White Sox

Bulls' defense dominates in record-setting win

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Bulls' defense dominates in record-setting win

ORLANDOSans Derrick Rose, the Bulls continue to find different methods to win, but Monday nights rout of the Magic was a return to a familiar formula. Well, Carlos Boozer also played a major role in the 85-59 victory at the Amway Center, but a stifling effort on the defensive endnot to mention timely scoring from new fan favorite John Lucas III early and lateone that set a new franchise mark for holding opponents to the fewest points in a regular-season game, earned Tom Thibodeau his 100th victory, setting an NBA record for being the head coach to accomplish the feat the fastest.

After starting the contest on the wrong end of a 5-0 run, the Bulls (38-10) got their act together quickly, using ball movement and sharp cuts to the basket to reap easy scoring opportunities.

Boozer (24 points, 13 rebounds) was the visitors offensive focal point, but in addition to scoring, the power forward also displayed his underrated passing ability and rebounding prowess in the early going.

Orlando (29-18) recovered from the Bulls onslaught and bounced back, going to newly re-committed All-Star center Dwight Howard (18 points, 12 rebounds, three blocked shots)the subject of intense trade speculation at the deadline before informing the Magic of his decision to return for another seasonon the interior for high-percentage shots.

However, their guests struck back behind reserve point guard John Lucas III (20 points), who drained a trio of long bombs to help the Bulls take a 22-14 lead after a quarter of play.

Chicagos Bench Mob, with starter Luol Deng (14 points) also in the mix, maintained the momentum at the outset of the second period, as Omer Asiks interior defense, Taj Gibsons work on the glass and Dengs all-around talents kept the Magic off balance and allowed the gap between the teams to swell to double digits.

Upon Boozers reinsertion to the gamealong with Noah, in place of Gibson and Asikthe much-maligned big man went to work once again and with the Bulls transition game clicking, the defense forcing turnovers and stellar ball movement, the visitors remained in firm control.

Magic face-up power forward Ryan Anderson stretched the defense with his outside marksmanship and point guard Jameer Nelson, a former All-Star, overcame some early struggles to briefly spark the hosts, but as has become commonplace, the guests simply increased their defensive intensity and made adjustments to counter those developments.

Meanwhile, on the other end of the floor, Boozer and Deng continued to excel, assisting the Bulls in taking a 48-33 advantage into the intermission in front of a dissatisfied Orlando crowd.

The games pace slowed a bit after the break, but the Bulls continued to have the edge in the contest, mostly due to their stout defensethough two Howard interior baskets, sandwiched by an Anderson putback, raised Thibodeaus ire enough for him to call a timeout, in order to refocus his squadas both teams initially had issues scoring the ball.

Orlando chipped away at the deficit, briefly making it a single-digit affair and getting the home fans back into the game.

Boozer, however, had other plans, knocking down his mid-range jumper with remarkable accuracy and again, combined with the Bulls intense defense, ensuring the lead ballooned enough to become a comfortable winning margin, following a 6-0 spurt.

Though the close of the period evened out a bit, the visitors maintained a 60-48 edge through three quarters of play.

The final stanza began as a defensive battle, with each team not giving an inch, yet unable to score proficiently, meaning each basket was that much more crucial and magnifying the importance of the diminutive Lucas high-arcing pull-up jumper over Howard, the three-time reigning league Defensive Player of the Year.

A thunderous Joakim Noah dunk over Glen Big Baby Davis, plus the foul and ensuing free throw raised the Bulls lead to 20 points and although Nelson knocked down a three-pointer on the subsequent possession, the damage was done.

Lucas, though, wasnt done putting the finishing touches on the road win, as his instant-offense scoring was even appreciated by the Magics fans, who had long begun to exit the arena.

Noah, after being mostly dormant throughout the night, also got his offense going late and by the time the contest wound down, the only question was if the Bulls would set a new mark for holding opponents to the fewest points in a regular-season game, which they did, eclipsing the mark set against Milwaukee in 1997.

Reynaldo Lopez is changing his place in the White Sox rebuild: 'When I'm on the mound, I'm the best and I don't care about the rest'

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USA TODAY

Reynaldo Lopez is changing his place in the White Sox rebuild: 'When I'm on the mound, I'm the best and I don't care about the rest'

Rebuilds are full of surprises.

Fans can pencil in any names they want into their 2020 lineups, but there’s almost no one who’s going to have a 100-percent success rate when it comes to predicting exactly what the next contending White Sox team will look like.

Reynaldo Lopez carried plenty of hype when he was acquired from the Washington Nationals in the Adam Eaton deal prior following the 2016 season. He had a high prospect ranking before he was called up last summer. He hasn’t materialized out of nowhere.

But with names like Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech, Alec Hansen, Carlos Rodon and others to compete with for one of those coveted rotation spots of the future, was anyone going to use the term “ace” to describe Lopez?

