shooting and 43 from three-point range, he’s averaged just 10.8 points on 37 percent shooting and hitting just four of 27 from deep.

“Gotta get some extra shots up. I see myself thinking too much,” Markkanen said. “That’s how it is. Of course it’s frustrating to not make shots but it is what it is. Gotta work through it.”

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg tried to pump Markkanen up recently, comparing his shooting to a golfer who’s lost his stroke. Unfortunately, it didn’t translate to Markkanen, who looked at his coach as if he grew a third eye.

By the time Hoiberg compared it to curling, he wound up confusing the press corps last week.

And yet, Markkanen hasn’t broken out of his slump. It’s been quite a while since Markkanen’s devastating performance on Broadway where he nailed eight 3-pointers against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 10 for a career-high 33 points.

“It’s been a long season, I’m not denying that,” Markkanen said Saturday night following the Bulls’ loss to the Timberwolves. “I just gotta work through it. At times I feel it. I felt good today. As the game went on, a little tired.”

Consistency has been a hallmark of Markkanen’s season to date. He scored in double figures 21 straight games before the last two, where he scored three points in the last two Bulls losses.

As a whole, he’s only scored fewer than 10 points six times. To compare, rookie of the year frontrunners Donovan Mitchell (nine) and Ben Simmons (six) are right around the same number.

Hoiberg boldly predicts Markkanen will burst out in a big way soon, but the rookie wall takes no prisoners, especially in the dog days of the season.

“He’s shooting the heck out of the ball in practice,” Hoiberg said. “He’s struggling right now with his confidence, no question about it. As a shooter, you gotta keep looking to be aggressive, take the open ones. It takes one game to get that confidence back.”

His looks have been relatively clean, although one can’t discount the difference between playing alongside Cristiano Felicio compared to Robin Lopez. Lopez assisted on 39 field goals, tied with Jerian Grant for second-highest feeds behind Kris Dunn.

Both Lopez and Grant are out of the rotation, while Dunn is still getting his legs back after missing nearly a month in concussion protocol. Lopez was used in a lot of dribble handoff offense with Markkanen, while also setting solid screens to free him.

Felicio doesn’t have that level of experience in this offense, and the Bulls are also running more through Zach LaVine as a primary ballhandler.

“He’s had a lot of really good games. It’s never gonna be an 100 percent season,” LaVine said. “It’s so many games you’ll eventually run into some slumps so I just think he needs to get into a rhythm. We’ve gotta help him with that too. Help him find easier shots on the floor. He’s cool, he’s good. We tell him to shoot the ball every time.”

The postseason begins in the latest Preps Power Rankings

The postseason begins in the latest Preps Power Rankings

The IHSA playoffs are finally here for all of boys basketball as regionals begin this week in the Class 3A and 4A. Since Class 2A only has one team in the top 25, defending champion Orr, most of the focus on the Power Rankings falls on teams in the Class 3A and 4A fields. 

1. Simeon (25-3, 9-0) (1) -- The heavy favorites in Class 4A, the Wolverines start the playoffs against Hubbard or Reavis before potentially facing Sandburg or Crete-Monee for a regional title.

2. Orr (22-4, 9-0) (2) -- The Spartans won a regional in Class 2A as they move on to play Uplift in the sectional semifinals on Wednesday. The Titans might be the toughest team Orr faces in its quest to repeat as 2A champions. 

3. Curie (23-4, 8-1) (3) -- The No. 1 seed in the Riverside-Brookfield Sectional of Class 4A, the Condors could face York or Riverside-Brookfield for a regional title as that could be a tough matchup. 

4. Whitney Young (22-7, 7-2) (4) -- The defending Class 4A champions are the No. 2 seed in the Riverside-Brookfield Sectional as they could face St. Joseph or St. Ignatius for a regional title next week. 

5. Morgan Park (18-9, 7-2) (5) -- The Mustangs will try to repeat in Class 3A as they might face Vocational or Perspectives/Leadership for a regional title. Now that Ayo Dosunmu is healthy and back, Morgan Park should be the favorites once again.

6. Fenwick (19-7, 8-0) (6) -- Catholic League champion Fenwick is up in Class 4A this year as they're a No. 4 seed in a loaded Riverside-Brookfield Sectional. The Friars might have a showdown with Proviso East for a regional title if both teams win earlier in the week. 

7. Evanston (21-5, 8-2) (8) -- The Loaded Maine East Sectional will be tough but Evanston is the No. 1 seed. The Wildkits could have a tough regional title game ahead of them as Maine West and Notre Dame are both capable of making it a close game.

