White Sox

Bulls pull out second consecutive OT win

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Bulls pull out second consecutive OT win

AUBURN HILLS, Mich.Who needs Websters to define letdown game when the Bulls, following a high-profile, thrilling triumph over the Heat at home Thursday, exemplified the phrase throughout much of Sunday evenings game against the Pistons at the Palace of Auburn Hills?

Once again playing down to inferior competition, a pattern theyve followed throughout their successful season, the Bulls pulled out a 100-94 overtime road victory, a game in which Derrick Rose showed he was closer to returning to his reigning league MVP level, in part by draining a three-pointer to send the game into the extra period of play.

Rose (24 points, nine assists) quickly proved he was feeling better, as he opened the games scoring with a driving layup, then followed it up with a pull-up jumper, part of an 8-2 Bulls spurt to start the game before Pistons (22-38) head coach Lawrence Frank called a timeout to make adjustments.

Even aside from Rose, the Bulls (46-14) were a well-oiled offensive machine in the early going, as the All-Star point guard tried to return to his previous form, displaying explosiveness, making good decisions and getting in rhythm.

Joakim Noah (20 poins, 17 rebounds) was his active self, particularly on the offensive glass and Rip Hamilton (13 points)the longtime Piston was productive while engaged in a mini-duel with former teammate Rodney Stuckey (32 points)but Detroit didnt let things get out of hand, as second-year big man Greg Monroe (13 points, eight rebounds) kept the hosts within striking distance.

At the conclusion of the opening period, however, the visitors led, 26-19.

The unlikeliest of suspects, Pistons veteran reserve forward Charlie Villanueva (13 points)Luol Dengs high school teammate had played all of 40 minutes for the entire season, due to being in Franks doghouseturned the game around for the home team in the second quarter.

From offensive rebounds, to driving dunks and three-pointers, the disappointing free-agent acquisitionalong with former Bulls guard Ben Gordonfrom three summers ago looked rejuvenated and was the Pistons best offensive threat for the bulk of the period.

Chicago sacrificed the lead to the Pistons, but upon the reinsertion of the Bulls regulars by head coach Tom Thibodeau, the guests to the Palace of Auburn of Hills made a push to reclaim their advantage. Noah continued to kill the Pistons on the offensive boards and Rose again showed progress in his attempt to return to full strength, giving the Bulls a 49-41 edge at the intermission.

After the break, the Bulls lead ballooned to double figures behind the backcourt of Rose and Hamilton, as well as an improved defensive effort. Hamiltons exploits werent unfamiliar to his old team, as the veteran shooting guard knocked down mid-range and three-point jumpers alike, wriggled his way to the basket for layups and using his perpetual-motion style of play, led his defender around a maze of screens, while Rose maintained his aggressiveness in attacking the basket and also distributed the ball effectively as a playmaker.

But behind guards Stuckey, rookie point guard Brandon Knight (13 points, seven assists) and Gordon, a reserve, the Pistons climbed back into the game and tied it on a monster follow-up flush by Maxiell late in the third quarter.

Detroit went on to snatch the lead once again and through three quarters of play, the Bulls trailed by a 66-64 deficit.

Things didnt get any better at the beginning of the final stanza, as the Pistons increased the lead with contributions from reserve forwards Villanueva and Damien Wilkins, infuriating Thibodeau and leading to a Bulls timeout, as well as Roses return to the contest.

Rose made an instant impact as both a scorer and playmakerthough he launched his fourth airball of the contest, a product of rust, as he actually shot the ball fairly proficiently in the gameand combined with sharpshooter Kyle Korvers (13 points) outside marksmanship, the visitors made a run and the game escalated a notch after Villanuevas flagrant foul on Rose in transition, which was ruled a flagrant and led to Rose suffering a cut on his nose and Villanueva being assessed a technical for woofing with Rose after the play.

The officiating became increasing tight as the close-knit affair waned on, with both teams being called for fouls for even the slightest contact as the game entered its stretch run, and despite the Bulls blowing repeated chances to seize opportunities lateCarlos Boozers (15 points, nine rebounds) baseline jumper with under a minute remaining put the Bulls within a single point, but after a crucial defensive stop on the other end, he failed to convert inside; a questionable awarding of a timeout to the Pistons, then a five-second call on Deng on an inbounds play with 15 seconds to go didnt help mattersthe Bulls still had a chance.

Stuckey twice split a pair of free throws with under 20 seconds left and after the his second trip, Rose raced downcourt and knocked down a game-tying triple with 6.4 seconds left to the game at 86 apiece and send the contest into an extra session.

In overtime, Stuckeywho missed a potential game-winner at the buzzer in regulationtried his best to redeem himself for his previous failings, but the big-man tandem of Noah and Boozer delivered as the squads offensive focal points.

After Korvers long bomb made it a two-possession game, Noahs putback layup gave the Bulls a six-point lead with 29.9 seconds on the clock, giving the visitors the necessary breathing room to know that a crisis was averted, although Stuckey would attempt further late-game heroics and Detroit would send a parade of Bulls to the foul line in an attempt to extend the contest.

Matt Davidson's incredibly interesting 2018

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USA TODAY

Matt Davidson's incredibly interesting 2018

This season, Matt Davidson became the fourth player in MLB history to hit three home runs in a season opener. It definitely raised a few eyebrows, especially after Paul Konerko noted during spring training that a 40-home run season and an All-Star selection isn’t out of the question for the California native. After clobbering nine home runs (seven of them coming at Kauffman Stadium) in his first 21 games, anything seemed possible.

Unfortunately it didn’t quite turn out that way, though he did rack up his second straight 20-homer season. But it’s hard to argue that 2018 wasn’t a success for Davidson — mostly because of the swings he didn’t make.

