Bulls

Birthday boy lifts Gators to upset

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Birthday boy lifts Gators to upset

Friday, Sept. 9, 2011
Posted: 11:22 p.m.
By Dick Quagliano
YourSeason.com

Crystal Lake Souths Brad Walovitch made it a birthday to remember Friday in Cary.Walovitch, who turned 18 on Friday, blasted a51-yard field goal with 6.1 seconds left to help the Gators edge No. 10Cary-Grove 10-7.It was the best birthday present ever, saidWalovitch, who had shanked a 52-yard field goal just minutes earlierand had not made a field goal this year, missing three last week.I didnt feel any pressure. I knew if we missed,there was still overtime. I really didnt think I hit it good. But itwas straight and just went over.Crystal Lake South coach Chuck Ahsmann never gaveit a second thought about going for a field goal. Even after the Gatorswere penalized for illegal motion just prior to the kick moving it froma 46-yarder to 51-yards.I have a lot of faith in him, Ahsmann said. Thereal issue was that we have a new long snapper and holder. But they dida good job on the one we missed and this one was perfect.Walovitchs play was set up by a fake punt and a 16-yard run for first down Reese Dziedzic with just over a minute to play. We knew the game would come down to turnovers and special teams, Ahsmann said. And we won the battle of special teams.Cary-Grove (2-1, 0-1 Fox Valley Valley) took advantage of a second quarter fumble to take a 7-0 halftime lead.Andrew Sobeski outmuscled two Crystal Lake Southplayers to recover the ball at the Gators 16. On the next play, RyanMahoney scampered around the left end and dove into the end zone to putthe Trojans up 7-0 with 8:18 left in the first half.Crystal Lake South (3-0, 1-0), which struggled offensively in the firsr half, found their stride late in the third quarter.Austin Fowler threw a 9-yard touchdown pass toDziedzic with 11:09 to play to cap a 5-play, 45-yard drive whichincluded a 32-yard pass to Walovitch.Fowler, who was once a fourth-string quarterbackon the freshman team three years ago, got the start on Friday. Ahsmannmoved former starter Brendan Chrystal to help shore uip the defense.It was great to get to start, Fowler said. And even better to get a win.Crystal Lake Souths defense held the Trojans incheck. Led by Brandon Madoni, Brandon Mitchell, Steve Forner, BostonMatthews, Eric Johnson, Joe Coriaci and Chrystal the Gators allowedjust 94 yards of offense.I was really proud of the way we played defensively, Ahsman said. Its tough to stop an option offense like theirs.

Bulls honor Kobe Bryant's legacy by competing in win over Spurs

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USA Today

Bulls honor Kobe Bryant's legacy by competing in win over Spurs

And then there was a basketball game to be played.

After all the words, both public and private, and the video tribute, and the 24 seconds of silence and the 24- and 8-second violations to honor Kobe Bryant, the Bulls and Spurs played a game.

It wasn’t easy, even if it marked the Spurs’ second since Bryant’s tragic death on Sunday in a helicopter crash.

“I think we’re all kind of raw,” Bulls coach Jim Boylen said. “I think the whole league is hurting.”

The Bulls prevailed 110-109 carrying with them the pregame message that Boylen sent, a conclusion many players had already reached on their own.

“We’ve lost one of the greatest competitors ever, in any sport. To honor him, I thought what we needed to do was compete and play as hard as we could,” Boylen said. “I thought our guys did that.”

Lose yourself in the game. That’s how Kris Dunn put it.

And Dunn did so by staging a memorable battle against DeMar DeRozan down the stretch. DeRozan missed the second of two free throws on a borderline foul call on Dunn with 0.2 seconds left; then also missed a putback attempt at the buzzer that was waved off, but could have been overturned by replay review if it came to it.

DeRozan finished with 36 points, although Dunn foiled him twice late and also posted his league-leading 30th game with multiple steals. He joined Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen as the only players in franchise history to record 100 steals in a season’s first 50 games.

“We were kind of in a fog,” Dunn said. “As the game went on, your competitive nature took over.”

LaVine showed perseverance that Bryant might’ve admired. After starting 1-for-8 and scoring just four first-half points, LaVine tallied 14 of his 23 points in the final period. That’s 15 straight 20-point games for LaVine, whose two free throws with 2.1 seconds left marked the winning points.

“I got off to a slow start. I didn’t get the whistle a couple times. And I made some boneheaded plays on layups trying to switch hand, missed some easy ones,” LaVine said. “Just had to settle in. I’m always confident. All I needed to see was one go in.

“I don’t think [Bryant] would like anybody not to go out there and compete. He was the ultimate competitor.”

