Bears

Against all odds, Bulls must make this personal

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Against all odds, Bulls must make this personal

Carlos Boozer brought it up after Sunday's Game 4 loss. Richard Hamilton was asked about it at Bulls practice Monday. The time Rip's Detroit Pistons rallied from a 3-1 deficit in the 2003 playoffs to beat the Orlando Magic in the first round. It's worth mentioning. It gives you hope. It can be done.

But then you look a little closer and you realize it's not done very often. Only eight teams have come back from a 3-1 deficit to win a NBA playoff series. The last team to do it was the Phoenix Suns, who beat the Los Angels Lakers in a Western Conference first-round series in 2006. In case you're wondering, only three of those teams went on to win it all. But, let's not get ahead of ourselves. We just need to concentrate on the Bulls fighting off elimination in Game 5 Tuesday.

I have no idea if the Bulls are going to win this game and live to play another. For the first time all season, I truly have no feel for this game. As soon as I think we can stick a fork in this tattered bunch, another part of me thinks they're going to come out guns-a-blazing in front of the home crowd and reclaim their faded glory.

In franchise history, the Bulls have never rallied from a 3-1 deficit in a playoff series, failing in all five previous attempts. Let's face it, the odds are against them.

Call me crazy, but I still believe if the Bulls can just make a few adjustments and play like their lives depend on it, they may be able to not only win Game 5 but win the necessary three straight and advance.

The most encouraging thing I heard at Bulls practice Monday was when Rip Hamilton said, "Right now, it's personal. We can't just go out there as professional basketball players, we have to make it personal."

Yes, take it personally. Bulls players should be personally offended that a No. 8 seed is about to knock off a No. 1 seed for only the fifth time since 1984. Not in our house!

It's time to pull out all the stops. Use Mike James if you have to -- he's bigger, more physical (to help counter Evan Turner) and plays better defense than C.J. Watson and John Lucas III. He'll be more proficient at running the offense since he's not a scoring point guard and he might distribute the ball better to get Luol Deng and Hamilton more shot opportunities. And, for Pete's sake, maybe he can stop Jrue Holiday during the critical 4th quarter?

I'm not saying James is the answer by any means, I'm simply suggesting that coach Tom Thibodeau needs to throw out the playbook at this point because whatever the Bulls have been doing hasn't been working. They've been sticking to a failed plan and it's time to make adjustments.

Play with a sense of urgency, make it personal and the Bulls can win this thing. Of those eight previous teams I mentioned that came back down 3-1 to win the series, six of them played Game 5 at home. The Bulls have as good a shot as any to make history here.

Even if it is against all odds.

Pro Football Focus: Bears rank near bottom-third of NFL in pass protection

Pro Football Focus: Bears rank near bottom-third of NFL in pass protection

If the Chicago Bears want to make a real run at the playoffs in 2018, the offensive line will have to do its part by keeping QB Mitch Trubisky upright. The offense is expected to be more pass-heavy under coach Matt Nagy and will depend on Trubisky having time in the pocket to go through his progressions and find the open target.

New offensive line coach Harry Hiestand should help that cause. He's universally praised as one of the best offensive line coaches in the sport and will be charged with getting a better effort from a unit that ranked near the bottom-third in pass protection last season, according to Pro Football Focus.

19. CHICAGO BEARS

2017 pass-blocking efficiency: 77.9

Best individual PBE: Josh Sitton, 97.4

Because of several crippling injuries, nine different players saw at least 100 pass-block snaps for the Bears in 2017. They gave up 152 pressures on 536 passing plays. The top performance came from left tackle Charles Leno Jr., who enjoyed the best season of his career and allowed just 24 pressures all season. Heading into the 2018 campaign, rookie guard James Daniels is penciled in to fill the shoes of the recently departed pass-blocking star Josh Sitton. Daniels performed well in pass protection during his final college season, allowing just 10 pressures on 371 pass-blocking snaps at Iowa.

The Bears will be without last season's top pass-protector, Josh Sitton, who was let go by GM Ryan Pace this offseason and signed with the Dolphins. 

Pass protection was once all about the play of the offensive tackles, but with the NFL's interior defensive linemen evolving into disruptive forces up the middle, guard play will be nearly as important. A healthy Kyle Long is critical. Chicago can't afford growing pains from James Daniels, either. Cody Whitehair returns to full-time center duties, a role he excelled at during his rookie season. 

Charles Leno should provide reliable play at left tackle. Bobby Massie remains a wildcard, but with little depth behind him, the Bears can do nothing more than hope his bad reps are limited in 2018.

With Hiestand in the fold and a healthy Long ready to compete at a high level again, the Bears' offensive line should be much improved this season.

NHL Draft Profile: D Evan Bouchard

NHL Draft Profile: D Evan Bouchard

From June 17-21, Charlie Roumeliotis will profile two prospects per day — 10 total (five forwards, five defensemen) — leading up to the NHL Draft.​

Evan Bouchard

Position: Defenseman
Height: 6-foot-2
Weight: 193 pounds
Shoots: Right

Scouting report:

"A highly intelligent defenseman with exceptional vision and offensive instincts. He reads the play very well and his passing ability allows him to be a constant threat in his team's transition game. He's one of the top offensive-defenseman in the Canadian Hockey League and magician-like when quarterbacking the power play."

NHL player comparable: John Carlson/Alex Pietrangelo

Fit for Blackhawks:

At 6-foot-2, 193 pounds, Bouchard is one of the most NHL-ready defensemen in this year's draft and that could be appetizing for a team like the Blackhawks, who are looking for immediate help on the blue line. But Bouchard is a right-handed shot, and drafting him would add a third high-end right-handed shot defenseman to the organization, along with prospects Henri Jokiharju and Ian Mitchell.

You can never have enough of them, but there's only room for three before somebody would have to play on their off hand and that would mean the third would be playing on the bottom pairing. All three of these players have Top 4 potential.

Still, that may not even come into play here. The Blackhawks will seek to take the best available player, like they always have. And if they feel it's Bouchard, they'll do it.