Cubs

The L.A. Kings are absolutely on fire

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The L.A. Kings are absolutely on fire

From Comcast SportsNet
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) -- The Los Angeles Kings knew the Coyotes would come with everything they had. Even when that meant some questionable hits as the frustration grew, the Kings never let it bother them. Withstanding an early push and a slew of penalties late, the Kings took control of the Western Conference finals with another dominating performance, beating the Coyotes 4-0 Tuesday night to match an NHL record with their seventh straight road playoff victory. Jeff Carter scored three goals, Jonathan Quick stopped 24 shots and Los Angeles will head back home with a commanding series lead after flummoxing the Coyotes in two games in the desert. "We didn't want to do anything after the whistle," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "We just wanted to stay away from it. We didn't have anything to prove that way." All Los Angeles wanted was the victory and the Kings got it, overwhelming the Coyotes after doing the same in Game 1. The Kings shook off the big hits -- a couple that led to game misconducts -- and continued a can't-stop-us roll that started with a playoff push the last month of the regular season. Dwight King scored his third goal in two games, Quick tied Felix Potvin's team record with his third career playoff shutout, and Carter finished off the Kings' first playoff hat trick since Wayne Gretzky in 1993 in the third period. Los Angeles has won seven straight overall, tied an NHL record by opening the playoffs 7-0 on the road, and matched another record by winning nine straight road playoff games over two seasons. The New York Islanders won a pair of Stanley Cup titles while winning nine straight road games from 1982-83, and the Kings are starting to look like a team that could go on a Cup run of its own. Game 3 is Thursday night in Los Angeles. "It's a mindset; we get away, there's no distractions," Carter said. "For some reason, this team likes to play on the road." The Coyotes played better early and fell apart late, becoming frustrated after being unable to contain the more-skilled Kings. Phoenix was hit with a string of penalties starting late in the second period, including a game misconduct to captain Shane Doan for boarding Kings center Trevor Lewis. Martin Hanzal also received one for boarding Dustin Brown in the third period and the Coyotes had 13 penalties for 56 minutes -- most coming after the final 5 minutes of the second period. "I think the frustration level sets in," Coyotes goalie Mike Smith said. "You're in the penalty box that much against a team that's in the conference finals, you're going to pay." The Kings won the opener 4-2 by outplaying and outhustling the Coyotes. Knowing Phoenix's makeup, the Kings figured to get more of a pushback in Game 2. And the Coyotes were much more aggressive early, winning some of the individual battles they lost in Game 1 while creating some decent scoring chances. Even with all of Phoenix's hard work and a couple of line changes by coach Dave Tippett, the Kings still managed to score first. King got it, redirecting a shot by Drew Doughty that beat Smith stick side late in the period. Hard work in the corners by Mike Richards set up Los Angeles' second goal, by Carter. He muscled the puck past Smith's glove side as he was going down on a feed from Dustin Penner that made it 2-0 early in the second period. Then things completely unraveled for the Coyotes. Doan, who was suspended three games for elbowing earlier in the season, was given a game misconduct and a five-minute boarding penalty for ramming Lewis from behind. Defenseman Keith Yandle was already in the penalty box and Daymond Langkow joined him after a slashing penalty, giving Los Angeles a two-man advantage for more than 2 minutes. Brown was sent off for diving on a slash by Smith, but that didn't bother the Kings. Carter scored his second a few seconds later on a redirect of a shot by Anze Kopitar, putting Los Angeles up 3-0. With the Coyotes racking up penalties seemingly on every shift, Carter finished them off with his fifth career hat trick, punching in a rebound with the Kings on a two-man advantage after Hanzal's hit on Brown. "There's no question there's going to be frustration, especially when you get down in a game like that, guys try to finish their checks on the edge," Coyotes forward Taylor Pyatt said. "We've got to try and find some positives and get things turned around in Game 3." Even if they do, it may not matter the way the Kings are playing. Notes: The Kings were without D Colin Fraser, out of the lineup attending to a family matter. ... Coyotes LW Ray Whitney played in his 100th career playoff game. D Michael Stone played his first with Adrian Aucoin still out of the lineup and David Schlemko still not fully healthy. ... Rocker Alice Cooper, who lives in the Valley, attended the game. ... The last team to win seven straight road playoff games in one season was Chicago in 2010.

Joe Maddon's advice to new Bears head coach Matt Nagy

Joe Maddon's advice to new Bears head coach Matt Nagy

Joe Maddon knows a thing or two about taking a storied Chicago franchise from a rebuilding team to a World Champ.

Bears head coach Matt Nagy hopes to have that in common with the Cubs skipper one day, and it helps that the two share a similar background: Nagy, like Maddon, grew up in Pennsylvania in a town called Manheim, about 80 miles from Maddon's hometown of Hazelton.

It took Maddon only two years to lead the Cubs to the top for the first time in 108 years, but expectations should be tempered for Nagy's Bears. It's more about the process than the results early on. 

And the only way Nagy can help eventually lead the Bears back to another Super Bowl is by doing what Maddon did.

"Just be yourself," Maddon said when asked what his advice is to Nagy. "The one thing that I found when I came to Chicago that I thought my hometown of Hazelton was a microcosm of this city and the people here. Very inviting, open folks, passionate about their sports and Bears football, so I wish you nothing but the best. But all I can say, typically, Pennsylvia: Just be yourself."