And then there was Boylen, who improved to 2-0 against his former boss and exchanged a postgame hug with Gregg Popovich. Boylen’s decision to intentionally foul Jakob Poeltl twice in 29 seconds flipped the game. Poeltl, a 50.9 percent free-throw shooter, missed three of four.

“When you watch DeRozan make two defended great twos and he looked like he was in rhythm, we’re not going to pull off and double him because then we’re giving up a 3. If you look at points per possession on 50 percent FT shooter, you’re going to take the 50 percent FT shooter,” Boylen said. “That was really a math decision.”

Bryant consistently drew raves for his basketball intelligence. He might’ve appreciated the math equation.

As for one more numbers game, don’t look now. But the Bulls are within two games of the Eastern Conference’s eighth seed.

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Bulls observations: Kobe commemorated, and Bulls edge out Spurs

Bulls observations: Kobe commemorated, and Bulls edge out Spurs

An emotional night at the United Center ended with a 110-109 Bulls victory. Some observations:

Remembering Kobe Bryant

The Bulls organization and fans have collectively showed out to honor Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna from Sunday through the start of this one. A short summary:

 

 

 

 

Before Monday's game, the Bulls aired a short tribute video commemorating Bryant, followed by a 24-second moment of silence:

 

‘Kobe!’ chants broke out when each team took respective 8- and 24-second violations to start the game off:

The team picked Zach LaVine up

But there was a basketball game to be played, too, and it started — understandably — slow. The Spurs led 28-21 after one and held significant advantages shooting the ball (52.6% from the field to the Bulls’ 39.1%) and on the glass (15-8).

The Bulls closed all those gaps in the second quarter thanks to a welcome stretch of solid bench play. At the half, the Bulls’ reserves had 23 points to the Spurs’ 25, led by Coby White (10 points, 5 rebounds) and Denzel Valentine (7 points, 3-for-4 shooting). Five offensive rebounds in the second was a highlight.

After an opening two quarters in which Zach LaVine scored just four points on 1-for-8 shooting, the Bulls led a solid Spurs team 50-48, scoring 12 points off eight San Antonio turnovers. That’s encouraging in and of itself, given some of the Bulls’ role players’ propensity for inconsistency (and the team’s general short-handedness).

The third quarter cometh

It was another third quarter that saw a game nearly slip away from the Bulls. The Spurs won the period 37-25 behind 16 third quarter points from DeMar DeRozan, who took the game by the reigns for stretches. Patty Mills also notched 11 points coming off a 12-point first half. He finished the night with 25.

The Bulls entered play with the 27th-ranked third quarter point differential in the NBA (-1.5) — a number which will now sink further into the red. They didn’t shoot phenomenally well in the period (44% from the field; 3-for-8 from three), but it was the defense that slipped. The Spurs hit all six of their looks at the rim and all four corner 3-pointers they attempted in the period, which, alone, is 24 points to the 25 the Bulls scored. Jim Boylen won’t be happy with 13 Spurs free throw attempts, either.

A fourth to remember

But the Bulls shook off the third quarter rust with as memorable a fourth quarter as this arena has seen in quite some time.

Both teams came out sharp from long-range; Valentine hit two early 3-pointers to tie a season-high with 16 points and a strong case for re-entry into the rotation (he finished with 19 minutes and seems to have usurped Shaq Harrison). Then, from the 6:54 mark to the 4:54 mark, the Bulls staged a 12-1 run that flipped a 95-89 deficit into a 101-96 lead.

The UC was loud.

From there, the Spurs pulled back level at 101, and the two played tug-of-war for a tad. A Thad Young 3 put the Bulls ahead 108-104 with 2:29 remaining. With just over a minute left, a DeRozan stepback brought the Spurs within two, then the Bulls staged a 39-second possession that featured three offensive rebounds. DeRozan came right back down and canned another fader over Dunn to knot the game at 108.

And then the ball was in Zach LaVine’s hands.

He ripped through three Spurs on the Bulls’ ensuing possession, and ended up with the benefit of a late whistle to send him to the free throw line with 2.1 seconds left. He sunk both. After DeRozan was then fouled on the other end (I know, nuts), he bricked the back-end of two free throw attempts. It would have been his 37th point of the evening. Bulls win. And Jim Boylen beats his mentor (!)

LaVine entered the fourth quarter with just nine points. He finished with 23, scoring 14 in the period on 4-for-8 shooting. He even came up limping on one possession after appearing to roll his ankle. Didn’t matter. It’s hard not to think of Bryant — whom LaVine said earlier today is part of the reason he wears the No. 8 — in reflecting on that outing.

Take anything from this, an emotional game, with as many grains of salt as you wish. But it was a thrilling, short-handed win against a solid team. On to Indiana Wednesday.