Blackhawks

Simeon tops Evanston to head down state

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Simeon tops Evanston to head down state

By Dan Ruane
YourSeason.com
Simeon coach Robert Smith keeps warning people that his team will not win state unless it starts executing its offense better. But what Smith will acknowledge is that the Wolverines have been playing stellar defense.The top-ranked Wolverines continued to dominate in the Class 4A bracket with a 59-34 victory Tuesday over No. 9 Evanston in the Chicago State Supersectional.Simeon (31-1) will play No. 4 Bloom (28-3) at 8:15 p.m. Friday in the second Class 4A state semifinal. The Wolverines will be vying for an IHSA record sixth state championship and their fifth in the last seven years.There was too much selfishness with the ball in the first half, said Smith, whose team led 29-19 after two quarters. We cant just rely on Jabari (Parker) to get it done for us.Simeon took advantage of a nervous Evanston squad early on. They forced the Wildkits (21-11) into six early turnovers and two missed shots while racing to an 8-0 lead in the first three minutes of the game. A key play in that run was an alley-oop dunk by Kendrick Nunn that ignited the crowd. It was a sign of things to come for Nunn.Nunn is still young. He wont turn 17 till August, Smith said. He did a great job of wearing their shooter (Josh Irving) down.Nunn scored 13 points and had five assists. But it was his defense against Irving that made a difference. He forced Irving into shooting 3-for-14 from three-point range and held the senior guard to 10 points.I thought they were quicker to loose balls than us and got points off of that, Evanston coach Mike Ellis said. I thought we couldve had more opportunities inside. We didnt think aggressively enough to beat a team like Simeon.Parker had his usual strong game for the Wolverines. The junior, forward scored 19 points and had 10 rebounds and had six blocks. The Wolverine guards Nunn, Jaleni Neely, Reggie Norris, Jaylon Tate and Kendall Pollard held the Evanston trio of Irving, Jordan Perrin and Leonard Garrin to 6-for-28 shooting. This follows a pattern throughout the playoffs for Simeon of holding teams down in the second half while outscoring its opponents by an average of 23 points for the game.We were talking on the bus on the way down here about being happy anytime you can get Downstate, Smith said. We have added pressure this year because we are ranked nationally. But I liked the way that our guys didnt celebrate tonight. They know we have two more games to win.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: After 20 games, do we know the identity of this Blackhawks team?

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: After 20 games, do we know the identity of this Blackhawks team?

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast Tracey Myers and Jamal Mayers join Pat Boyle to discuss the teams wins over the Rangers and Penguins.  Have they figured some things out and what is the identity of this team after 20 games?

Jammer weighs in on Artem Anisimov’s big week and are there enough Hawks committed to net front presence?  They also discuss the surging play of the blue liners and did the Hawks fail to send a message to Evgeni Malkin, after he kneed Corey Crawford in the head?

Lauri Markkanen, Lonzo Ball making rookie history as they prepare to face each other

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USA TODAY

Lauri Markkanen, Lonzo Ball making rookie history as they prepare to face each other

It'd be a stretch to say that any rookie is having a better or more impactful season than Philadelphia's Ben Simmons. The Sixers are 9-7, and Simmons looks like a 10-year veteran with his decision making, athleticism and all-around feel for the game. He's the frontrunner for MVP, but there are two other rookies vying to catch Simmons and win that title. And they'll face each other tomorrow night in Los Angeles.

Lonzo Ball was the second pick in June's NBA Draft, and fellow Pac-12 freshman standout Lauri Markkanen went five picks later to the Bulls, who had traded up as part of the Jimmy Butler trade. Both players were drafted to rebuilding franchises - the Lakers still working out the kinks in the post-Kobe era, and the Bulls beginning their rebuild after dealing Butler - and were expected to make immediate impacts on their franchises.

Ball's was more pronounced, as the Lakers dealt D'Angelo Russell to the Nets on draft night to free up space at the point for their prized No. 2 pick. Markkanen's came more abruptly, as the 20-year-old was thrust into the starting lineup after Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic's fight put Mirotic in the hospital and Portis on paid leave. However they got there, both players have been impressive in their early NBA careers.

Starting with Markkanen, the Bulls knew the 7-foot stretch forward was a perfect build for the modern NBA. He set freshman 3-point and rebounding records that, since 1992, only some guy named Kevin Durant had reached. After a successful summer in Eurobasket he was set for a large role with the Bulls, and he's succeeded in just about every aspect. His 15.6 points per game are third only to Simmons and the other Lakers rookie Kyle Kuzma, and his 8.1 rebounds are second to Simmons. And his 2.6 made 3-pointers per game are most among rookies, and well past No. 2 on the list (Utah's Donovan Mitchell, 1.9 per game).

In fact, Markkanen would become the only rookie in NBA history to average at least 8.0 rebounds and 2.5 3-pointers per game. The 2.5 3-pointers would break a rookie record currently held by Damian Lillard (2.3 per game). The closest a rookie has ever come to reaching those marks was Stephen Curry, who averaged 4.5 rebounds and 2.1 3-pointers per game as a rookie. Allen Iverson also met the 4/2 threshold, but that's a far cry from Markkanen's 8/2.5 mark. Paul Pierce's rookie season saw him average 6.4 rebounds and 1.8 3-pointers.

But that's not all. If he kept those averages up he would be just the fifth player EVER to accomplish those thresholds. The others are James Harden, Kevin Durant, DeMarcus Cousins and Antonie Walker, who naturally did it twice.

So, yeah, Markkanen is having quite a rookie year.

So, too, is Ball. While he's had some real issues with efficiency, slashing .313/.228/.462 and has committed 2.6 turnovers per game, his counting stats have been outstanding. Ball is averaging 8.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 7.1 assists, and that puts him in equally impressive company.

Simmons has reached those numbers this season, too, averaging 18.1 points, 9.1 rebounds and 8.0 assists. You may have heard of the other two players, named Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson.

The two future Hall of Famers averaged these numbers:

Robertson: 30.5 points, 10.1 rebounds, 9.7 assists (missing averaging a triple-double for the season by 20 assists)

Johnson: 18.0 points, 7.7 rebounds, 7.3 assists

Ball is also averaging 0.9 blocks, and no other rookie guard has ever accomplished that. It might not always look pretty for Markkanen and Ball as they feel their way out in the NBA, but just remember watching these two that they're in the midst of making history in the new era of the NBA.