Cubs

Bulls hold off pesky Magic

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Bulls hold off pesky Magic

Even with one of the leagues top defenses, Coach Tom Thibodeau knew not to take the Magic lightly.

Devoid of All-Star talent, Orlando entered Tuesdays game having won its first two games by an average of 17 points while leading the league in three-point field goal percentage (.538) and coming in second in scoring (108.5).

They score the ball easily, Thibodeau said before the game. They have a number of guys that have been in big games before. Were going to have to guard them with a five-man mentality. If you allow them to get going early, they get their confidence going, youre going to be in for a long night.

It took all night, in a game that featured four ties and 14 lead changes, but the Bulls were able to stifle the Magics offense, winning 99-93.

Luol Deng led the way for Chicago with 23 points and eight rebounds. Joakim Noah finished with 20 points, and Nate Robinson chipped in seven of his 11 points in the fourth quarter.

The Magic shot 8-for-19 from three-point range and were led by Aaron Afflalos 28 points. ETwaun Moore added 17 points, while Glen Davis and Nikola Vucevic finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds apiece.

The Bulls got off to a quick start, moving the ball and building an eight-point lead towards the end of the period before the Magic closed the first quarter on a 14-4 run and grabbed a 24-23 lead.

The Magics hot shooting continued in the second period and they closed the first half on 15-for-27 shooting and led 48-45 at halftime.

The back and forth battle continued throughout the second half before the Bulls grabbed the lead for good after a Nate Robinson jumper put them ahead 72-71 with 9:15 remaining.

The Magic made a late charge, closing their deficit to 93-90 after three-pointers by Afflalo, JJ Redick (10 points) and a jumper by Moore. A Taj Gibson slam plus the foul extended the lead to six with 39 seconds remaining.

A combination of two late Afflalo jumpers and some missed free throws by the Bulls made things interesting, but there simply wasnt enough time for an upset. But fans were quite unhappy that they wouldnt be receiving the customary free Big Macs as Noah and Hinrich failed to drain even one of their final three free throw attempts in the closing seconds to top the century mark.

Joe Maddon on MLB's absurd home run rate: 'The wind’s being broken here. It’s really weird'

Joe Maddon on MLB's absurd home run rate: 'The wind’s being broken here. It’s really weird'

Cubs manager Joe Maddon usually isn’t one for conspiracy theories, but even he’s wondering what’s going on. MLB teams are hitting home runs at an absurd rate, including the Cubs, who are hitting them at a historic rate for the franchise’s standards.

Entering Saturday, here’s where MLB teams stand in average home run rate and total home runs in 2019 compared to recent seasons:

2017: 1.26/game, 6,105 total
2018: 1.15/game, 5,585 total
2019: 1.33/game, 2,009 total

While the MLB season is just over 30 percent finished, teams are on pace to hit a combined 6,483 long balls in 2019. This would absolutely obliterate the 2017 total, which, like the 1.33 home runs per game figure, would be an MLB record.

The Cubs are no exception to this home run wave. Including Saturday (game No. 50 of the season), the team has hit 80 home runs (and counting) in 2019. Only the 2000 Cubs (83) hit more home runs in their first 50 games in franchise history.

“We’re having home runs hit here into some firm breezes, which has not happened before,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said to reporters before Saturday’s game against the Reds. “That’s the thing that stands out to me. It’s been crazy.

“Even [Kyle] Schwarber’s home run, I know that was hit well, but dang, that wind was blowing pretty firmly across at that point.”

Schwarber absolutely crushed his home run yesterday, a 449-foot blast that needed little help getting into the bleachers. However, Maddon has a valid point regarding home runs being hit despite the wind. Entering Saturday, 54 total home runs have been hit at Wrigley Field this season, 29 of which have come with the wind blowing in.

By the sixth inning of Saturday’s game, the Cubs and Reds had already hit a combined five home runs, one of which appeared to be a routine fly ball hit by Jason Heyward that wound up in the left field basket thanks to the wind. At the same time, Yasiel Puig hit one 416 feet onto Waveland Ave. that had a 109 mph exit velocity. The wind blowing out at Wrigley Field helps, but it isn’t everything.

MLB players have questioned time and time again if baseballs are “juiced,” including Cubs starting pitcher Jon Lester. And while Maddon didn’t flat out say that he thinks the baseballs are juiced, he notices a difference in how they're flying off the bat.

“I don’t know, I’m normally not into the subplot component of all of this and the conspiracy theorists, but I’m telling you right now, it’s jumping,” he said. “It’s absolutely jumping.

“Nobody is ever going to admit to it. The wind’s being broken here. It’s really weird.”

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97 Days to Kickoff: Elmwood Park

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

97 Days to Kickoff: Elmwood Park

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 Aug. 5, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 30.

School: Elmwood Park

Head coach: Dylan Mack

Assistant coaches: Gabe Ostrander, Mario Fiorito, Chad Nardi, Tony Sylvester, Eric Lewis and Dwayne French

How they fared in 2018: 8-3 (4-1 Metro Suburban Red). Elmwood Park made the Class 4A state playoff field and beat Back of the Yards. In the second round, they lost to Evergreen Park.

2019 Regular Season Schedule:

Aug. 30 vs St. Joseph

Sept. 6 vs Lisle

Sept. 13 @ Ridgewood

Sept. 20 vs St. Edward

Sept. 27 vs Westmont

Oct. 4 @ Christ the King

Oct. 11 vs Guerin Prep

Oct. 18 @ Chicago Christian

Oct. 25 @ Bishop McNamara

Biggest storyline: Last year, the Tigers had their best season on the gridiron since 1985’s 12-1 state semifinal team. What will this team do for an encore? Can they go deeper into the state playoffs?

Names to watch this season: Senior quarterback Mike Stranski and wide receiver Keon Grimes

Biggest holes to fill: The Tigers will need to find some new faces to bolster the defensive line and at the linebacker positions.

EDGY's Early Take: It was a banner year in 2018, as Elmwood Park advanced to the their playoffs in consecutive years for the first time in school history. Coach Dylan Mack’s program has some momentum will have a very good chance to make it three state playoff appearances in a row later this fall.