Bulls

NFL's best Thanksgiving slate since 1975

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NFL's best Thanksgiving slate since 1975

From Comcast SportsNet

By Howard Fendrich, Associated Press

After so many years of bad Detroit Lions teamsand their games, no matter the week, meaning so littleall of a sudden that traditional Turkey Day contest in the Motor City is no turkey at all.

Detroit, which is 7-3, hosts the reigning Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers, who are 10-0, to open a tremendously compelling three-game NFL feast Thursday.

The always-polarizing Dallas Cowboys (6-4) host the Miami Dolphins (3-7) next in a matchup between two teams on three-game winning streaks, and the San Francisco 49ers (9-1) are at the Baltimore Ravens (7-3) at night in the Harbaugh Bowl, the first time two brothers will face each other as head coaches in the league.

A case can be made that these are the three most intriguing NFL games of the week. It certainly qualifies as the most enticing Thanksgiving Day lineup in decades.

Thats good. Good for the NFL, good for the fans, good for the people, Minnesota Vikings linebacker Erin Henderson(notes) said. Something entertaining to watch while we all stuff our faces with that good food.

Not convinced this is a special tripleheader?

Consider:

The six teams are 42-18, which translates to a .700 winning percentage. The last time the holidays NFL participants boasted that strong a combined win-loss record was 1975 (also .700).

Its the first Thanksgiving since 1998when there were only two games that each club in action won its previous game.

The Packers are the first unbeaten team to play on the fourth Thursday in November since the 1962 Packers also were 10-0, before losing to Detroit. Including the playoffs, Green Bay has won its last 16 games in a row.

San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh will match wits with his older brother, Baltimore coach John Harbaugh, in a game for family bragging rightsand with significant playoff-seeding implications.

Even the game that was shaping up as a dud, Miami at Dallas, now becomes worth watching, because the Dolphins are the only team in NFL history to go from 0-7 to 3-7 and present a real challenge to the recently resurgent Cowboys and quarterback Tony Romo(notes) (who, by the way, is 18-2 with 49 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions for his career in November).

The lineup includes four teams with at least a share of first place (Green Bay, San Francisco, Baltimore and Dallas), two who can clinch a playoff berth this week (Packers, 49ers), and one with the inside track for a wild-card berth (Detroit).

Give the Lions credit for helping boost the anticipation for this years Thanksgiving games, because they sure deserve a lot of the blame for the holidays NFL blandness of late.

Heck, there even was talk about moving that game out of DetroitI thought it was sacrilegious talkbecause Detroit hadnt been very competitive on those days on national TV. So the thinking was, Hey, lets spread it around to other cities, said NFL Network analyst Steve Mariucci, who coached the Lions from 2003-05.

And I think that talk went away, thankfully, because it needs to be in Detroit forever, he added. And theyre really competitive right now.

Only two other times in the past 50 yearsyes, 50 years!did the Lions arrive at Thanksgiving at 7-3, in 1993 and 1969, according to STATS LLC. You have to go all the way back to 1962 to find them with a better record (8-2) at this point in the season.

Each of the past two years, they were 2-8. That was an improvement from 2008, when the Lions were 0-11, on their way to 0-16.

And while Detroit has lost a franchise-record seven consecutive gamesby an average of more than 20 pointsin its annual showcase, there is reason to believe they can make things interesting this time around.

From what its been in the past to now, its different. For us to be doing as good as were doing right now, its real exciting. Then weve got Green Bay coming inthe big, 10-0 Green Bay, said Detroit defensive lineman Corey Williams(notes), who used to play for the Packers.

Its going to be fun. Its going to be like a mini-Super Bowl, I think, atmosphere-wise, Williams said.

Plus, this particular trio of games gives fans a chance to see some of the sports most dynamic players: Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers(notes), putting together one of the greatest seasons ever by a QB; Detroit receiver Calvin Johnson(notes) and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh(notes); San Franciscos cant-be-run-on defense, led by Patrick Willis(notes) and Aldon Smith(notes).

For other NFL teams, theres work to be done Thursday, practicing and preparing for their next games. Then theyll go home and turn on the television.

I might get a little peek at John and Jim going at it. I think thatll be entertaining, St. Louis Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo said. Well certainly get the players out of here early, and the coaches as soon as we can after that, and Ill follow.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Will Kris Dunn build off career night?

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: Will Kris Dunn build off career night?

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski, Kendall Gill, and Kevin Anderson react to a breakout game from Kris Dunn against the Hornets Friday night. They’ll discuss his development and how it impacts rookie Lauri Markkanen. Plus just how long will both the Wolves and Bulls be judged on the Jimmy Butler trade? Is Dwight Howard a hall of famer? And a new era in Philly with Simmons and Embiid. That and more on this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast.

Observations from Bulls-Hornets: Kris Dunn, a sigh of relief and hack-a-who?

