Preps Talk

Bulls pass final preseason test, top Pacers at Notre Dame

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Bulls pass final preseason test, top Pacers at Notre Dame

SOUTH BEND, IND. With these two teams, the location (the campus of the University of Notre Dame, alma mater of Bulls executive vice president John Paxson, former Fighting Irish star), the host team (despite taking place in Indiana, it was a Bulls home game, which was reflected by the mostly partisan crowd) or time of year (last seasons preseason opener was a dogfight) doesnt matter.

Central Division rivals Chicago and Indiana gutted it out until the end Friday evening, resulting in a hard-fought 97-90 Bulls win in the preseason finale.

The Bulls jumped all over the Pacers from the outset, with Joakim Noahs (12 points, nine rebounds) hard-charging style leading the way and his teammates following suit. Rip Hamiltons (12 points, six rebounds, five assists) potent mid-range game, in either half-court or transition, was clicking, while Nate Robinson (21 points, eight assists) set the table in the absence of Kirk Hinrich and Luol Deng (17 points, seven rebounds) was his typically versatile self.

For the Pacers, All-Star center Roy Hibbert (17 points, eight rebounds) was an offensive force early leading to Noah picking up two quick fouls, though veteran backup Nazr Mohammed picked up the slack, in a continuation of strong preseason but couldnt stifle the Bulls singlehandedly, resulting in Indiana facing a double-digit deficit. After a period of play, the Bulls led, 28-16.

Taj Gibson (nine points, 11 rebounds), who was inserted into the contest after starter Carlos Boozer (13 points, six rebounds, three steals) picked up his second foul, displayed his normal high activity level on the glass, while Deng, in his role of go-to guy with the second unit, carried much of the offensive load, including showing as a post-up threat, a little-used wrinkle.

The reserve backcourt of inexperienced rookie Marquis Teague and veteran newcomer Marco Belinelli, both of whom had struggled throughout the exhibition campaign was solid, as Teague showed poise in directing the offense against his hometown Pacers and the slumping Belinelli hit some contested, high degree-of-difficulty attempts.

Despite the contributions of Indiana reserves Ian Mahinmi and Gerald Green, the Bulls maintained their comfortable winning margin and when Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau came back with his regulars, they continued to hold the Pacers at bay. At the intermission, the Bulls held a 52-43 advantage.

Although the Pacers picked up their intensity after the break, the Bulls didnt wane, as Boozer picked up his game, Noah remained a major factor and Robinsons underrated playmaking helped set up his teammates. It was a physical affair, but as the well-balanced scoring of the Bulls who placed all five starters in double figures on the nightpersisted, the gap between the two teams remained.

Robinsons abilities to distribute and take care of the basketball was significant to the Bulls effort, though the teams defense left something to be desired, regardless of the fast tempo and transition opportunities for both sides in the period. Heading into the final stanza, the Bulls were ahead, 78-66.

A Pacers run to begin the fourth quarter sparked by the inside play of Mahinmi and Greens aerial acrobatics made it a ballgame again, infuriating Thibodeau, who called a timeout to restore order. Whatever he told his players during the stoppage of play apparently worked as did reinserting his regulars, sans Gibson, who made a major impact on the glass, into the lineup as they raised their level of play and for the time being, staved off Indianas threat behind a more scoring-oriented stretch from Robinson.

But the Pacers refused to fade away quietly into the night, capitalizing on errant Bulls shot attempts with timely buckets of their own, making it a one-possession game, 93-90, after a traditional three-point play by power forward David West with 1:09 remaining. But a baseline jumper by Rip Hamilton with under a minute left gave the Bulls some breathing room and a improbable fadeaway by Robinson sealed the deal with 18.6 seconds on the clock.

95 Days to Kickoff: Waubonsie Valley

95 Days to Kickoff: Waubonsie Valley

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: Waubonsie Valley

Head coach: Paul Murphy

Assistant coaches: Ron Griffin, Tom Baumgarnter, Chris Genslinger, Brad Caldwell, Josh Cuttone, Noel Soto, Ryan Voitik, Duane Butts and Ken Anderson

How they fared in 2017: 4-5 (4-4 DuPage Valley Conference). Waubonsie Valley failed to qualify for the IHSA playoff field.

2018 Regular Season Schedule:

Aug. 24 @ Oak Park-River Forest

Aug. 31 vs Libertyville

Sept 7 @ Neuqua Valley

Sept. 14 @ Edwardsville

Sept. 21 vs Naperville North

Sept. 28 vs Neuqua Valley

Oct. 5 vs Prairie Ridge

Oct. 12 @ Naperville Central

Oct. 19 @ Metea Valley

[MORE: 96 Days to Kickoff: Jacobs]

Biggest storyline: It's all about the schedule. Can the Warriors survive a challenging lineup --which includes playing Neuqua Valley twice-- and make the playoffs?

Names to watch this season: WR Julian Cain and DL Avante Rogers

Biggest holes to fill: The Warriors will have several new faces on both the offensive and defensive lines in 2018. 

EDGY's Early Take: It's not often that veteran head coach Paul Murphy and his Warriors view the playoffs from home. But that's what happened last year. They were the first Waubonsie team since 2006 to do just that. Look for the Warriors to rely on a strong group of receivers to bounce back this fall. They also feature a good group of underclassmen ready to step up. Also, they will need to get used to life in the newly-realigned DuPage Valley Conference. The 2018 schedule includes two games against big district rival Neuqua Valley and a loaded non-conference slate which includes some heavy hitters. 

Will Mitch Trubisky be this season's Jared Goff?

Will Mitch Trubisky be this season's Jared Goff?

The Chicago Bears have been compared to the Los Angeles Rams as a team capable of a significant one-year turnaround after the many moves by GM Ryan Pace to improve the offense and build around second-year quarterback Mitch Trubisky.

According to NFL.com's Adam Schein, the comparisons go one step further. He thinks Trubisky is the best candidate to be 2018's version of Jared Goff:

"I'm infatuated with the Bears' offseason," Schein wrote. "The Bears smartly followed the Rams' blueprint from last offseason: hand the keys to an offensive guru/quarterback whisperer (Matt Nagy) and dedicate the offseason to surrounding your young signal-caller with talent (Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel and Trey Burton in free agency, James Daniels and Anthony Miller in the draft). Trubisky will follow in Goff's footsteps and take a major jump in his sophomore campaign."

MULLIN: Teammates see greatness in Trubisky

The comparison of Trubisky to Goff makes a ton of sense. Both were drafted with franchise-quarterback expectations but had average rookie seasons. Both played their first year with an old-school, defensive-minded head coach who was later replaced by a young up-and-coming offensive specialist. And both Goff and Trubisky were given high-powered weapons to begin their sophomore seasons with (the Rams signed Robert Woods and traded for Sammy Watkins before last season). 

Trubisky has to turn these comparisons into production, however. The Rams' remarkable 2017 campaign was just that because rarely does a team have such a dramatic turnaround in only one offseason. The odds aren't in the Bears' favor.

Still, there's a surge of confidence and support in and around Trubisky from the coaching staff and his teammates. He's doing everything he can to prepare for a Goff-like season. We'll find out soon enough if his preparation pays off.