Everything else aside, Davidson walked as often as Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo in 2018.

OK, the more meaningful comparison would be Davidson to himself.

What stands out is his walk rate. One hundred fifty three players had at least 400 plate appearances in both 2017 and 2018. Among them, Davidson had the second-highest increase in walk percentage this past season.

Consider this: In 2017, Davidson and Tim Anderson became (and still are) the only players in MLB history with 160-plus strikeouts and fewer than 20 walks in a season.

Davidson, while logging 20 more at-bats in 2018, had the same number of strikeouts, 165, but he increased his walk total from 19 to 52. Give him credit for that. It’s a tough adjustment to make at the minor league level let alone in the major leagues. The increased walk rate brought his on-base percentage from .260 in 2017 (well below the AL average of .324) to .319 in 2018 (a tick above the AL average of .318) and pushed his overall offensive production from 16 percent below league average (as measured by his 84 weighted runs created plus, or wRC+) to four percent above league average (104 wRC+).

And I haven’t even mentioned the most fun aspect of his 2018 season: He pitched! And he pitched well.

Thirty pitchers took the mound for the White Sox in 2018, all of whom made at least three appearances. And only one of them didn’t allow a run: Davidson.

He topped out at 91.9 MPH and had as many strikeouts, two, as baserunners allowed in his three innings of work. The two batters he struck out, Rougned Odor and Giancarlo Stanton, combined for 56 home runs in 2018. They combined for 89 home runs (and an MVP award) in 2017.

In his career, Stanton had a combined 16 plate appearances and zero strikeouts against Barry Zito, CC Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka and Edwin Díaz. He struck out in his one plate appearance against Davidson.

Davidson is one of just three players with 20 or more home runs and at least three mound appearances in a season in MLB history:

— Babe Ruth (1919): 29 home runs, 17 games on the mound
— Davidson (2018): 20 home runs, three games on the mound
— Shohei Ohtani (2018): 22 home runs, 10 games on the mound

Facts are facts. Davidson is actually serious about expanding his role on the mound.

“To be honest, I would love to maybe explore that idea,” he said in July. “Pitching was a dream. As a young kid, everybody wants to hit that walk-off homer, right? I was the guy striking that guy out. That’s how I first loved the game. My favorite player was Randy Johnson and doing that.

“So, it’s something I would be interested in. I don’t know if the game would necessarily allow that or something like that. It’s something that is really close to my heart is pitching.”

Whether or not it ever happens, Davidson’s 2018 was all about finding ways to increase his value. For the White Sox, that’s a good problem to have.

Lineup changes could be on the way for Bulls: 'It's still up in the air'

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USA TODAY

Lineup changes could be on the way for Bulls: 'It's still up in the air'

It’s tough to call the position battle for the backup point guard spot on a Lottery-bound team important, but here we are two days into the Bulls’ season.

It won’t move the needle in NBA circles and Dwane Casey won’t be putting in additional time getting ready for Saturday’s game, but there appears to be potential for change in Fred Hoiberg’s rotation.

One day after an embarrassing display in a season-opening loss to the Sixers, Hoiberg said the Bulls have yet to make a decision on a potential lineup change for tomorrow’s affair against the Detroit Pistons. Kris Dunn, who missed Thursday’s game for the birth of his first child, was not at practice on Friday and may or may not be available for the home opener.

That could prompt changes after Cam Payne, inserted into the starting lineup, was largely ineffective, failing to score on 0 of 4 shooting in 21 minutes.

“We’re gonna see how practice goes today and then make that decision,” Hoiberg said. “It’s still up in the air on what we’re gonna do.”

The loss certainly can’t fall on just Payne, as the Bulls went lifeless after a 41-point first quarter that had them in the lead after 12 minutes. From there the Sixers outscored them by 29 in the second and third quarters, facing little resistance from a Bulls defense that doesn’t appear to have made much improvement from a year ago, Dunn or no Dunn.

Philadelphia shot 48 percent from the field, scored 20 fast-break points and 46 points in the paint, cruising to 102 points through three quarters before reserves finished things off. Even with Dunn the defensive prospects don’t look good, meaning Hoiberg might have to make changes to ignite the offense that scored just 35 points in those second and third quarters.

The Bulls could go a few different routes. Zach LaVine’s hot hand in the first quarter – 15 points on 6 of 7 shooting – saw the ball in his hands, and he even added two assists.

“It's a collective effort. You've got to have all five guys out there trying to play the right way and again, we found a recipe with Zach, especially in that first unit, where we let him bring the ball up the floor,” Hoiberg said. “We ran a couple actions where he was the facilitator and we put Cam in the corner. So a lot of that will be dictated by who has it going on a particular night and last night it happened to be Zach, so he was the one that was doing a lot of facilitating.”

Past a point guard-less lineup, the backups to Payne – Ryan Arcidiacono and Tyler Ulis – could also see extended minutes going forward.

Arcidiacono had 8 points and 8 assists in 28 minutes, though the majority of those stats came in garbage time. Still, he hit a pair of 3-pointers and didn’t turn the ball over, and five of his assists resulted in makes at the rim.

Ulis, acquired off waivers last week, could inject some life into the second unit.

“He’s ready. He’s done a good job in practice,” Hoiberg said. “We’ve gone through the system with him as far as what we expect and if there’s a point in the game where he can go out there and we feel he can help us, I’m confident that he’ll go out there and give us good effort.”

The point guard rotation isn’t the key to unlocking the Bulls as a lockdown defensive team, or no longer suffering the offensive dry spells that happened Thursday. But in a season that’s already showing signs of adversity, shaking up the lineup might be Hoiberg’s only chance.