8. Oak Park-River Forest (22-5, 12-0) (9) -- Knocking off Hinsdale South for the West Suburban crown, the Huskies have a lot of positive momentum entering the Class 4A playoffs. OPRF is the No. 3 seed in the Riverside-Brookfield Sectional as they could play Lincoln Park for a regional title.

9. Benet (23-4, 8-1) (10) -- With a 14-game winning streak entering the playoffs, the Redwings are red hot. Benet is the No. 2 seed in the Glenbard East Sectional in Class 4A as they could match up with Naperville Central or Glenbard West for a regional title. 

10. West Aurora (21-4, 10-0) (11) -- Winners of 13 straight, West Aurora is the No. 2 seed in the Romeoville Sectional. The Blackhawks could face Andrew or Plainfield North for a regional title at Plainfield South. 

11. Marist (24-4, 7-2) (12) -- An impressive 24-win season has Marist as the No. 2 seed in the Thornton Sectional as they host a Class 4A regional. The RedHawks might play Thornwood or Bloom to win that regional on Friday night. 

12. Niles North (24-4, 6-4) (13) -- The Vikings took down New Trier to pick up a great win right before the loaded Maine East Sectional in Class 4A. Niles North, a No. 3 seed, might have to face ESCC champion St. Viator for a regional title, which would be one of the most-anticipated matchups in Class 4A. 

13. New Trier (22-5, 8-2) (7) -- Dropping two games during the week, New Trier is limping into the postseason as the No. 2 seed in the Maine East Sectional. It won't get any easier for the Trevians as they might face Mid-Suburban champion Prospect for a regional title.

14. Naperville North (24-2, 15-1) (15) -- The top seed in the Glenbard East Sectional, Naperville North hosts its own regional in Class 4A. The Huskies might play Geneva or Downers North for a regional title. 

15. DePaul Prep (21-6, 5-3) (16) -- The No. 1 seed in the North Chicago Sectional, DePaul Prep hosts its own regional in Class 3A. The Rams could face Foreman or Sullivan for a regional title as DePaul Prep has a winnable sectional. 

16. Loyola (22-6, 5-3) (17) -- Loyola is the No. 4 seed in the Maine East Sectional. The Ramblers could have a tough regional final against host and No. 5 seed Maine South as that would make for a great matchup.

17. Marian Catholic (20-5, 5-4) (14) -- A No. 1 seed in the Pontiac Sectional of Class 3A, the Spartans will be one of the teams to watch in that field. Marian Catholic could potentially take on Thornridge or Rich Central for a regional title during the week. 

18. Hillcrest (21-5, 13-0) (18) -- The Hawks are a No. 2 seed in the Pontiac Sectional in Class 3A as they try to make another deep run in March. Hillcrest could face Rich East or Oak Forest for a regional title.

19. Homewood-Flossmoor (19-6, 9-1) (20) -- The Vikings had some close wins during the week preparing for the Class 4A field. Homewood-Flossmoor could play Oak Lawn for a regional title at T.F. South this week. 

20. St. Viator (23-5, 9-0) (22) -- The unbeaten champs in the ESCC, the Lions are on a six-game winning streak. A No. 6 seed in the Maine East Sectional, St. Viator could have a major test against Niles North for a Class 4A regional title. 

21. Bolingbrook (19-6, 7-3) (23) -- Top seed in the Romeoville Sectional, the Raiders have been a major threat in the postseason the past few years. Bolingbrook might play Lemont or Plainfield East for a regional title.

22. Maine South (21-7, 6-4) (24) -- The Hawks have the recent win over Niles North as they're the No. 5 seed in the Maine East Sectional. As the host in the regional, Maine South could get a home game against No. 4 seed Loyola.

23. Hinsdale South (20-6, 10-2) (21) -- Hinsdale South dropped a close one to OPRF right before the postseason. The Hornets might face Willowbrook for a regional title as the No. 4 seed in the Glenbard East Sectional as the two teams split the season series. 

24. Willowbrook (23-5, 9-3) (25) -- The Warriors had an outstanding season as they are in the tough Glenbard East Sectional. A No. 5 seed, Willowbrook could face Hinsdale South for a regional title, which could be the best title game of the entire week. 

25. Jacobs (24-3, 16-0) (NR) -- Winners of the Fox Valley for the fourth straight year, the Golden Eagles are on a roll as they're a No. 2 seed in the Jacobs Sectional in Class 4A. If Jacobs gets senior Ryan Phillips back from hand injury they could be dangerous.