Check out Maddon's full comments in the video above.

Just the right fit: Steve Kerr sees the Bulls finally meshing into Fred Hoiberg's system

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USA TODAY

Just the right fit: Steve Kerr sees the Bulls finally meshing into Fred Hoiberg's system

Thirteen days after Fred Hoiberg was hired as the 19th head coach in Bulls history, Steve Kerr and the Warriors were crowned NBA champions. Part of Kerr’s offseason included meeting for lunch with the newest member of the 30-man head coaching fraternity. It was an important sitdown for Hoiberg, getting to speak with both a man who had followed a similar path to his now-current position, and one he was trying to emulate from a stylistic perspective.

“I think the world of Steve. He’s been great to me since I’ve been in the league,” Hoiberg said Wednesday. “He’s just done an unbelievable job and I feel fortunate to be able to talk to him about situations. And I’ve done that through good times and bad.”

Conversation between the two has been far more good than bad these days. Golden State remains the golden standard of the NBA. Wednesday's win over the Bulls was their 14th consecutive on the road, third longest in NBA history. They have the league's best record (37-9), its most efficient offense and fourth most efficient defense. 

They're far and away the favorites to hoist a third Larry O'Brien trophy in June, and even without Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala on Wednesday they pulled away with ease and cruised to a ninth win in their last 10 games. But the Bulls team they beat competed for 48 minutes - just as they've done the last six weeks - and looked far different from the one that suffered a 49-point loss in Oakland in late November.

Hoiberg admitted that the Bulls, like every team in the league, attempts “to pattern their style after this team.” And at times the Bulls looked the part of the up-tempo, step-on-your-throat offensive juggernaut the Warriors have been the last three seasons under Kerr. They scored 40 in the first, and inexplicably put together a 17-0 run spanning the first and second quarters to take a seven-point lead. It wasn't quite as pretty as Golden State's perfection looks, but the Bulls had 15 assists and scored 17 points off Warriors turnovers.

“They go in spurts, they have little streaks and runs, especially at home because they’re a talented team,” Kevin Durant said after the game.

The Warriors were just fine getting into a shooting contest with the Bulls, knowing their core containing three of the world’s best shooters would ultimately outlast their opponent. And it did. In the third quarter the Warriors’ Splash Brothers took over, with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson combining for 22 points on 6-for-10 shooting from deep. Their league-best defense, even without Green, stifled the Bulls, who scored just 11 points in the quarter.

The Bulls, as they've done in this six-week span that's included a 12-8 record, fought down the stretch, inching the deficit down to nine early in the fourth quarter and as close as five in the final minute. But the Warriors closed - same as they always do - and despite a narrow win as far as they're concerned, managed to shoot 50 percent from the field, make 13 3-pointers and hand out 24 assists. Kerr's philosophies, combined with an unprecedented roster in terms of talent, added another tally to its record-breaking win total.

And it's that combination that Kerr believes can propel the Bulls. He admitted being "flattered" that Hoiberg models much of his offense around what the Warriors have done, and said that he's followed Hoiberg since his Iowa State days (when Kerr was an NBA commentator for TNT) and sees the talent not only improving, but meshing with Hoiberg's philosophies in Year 3.

“We’re winning because we have some of the best players in the world. The only way you can truly replicate what we’ve done is to amass a ton of talent,” Kerr said. “Bulls are on the right track. They drafted Markkanen, they got some good players back in the Butler trade, and got some nice young pieces and are playing really well.”

The Jimmy Butler trade return struggled on Wednesday, going 13-for-41, but has proven to be perfect fits with Hoiberg's offense. Dunn will only improve having a creator like LaVine alongside him, and Lauri Markkanen added two more triples to his record-breaking rookie campaign. Nikola Mirotic scored 24 points with four triples, and Bobby Portis stayed efficient with 12 points on 6-for-10 shooting. Even David Nwaba, whose roster spot would have been filled by a second-round pick, played stifling defense on Curry down the stretch and even added eight points in 27 minutes.

The Bulls hit 10 3-pointers, extending their franchise record of double-digit makes to nine straight games. Their offensive rating since Dec. 7 is 12th in the league, just a tick below the Cleveland Cavaliers. Perhaps because of the offensive improvements the defense, too, has shown improvement: they're 16th in the league in efficiency since the 3-20 start. And for what it's worth, they held Golden State to seven fast-break points, more than 14 below their league-leading average.

"We have a group this year that has bought in, especially the past six weeks to getting up the floor and trying to play with pace and get shots up before the defense gets set," Hoiberg said.

So while the Bulls wait for their talent to simmer and improve, they'll go along with and continue to mesh with Hoiberg's philosophies. Golden State's 73-win record won't be in reach, and the Bulls shouldn't wait for two Hall of Famers and four All-Stars in one lineup. But Kerr and the Warriors started somewhere, and while Hoiberg needed to sift through players to find the right fits the last three years, the start of their rebuild is now in focus.

"I think we share a lot of the same vision for the game: spacing and ball movement and everybody touching the ball, feeling part of it. He knows his stuff," Kerr said of Hoiberg. "In this league it takes talent and it takes the right fit and I feel like it’s happening for them now. I know it’s taken a couple of years to get to this point, but in this league fit is everything."