Cubs

Rare blowout defeat has Bulls' full attention

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Rare blowout defeat has Bulls' full attention

LOS ANGELESSaturday nights 21-point blowout defeat was an aberration for the Bulls. Very rarely during the Tom Thibodeau era are they on the losing end of such a thrashing, a contest in which it wasnt even a game after the first quarter and there was nothing they could do about it.

The lopsided affair started out innocently enough, with the Bulls aiming to make it one of their patented defensive struggles. But very quickly, sloppy play with the ball allowed the Clippers to break out their Lob City routine and with arguably the deepest team in the NBA, the Bulls, putting out a defensive effort far below their usual standards, with an inefficient offensive performance to boot, were getting run out of the building.

The second quarter was the difference in the game. The first quarter was pretty good. We gave up 35 points in the second quarter. The tone of the game changed. We put them in the open floor. I think we had 12 turnovers in the first half and many of those ended up being layups, dunks and then, the second half, not much better. Our turnovers and their blocked shots got us, Thibodeau explained. They were quicker to the ball and thats a big part of the game, your reaction to the ball. Your turnovers that lead to their fast breaks and their second shots, even though in the first half, they only had five, but they had five for 11 points, so when you add that on to what they got off the turnovers, youre just digging too big of a hole, particularly on the road and we could never get it back inside 10. So, we really gave ourselves no chance.

Said Joakim Noah: We got out-scrapped tonight. We got out-competed. Thats disappointing. I think we took a couple steps back today. They were denying everything with their switching and we just didnt finish well around the rim. We know were capable of playing a lot better basketball.

Chimed in Carlos Boozer, who had a solid night in a losing effort: It was tough, man. This ones hard to let go. We felt like we didnt have enough juice. We didnt do our stuff hard enough to make it a better game.

Theyre a very good team. They use each other very well. They protect the rim very well. They share the ball. A lot of isolations, a lot of pick-and-roll. Give them credit, man. They played a great game tonight, he continued. Our concentration wasnt as good as it could have been. What I mean by that is their guys got to what they wanted to get to and usually, we take stuff away that they like to do and make them play to their weaknesses. Again, give them credit, man. They played well.

A familiar face, ex-Bull Jamal Crawford, was the Clippers catalyst, scoring 22 points off the bench the former Sixth Man of the Year, an early-season favorite to win the award again, is the teams leading scorer after signing as a free agent over the summer and confounding his former team with an array of shots, both difficult and uncontested.

Observed Thibodeau: Hes a tough cover and youve got to give him credit, but you cant allow a guy to play his strengths. If hes beating you, its got to be doing something that he doesnt want to do and I thought we let him get to what he wanted. We played him with a cushion, which you cant do and when you do that, when he gets going, hes got a lot of confidence. Now, its a lot harder to slow him down. We didnt play well, so thats something that has to be corrected.

Concurred Boozer: Crawford had a hell of a game, man. He came in and was very aggressive. He hit some amazing shots. I thought we played good defense on a few of his shots, but he got them to go in, like that bank shot in the second half. He had a leaner in the first half. Hes a tough cover, though. Hes got a lot of handles. Hes got a good package on him. We didnt do a good enough job of shutting him down, didnt do a good enough job of helping, trying to make other guys score. But give him credit. He played a great game.

But the most worrisome aspect of the game was the Bulls turnovers, which totaled 16 Thibodeau has said on several occasions that their nightly goal is 13 or fewer miscues an evening which is significant for not just the number, but how they occurred. On a team lacking a dynamic shot creator, great outside shooting and a bench that has been hit-and-miss thus far, the Bulls cant afford to beat themselves, especially against a team with the high-flying firepower of the Clippers.

We turned the ball over too much and you cant turn the ball over against a team like this. Theyre too athletic and they get on the break, and thats their strength. Theyre probably the best at getting out on the break in the NBA, so turnovers hurt us, Joakim Noah said. I think its definitely us. They gamble a lot, but its not an excuse. We didnt play good basketball that night.

Deadpanned Thibodeau: We prefer not to turn it over.

It was probably a compilation of a lot of things. Chris Paul is very good at making plays on the ball, Eric Bledsoe is a very good pressure guy. If you turn your back on them, theyre always going to make a play on the ball, if the balls exposed at all. Theyre going to get it. You have to execute. The start of the game was okay not great, but okay and then, the next three quarters, weve got to do a lot better.