Observations from Bulls-Hornets: Kris Dunn, a sigh of relief and hack-a-who?

Kris Dunn did it: You can’t play that position without an edge, without some form of “basketball killer” in you. Kris Dunn showed at the very least, he has that in his DNA in his best game as a Bull with a career-high 22 points, seven assists and five rebounds.

Leave it to Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg to point out a forgotten stat: one turnover in 26 minutes.

“That’s the biggest thing I’m proud of,” Dunn said. “Everyone knows I’ve had a lot of careless turnovers in the season. It’s one thing I’ll take credit for.”

Dunn scored 13 with six assists in the fourth quarter alone as the Bulls outscored the Hornets 40-28 for the comeback victory. More than anything, it was his competitive spirit and aggressiveness that stood out. Kemba Walker stood across the way and gave Dunn—and the Bulls—every bit of 47 points.

“He tested my conditioning, for sure,” Dunn admitted. “He’s a great player. He’s been in the league for so long. It was good to go out there and compete with him.”

It could’ve went a different way had Walker not been bothered by Lauri Markkanen’s challenge at the rim, blowing a layup that would’ve given the Hornets the lead back with seconds remaining but he missed it and the narrative changed at least for a night.

And when teams are talking about learning experiences, it’s good to have them in a win every now and again. Markkanen’s challenge at the rim followed by his closing free throws right after, along with a quietly effective 16 points and seven rebounds, proved huge on this night.

Dunn finally having a confidence booster was imperative.

Dunn scored but it wasn’t an easy 20 or a smooth 20. It was an attacking 20, a necessary 20. He did hit some elbow jumpers, especially in the fourth as the defense laid off him.

But his biggest basket was a slithering drive to the rim for a layup with 2:24 left, because he attacked and was under control.

“That’s huge growth for Kris,” Hoiberg said. “He made the right play darn near every time he had the ball in his hands. Rose up with confidence, knocked down huge shots. Defensively got them going, got steals.”

What a relief: Nobody wanted to say it, but it bore out on the floor, the sheer desperation the Bulls played with.

Coming in with a five-game losing streak and headed out west to for four games in the next week, they were staring in the face of a possible double-digit losing streak to end November.

Confidence was sparse after three bad losses, and it’s a dangerous time for a team that will struggle to win games all season.

The United Center crowd got into it, particularly late when the Bulls began climbing back into contention to start the fourth quarter. The fans wanted this win too, even with the eyes being on a larger prize coming in mid-2018.

The relief was written all over Hoiberg’s usually-stress ridden face and he even cracked a couple jokes that weren’t aimed in his direction, as self-deprecation is normally his escape of choice.

“It is important but I asked the guys: is it hard to play with that type of effort? When you play with that type of energy and effort and swagger, it’s fun,” Hoiberg said. “When you play low energy and hang your head, it’s a drag. It’s hard to play at this level with that mentality.”

Starting change: Justin Holiday returned after his quick leave with his wife delivering a baby girl recently and his game-high 27 points showed he missed the Bulls as much as they missed his shooting, hitting four triples and going 10 for 15 from the field.

“Guys were serious about getting their jobs done,” Holiday said. “It was a lot of energy, a lot of energy, competitiveness. That’s how we have to play every night for our team to do well.”

Denzel Valentine, although he didn’t want to say it, wants to be a starter. Hoiberg chose Quincy Pondexter over him recently and then made the change Friday to insert Valentine for more scoring.

Valentine scored 18 with six assists and five rebounds in 32 minutes of run—and with those two starting as scoring options, the Bulls surpassed that seven-point first-quarter mark really early and scored 26 overall.

He hit a big triple in the fourth with 2:49 left to give the Bulls a 110-109 lead on a set play the Bulls actually executed between Valentine, Dunn as a setup man and Robin Lopez as a screen to pop Valentine open.

If he continues to hit 3-pointers at a 40 percent clip, especially with the way the Bulls have struggled to start games, he’ll have the right to feel he belongs in the first five.

“It’s definitely more confidence,” Valentine said. “You feel you’re an NBA starter, you get to go in and feel it out for a second and bring some energy to start the game.”

He didn’t mince words about starting, with a little honesty saying, “I think it’s huge being a starter.”

When asked if he felt validated by his performance and the result being a high-scoring win, it was just as telling.

“I think I deserve…I think I deserved a starting role,” Valentine said. “At the same time it’s different combinations, different people that need to be on the floor at certain times, so if he feels like I don’t need to start, I won’t start. But I feel very comfortable starting as well.”

Hack-a-Dwight: It could be Hack-a-Dwight, hack-a-Drummond, hack-a-Wilt or Shaq or Charles Shackleford.

The Bulls went to it and Howard went two of four from the line but it took a little rhythm from the Hornets and probably slowed Kemba Walker down just enough before he got cooking in the last 90 seconds and almost pulled a win out of his keister.

But…

I hate it. Get it out of the game completely.