Blackhawks

Bulls hope to regain swagger against Rockets

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Bulls hope to regain swagger against Rockets

HOUSTONA dominant defense. A nightly advantage on the glass.

A bench that not only maintained, but extended leads on a consistent basisor, in the case that the starters were behind, often took control of the game. Chemistry that led to teammates recognizing the hot hand and when they didnt have it going themselves, making timely plays that didnt involve scoring.

The aforementioned traits were all hallmarks of the Bulls the last two seasons and while they may eventually reappear, in the present, theyre largely absent. It goes without saying that in sidelined superstar Derrick Roses absence, the squad doesnt have that one, dynamic, game-changing equalizer to rescue them, but that didnt stop past editions of the Bulls from being successful in their blue-collar, hard-nosed fashion.

The departure of the Bench Mob has been perhaps overly discussed, but while the reputations of their individual abilities is now more myth than factit must be remembered that upon Tom Thibodeaus arrival over two years ago, the Bulls bench wasnt exactly mythologized and to be honest, the group was regarded as a bit flawed and underwhelming before they hit their stridethe spirit of the departed reserves, including holdover Taj Gibson, is what made them special. But throughout the young campaign, that nightly passion, determination and most significantly, defensive focus, have dwindled.

Its more the process. I want us doing the right things and so, every game, you evaluate the things that you think are necessary to win and for us, its always the same. Its the defense, the rebounding, the inside-out, the low turnovers, the sharing the ball, Thibodeau explained before the teams Tuesday afternoon practice at the Toyota Center, where his team will take on the Rockets, one of his many former employers, Wednesday evening.

When you evaluate are you doing things correctly, you can sometimes do things correctly and they opponents can make shots. The problem is, when youre not doing things correctly, to understand the difference and make the necessary corrections, so you can improve and right now, theyre a number of things were doing, and some things were doing well.

We started off the season not challenging shots as well as I would like. I think were covering the three-point line better, but our turnovers, putting opponents into the open floor has hurt us, particularly on the road, so thats something that we have to change, and then we have to play for 48 minutes. Right now, theres some good sequences, some bad sequences, but we have to be more consistent, continued the coach, who noted that well see how it unfolds, when asked specifically if there would be changes to his rotation.

The second quarter has been an area we have to clean up. Offensively, were starting the games strongly. Were inside-out, were shooting a good percentage, were scoring. But the tone of the game is not a defensive tone and then in the second quarter, were being hurt in a lot of different areas, mainly the turnovers. So, thats something that we have to get corrected and then, were in a hole and we usually make a run to come back, but thats difficult to overcome, particularly on the road, when youre fighting a double-digit deficit.

Against the Rockets, a similarly spiraling team and losers of three consecutive outings after a fast start to the season, the Bulls will look to bounce back before returning to the Midwestthey will fly back to Chicago after Wednesdays game, then play Saturday in Milwaukee to conclude their annual Circus Trippreferably with a record over the .500 mark. It wont necessarily easy, however, as reeling Houston does possess talent, as Jeremy Lin, last seasons phenom, combines with early-season blockbuster acquisition James Harden for an explosive backcourt, and former Bulls backup Omer Asik anchors one of the NBAs youngest team in the middle.

Harden is a great player, so he keeps a lot of pressure on you. Its his ability to shoot, his ability to put it on the floor and then, of course, his ability to draw fouls. Then, you combine him with Lin in the backcourt, very dynamic and then, they run the floor extremely well. They play with energy, they shoot a lot of threes, Thibodeau said. Chandler Parsons is one of the most underrated players in the league. Hes really coming on strongly and so is Patrick Patterson.

We know that defensive transition and covering the line will be critical.

So will getting back their old swagger.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Reacting to Round 1 of NHL Draft

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Reacting to Round 1 of NHL Draft

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle and Charlie Roumeliotis recap Round 1 of the 2018 NHL Draft.

They discuss the pair of puck-carrying defensemen that the Blackhawks selected on Friday, Adam Boqvist and Nicolas Beaudin. When can we expect to see these first-round picks play in the NHL?

Boyle also goes 1-on-1 with Boqvist and Beaudin. The guys spoke with Stan Bowman and Joel Quenneville on Friday.

The guys also share their biggest takeaways from those interviews, which includes your daily Corey Crawford update and Quenneville appeared excited that the team has plenty of cap space to spend in free agency.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

It's only one start, but that's the Lucas Giolito that White Sox fans expected to see this season

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USA TODAY

It's only one start, but that's the Lucas Giolito that White Sox fans expected to see this season

The preseason expectations and the results have been drastically different for Lucas Giolito.

Expected to be the best pitcher on the White Sox starting staff, Giolito hasn’t come too close to that title, instead heading into Friday’s doubleheader with the most earned runs allowed of any pitcher in baseball. His walk total has been among the highest in the game all year long, too. And the calls from social media to send him down to Triple-A haven’t been at all infrequent.

But Friday, White Sox fans got a glimpse at what they expected, a look at the guy who earned so much hype with a strong September last season and a dominant spring training.

It wasn’t a performance that would make any reasonable baseball person’s jaw drop. But it was the best Giolito has looked this season. He still allowed four runs on seven hits — as mentioned, not a Cy Young type outing — but he struck out a season-high eight batters. Prior to giving up the back-to-back singles to start the eighth inning that brought an end to his evening, he’d surrendered just two runs.

Most importantly he walked just two guys and didn’t seem to struggle with his command at all. That’s a big deal for a pitcher who had 45 walks to his name prior to Friday.

“You know it was a tough eighth inning, but throughout the whole game, I felt in sync,” Giolito said. “(Catcher Omar Narvaez) and I were working really well, finally commanding the fastball the way I should. Definitely the best I felt out there this year, for sure. Velocity was up a tick. Just felt right, felt in sync. Just competed from there.”

Confidence has never left Giolito throughout the poor results, and he’s talked after every start about getting back on the horse and giving it another try. Consistently working in between starts, things finally seemed to click Friday night.

“It all worked today,” manager Rick Renteria said. “(Pitching coach Don Cooper) says that every bullpen has gotten better, from the beginning to this point. He sees progress. The velocity that he showed today was something that Coop was seeing in his work. You can see that his delivery is continuing to improve. He was trusting himself, really attacking the strike zone, trusted his breaking ball today when he need to and just tried to command as much as he could. Did a nice job.”

Giolito went through this kind of thing last year, when he started off poorly at Triple-A Charlotte with a 5.40 ERA through his first 16 starts. But then things got better, with Giolito posting a 2.78 ERA over his final eight starts with the Knights before getting called up to the big leagues.

This was just one start, of course, but perhaps he can follow a similar formula this year, too, going from a rough beginning to figuring things out.

“I’m not trying to tinker or think about mechanics anymore,” he said. “It’s about flow, getting out there and making pitches. We were able to do that for the most part.

“I’ll watch video and see certain things, and I have little cues here and there. But I’m not going to go and overanalyze things and nitpick at certain stuff anymore. It’s about going there and having fun and competing.”

Maybe that’s the secret. Or maybe this is simply a brief flash of brilliance in the middle of a tough first full season in the bigs.

Whatever it was, it was the best we’ve seen of Giolito during the 2018 campaign. And it was far more like what was expected back before that campaign got going.