Added Boozer: I thought the second half, we did a better job, but the first half they pressured us. We didnt use our press releases very good. They got their hands on a lot of tipped balls, loose balls. Honestly, it seemed like they got every loose ball. Thats what it felt like. They did a good job of being in the passing lanes.

Just be a lot little smarter. I think we can take care of the ball better obviously. We usually dont turn the ball over like that. But at the same time, weve got to make their guys miss shots. Were a good rebounding team when we make them miss. They hit some crazy shots, though, again. Jamal hit some crazy shots, but well be better Sunday night, I think.

And thats the silver lining for the Bulls. A team that doesnt lose many back-to-back affairs, Sunday night they play in Portland, a place theyve struggled in recent seasons, against a young Trail Blazers squad that doesnt have the size, talent or title hopes of the Clippers, but does possess talent.

The truth is, the only good thing about this game is weve got one Sunday night to play better, Boozer said. Sunday is going to be a big game for us. Portlands a good team. Theyre scoring a lot of points. Theyve got a really good rookie point guard. Theyve got an All-Star in LaMarcus Aldridge and a lot of good guys around those two. And the kid Nicolas Batum I heard is putting up a lot of crazy numbers, so he may be our big matchup Sunday, try to do a good job of shutting him down. But hes playing well, their team is playing well. Obviously they play well in the Rose Garden and its a big game for us Sunday night.

Thibodeau expressed a similar sentiment: Youve got to learn from it youve got to understand why you win or why you lose learn from it, move on, get ready for Portland. Youve got to approach it youre on the road things should never change, your attitude or your approach to how you prepare never changes, but we know weve got to go in there. Theyre a team that can score a ton on you. You have to have a defensive mindset, so we know the things that we have to do. We just have to be ready to go.

Concluded Noah: Its disappointing, but weve got to bounce back, you know? We dont have any time to mope or anything like that. Weve got to come ready to go. Im ready to play tomorrow. Theres no question about that.

What now for the Cubs?

What now for the Cubs?

OK, time to turn the page.

Nah, it doesn't have to be that sudden.

The 2017 Cubs season may not have resulted in a World Series, but it was absolutely a smashing success. There was a time not long ago that playing — and even losing — in the fifth game of the NLCS was a huge step.

But the Cubs now have a World-Series-or-bust mentality now and the 2017 season did not live up to those expectations.

"We're capable of more than we showed in the postseason," Ben Zobrist said.

So what now? What's next for these Cubs?

Well, quite literally: Rest. Rest is next.

"For those guys that are playing every day, they need to take the time that they need to take," Zobrist said. "Take the three weeks, month to let your body relax and heal up.

"I think from there, it's listening to your body for them. For me, I'm in a different place. I didn't play as many games as I normally play. I feel like my stamina, I have to work on my endurance and stamina to get back up to where it needs to get to where I'm capable of playing more games and not getting injuries and things like that like I had this year.

"...[Kris Bryant] and [Anthony] Rizzo, they were our horses and so they need to take more time than somebody like me does going into the offseason. They deserve to get some rest and relaxation. I think we're all very motivated going into the offseason to get back to where we're capable of playing as a team."

Other players have a different attitude as they approach the winter.

Albert Almora Jr., after his first full season in the big leagues, is anxious to get better. Immediately.

The young outfielder is planning on spending a lot of time hanging out with his wife and one-year-old son, but he isn't interested in all that much rest right now.

"[I plan] to get back to work," Almora said. "I think we have a big chip on our shoulder coming into next year."

Rizzo and Bryant, meanwhile, played 167 and 161 games, respectively, including the postseason. They combined for over 1,500 plate appearances from April 2 through Oct. 19.

Neither player has much interest in watching the Los Angeles Dodgers play either the Houston Astros or New York Yankees in the World Series.

So what will they do?

"It's always tough," Rizzo said after the Cubs were officially eliminated. "You start a journey with all these guys and at the end of the day, these last couple days, you don't take anything for granted at all.

"The stretch, the cage work. Yesterday could've been our last day. Today's obviously our last day. We gotta enjoy these moments because you don't know how long they last.

"But you make a lot of friendships along the way. This next week will be tough and kinda scratching your head on what to do."

High School Lites Week 9 football capsules and picks

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High School Lites Week 9 football capsules and picks

NBC Sports Chicago will have cameras covering the biggest high school football games across Chicagoland on the Week 9 edition of High School Lites Friday night at 11 p.m. Can Lincoln-Way East win the outright Southwest Suburban conference on the road at Bolingbrook?  Who wins — and goes to the IHSA state playoffs — between Wheaton Academy and St. Edward? And who wins the final Upstate 8 River conference crown when undefeated Batavia travels to take on St. Charles North?