Well, in this rebuilding season’s most pleasant surprise for the White Sox and their fans, that’s exactly what Lopez has been. He’s been hands down the team’s best starting pitcher, and he’s making the case that he shouldn’t be considered an ancillary piece in this rebuilding process but a featured one.

He might not be getting the attention that others are. But he’s doing the most with his opportunity of being at the big league level right now. In the end, as long as you’re getting batters out, who cares how much attention you get?

“It’s not about what people say or what they are talking about,” Lopez said through a translator. “It’s about the confidence I have in myself, and I have plenty of confidence in myself. For me, I’m the best. I’m not saying the other guys are not. I’m just saying that’s the confidence I have. When I’m on the mound, I’m the best and I don’t care about the rest.”

Sunday marked the best start of Lopez’s young career, so said the pitcher himself. He was terrific in shutting down the visiting Texas Rangers, holding them to just two hits over eight scoreless innings.

It was one heck of a bounce-back performance considering what happened last time out, when he was roughed up for six runs in just two innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The difference? His attitude, his focus, his intensity, his conviction.

“I just changed my attitude in the game,” Lopez said. “I was more positive today than I was in my last outing and that was one of my biggest differences.”

“I do think he came out a little bit more focused, to be honest,” manager Rick Renteria said. “The intensity level was a little higher today. I think he threw the first couple pitches 97, 98 miles an hour, where his last outing they were at 93, 94. There wasn’t a whole lot of commitment or conviction to his pitches (against the Pirates). I think, as we talked after the last outing, (pitching coach Don Cooper) spoke to him a little about making sure he brought that intensity that he has the ability to do, to bring it from Pitch 1 and he did today.”

Renteria liked it all, and he saw something different in his pitcher when he went out to talk to him with two outs in the eighth. Lopez issued a two-out walk, and Renteria considered lifting Lopez from the game.

Lopez made sure his manager wouldn’t pull the plug on this outing.

“I hid the baseball in my glove because I didn’t want to leave the game,” Lopez said. “I asked me, ‘How are you? Are you good?’ And I told him, ‘Yes, I’m good.’ Then he asked me again, ‘Do you think you are able to get him out?’ And I said yes, ‘This is my game, and I’m going to finish it.’”

What did Lopez do with his extra life? He finished it all right, blowing Shin-Soo Choo away with a 96-mile-an-hour fastball. Then he showed as much emotion as he’s ever shown on a major league field. He earned that celebration.

“When you see your manager come out and you’ve already gone through most of your game in terms of what you might think you have in number of pitches available to you, and you reiterate that you want to finish a particular batter because you want to get out of that inning, and you do it, it's an accomplishment,” Renteria said. “It's a big accomplishment. For him, pretty good hitter. He battled him and he was able to get out of that inning and complete a very, very strong eight-inning outing.”

It’s the kind of exclamation point on a dominant afternoon that could stir some big plans in White Sox fans always dreaming of the future. What Lopez has done this season has been a strong case for a spot in that future rotation and a spot at the front of it, at that. Following Sunday’s gem, Lopez owns a 2.98 ERA with at least six strikeouts in four of his nine starts.

There’s a lot of development and a lot of time left before the White Sox contention window opens. But Lopez pitching like this offers a glimpse into the crystal ball, a look at what could be for an organization that’s acquired so much talent over the last two years.

You might not have seen it coming like this, but the future arriving in the form of Lopez is a sign that brighter days are ahead on the South Side.

96 Days to Kickoff: Jacobs

96 Days to Kickoff: Jacobs

NBCSportsChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O'Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting July 30, we'll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 24.

School: Jacobs

Head coach: Bill Mitz

Assistant coaches: Bubba Smith, Mike Warren, Brian Zimmerman, JM Foote, Ryan Arndt and Bob Mackey

How they fared in 2017: 6-4 (5-3 Fox Valley Conference). Jacobs made the Class 7A playoff field. The Golden Eagles lost to Lincoln-Way West in opening round action. 

2018 Regular Season Schedule:

Aug. 24 Hampshire 

Aug. 31 @ Huntley 

Sept. 7 Dundee-Crown 

Sept. 14 @ McHenry 

Sept. 21 Neuqua Valley 

Sept. 28 Prairie Ridge 

Oct. 5 @ Cary-Grove 

Oct. 12 Crystal Lake South 

Oct. 19 @ Crystal Lake Central

Biggest storyline: Can the Golden Eagles move up in the Fox Valley Conference pecking order in 2018?

Names to watch this season: OT Joacheim Price and OL Nick Zonta

Biggest holes to fill: The Golden Eagles will need to replace its entire starting linebacker group from a season ago.

EDGY's Early Take: Year in and year out, Jacobs is always a factor in the rugged Fox Valley Conference (seven playoff appearances in the last eight years). The Golden Eagles return some starters in several key spots. If the underclassmen group can step up this summer, look for Jacobs to challenge for the FVC conference title and a higher seed in 7A come IHSA playoff time.