No. 1 Lincoln-Way East at No. 19 Bolingbrook, 7 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Lincoln-Way East (8-0) will take on Southwest Suburban rival Bolingbrook (7-1) in this annual rivalry game. East will rely on its running game behind senior QB Brendan Morrissey and sophomore WR/RB AJ Henning, plus one of the state's top defensive lines anchored by senior Devin O'Rourke (Northwestern). Bolingbrook head coach John Ivlow will look towards a more balanced offense behind QB Anthony Vespo, junior RBs Anthony Williams Jr. and Quentin Pringle, plus senior WR I'Shawn Stewart. The defense has talent including senior DT Dashawn Mallory and a young but very skilled secondary. Can Bolingbrook's defense take away the Lincoln-Way East running game? Can the Bolingbrook offense win time of possession this week? 

EDGY's Pick: Lincoln-Way East 28, Bolingbrook 20

Wheaton Academy at St. Edward, 7 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Bombs away on Friday? Both Wheaton Academy (4-4) and St. Edward (4-4) feature strong quarterback play and both will need a win to qualify for the IHSA state playoff field. Wheaton Academy will rely on junior QB Ben Thorson while St. Edward will look towards senior QB Dylan Mlinarich. Last possession wins? 

EDGY's Pick: Wheaton Academy 34, St. Edward 33

Dundee-Crown at No. 2 Prairie Ridge, 7 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Dundee-Crown (1-7) will look to slow down Prairie Ridge (8-0) this week. The Chargers will look to run the football behind junior RB Ricky Ibarra. Prairie Ridge head coach Chris Schremp will look to post a win and get ready for the state playoffs next weekend behind senior QB Samson Evans (Iowa).

EDGY's Pick: Prairie Ridge 46, Dundee-Crown 7

T.F. South at Oak Forest, 7 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Head coach Bob Padjen will have TF South (5-3) back in the state playoffs with or without a win over Oak Forest (4-4), yet the Rebels would also like to lock in a sixth win this week. Oak Forest is in a must-win scenario. Veteran head coach Brian McDonough and company have lost three out of its last four games. 

EDGY's Pick: T.F. South 27, Oak Forest 14

St. Patrick at Marian Central Catholic, 7:30 p.m.

EDGY's Take: St. Patrick (2-6) has lost four straight games and will look to derail Marian Central Catholic's (4-4) season with a win. The Hurricanes will need to win to get into the IHSA state playoff field. 

EDGY's Pick: Marian Central Catholic 27, St. Patrick 14

No. 14 Batavia at No. 24 St. Charles North, 7:30 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Both Batavia (8-0) and St. Charles North (7-1) will play for the final Upstate 8 River conference title. Under head coach Dennis Piron, Batavia features are one of the state's top defenses led by juniors in ILB Luke Weerts and LB Michael Jansey Jr. St. Charles North has a potent offense led by senior QB Michael Hohensee. One of his main targets is junior WR/DB Tyler Nubin. Can the Batavia defense lock down the North Stars offense?  

EDGY's Pick: Batavia 21, St. Charles North 20

Glenbard North at Neuqua Valley, 7:30 p.m. **#SendEdgy**

EDGY's Take: The playoffs begin a week early for both Glenbard North (4-4) and Neuqua Valley (5-3) as both teams need to win to qualify for the IHSA state playoff field. Glenbard North head coach Ryan Wilkins will look to run the football behind a big offensive line led by senior OL Jose Vazquez. They also have one of the state's top secondaries led by Tyrik Henderson (Minnesota). Neuqua Valley head coach Bill Ellinghaus will counter with senior QB Jake Eskoff and senior RB Cameron Raupach. Can the Neuqua Valley defense stop the Glenbard North running game? Also can the Panthers defense contain the Neuqua Valley balanced offensive attack?

EDGY's Pick: Neuqua Valley 20, Glenbard North 14

VIEWERS' CHOICE: Evergreen Park at Tinley Park, 7 p.m.

EDGY's Take: The playoffs begin this week for Tinley Park (4-4) and head coach Nick Johnston as the Titans need to win this week against Evergreen Park (3-5). Tinley Park will look towards senior QB Ryan Zientara. He has been a big key this fall for the Titans offense. 

EDGY's Pick: Tinley Park 34, Evergreen Park 20