Cubs

Bulls can't match Conley-Gasol combo in loss to Grizzlies

Bulls can't match Conley-Gasol combo in loss to Grizzlies

It's the simplest play in basketball but when players run it to perfection the pick and roll is almost impossible to stop, as evidenced by the Memphis Grizzlies duo of Mike Conley and Marc Gasol.

They bludgeoned the Bulls with consistency, the same way they've done to the league since adopting the "grit and grind" mantra at the start of the decade, hitting just enough jumpers late to stymie the Bulls with a 98-91 win at the United Center, making it six of seven losses for the Bulls.

The unheralded center and suddenly well-paid point guard each scored 27 by way of slow death and execution, as they both hit critical triples in the final minutes to help the Grizzlies pull away and hold off the competitive Bulls, who needed one of their stars to step up late.

"They have two great players," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "They made huge shots, big plays. They slowed it down, took away rhythm from us."

Jimmy Butler certainly didn't look like his usual self, struggling to a 14-point night on just four of 16 shooting, missing all his 3-point attempts. Dwyane Wade took a hard fall in the second half on his right elbow and didn't play in the fourth quarter, leaving the team without their top playmakers being at optimal efficiency.

He'll have an MRI Thursday but it could be similar to Butler's 2015 left elbow injury that had him miss a month before the playoffs.

"He asked me how long I was out, I told him and he was like wow," Butler said. "It is what it is. Hopefully it's not what I had. But I know it's pain, I know that much. I know how it feels."

Rajon Rondo led the Bulls with 17 points, eight assists and six rebounds as he kept Conley reasonably in check before Conley found his rhythm against other Bulls defenders.

Conley kept exploiting the Bulls' pick-and-roll strategy where they challenged him to hit perimeter shots and he beat them nearly every time they went under screens as opposed to chasing him over the top.

Hitting critical triples on his way to a 27-point, nine-rebound and seven-assist night, he helped the Grizzlies get critical rebounds and loose balls when it seemed like they were there for the taking.

"They got to all the loose balls. We missed shots, we didn't rebound when we needed to," Butler said. "But we've been up and down all year. And it seems like we're down right now."

One small revelation Hoiberg has probably come upon is that with starting Rondo—despite him hitting three of four triples—he doesn't space the floor enough for Butler and Wade to work their magic, although that didn't contribute wholly to their struggles.

The Grizzlies suffocate even the best teams, so it wasn't much of a surprise to see the Bulls struggle offensively.

"They're tough to score against in the half court. Our pace was really good early," Hoiberg said. "The halfcourt wasn't as efficient as it was the other night. The movement wasn't as good."

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And if Nikola Mirotic is going to play definitively, he has to start over Bobby Portis, just to space the floor.

Mirotic, probably worn down after battling Zach Randolph on the blocks for the majority of his minutes and getting a few pounds of flesh defensively, hit back to back triples to keep pace with the Grizzlies, tying it at 83 with under five minutes remaining.

If not for the Bulls' 3-point shooting, they wouldn't have been able to keep up with the Grizzlies, particularly late as Wade was hobbled and didn't play in the fourth. 

They matched the Grizzlies with 11 triples, with Mirotic and Denzel Valentine each hitting three.

But the Bulls could only muster 37 percent shooting overall as the Grizzlies still had more than enough grit and grind to keep the Bulls at bay, adding one more loss to a ledger that has too many as is with 14 games remaining.

Cubs' Ian Happ: Anthony Rizzo looks 'absolutely wonderful' after weight loss

Cubs' Ian Happ: Anthony Rizzo looks 'absolutely wonderful' after weight loss

From the press box, baseball writers squinted down at the players taking ground balls at Wrigley Field Friday.

Was that lean first baseman really Anthony Rizzo?

“I looked at myself in the mirror when I got home with (my wife) Emily and I go, ‘I’m either going to gain 50 pounds or I’m going to get back into amazing shape,’” Rizzo said after the Cubs’ first day of Summer Camp.

Rizzo lost about 25 pounds over the baseball hiatus, training with quality assurance coach Mike Napoli.

“I was in really good shape coming into the spring,” Rizzo said, “and just me and coach Napoli were basically quarantine buddies the entire time. And we just held each other accountable every day, six days a week, we were going to get after it, we had our good routine, and I think it’s paid off. I feel really good for this year and for this sprint.”

Ian Happ, whose locker is next to Rizzo’s, said he watched his teammate try on smaller clothes Friday because everything from before his weight loss was too baggy.

“Nice to see him downsizing, and he looks absolutely wonderful,” Happ said. “His pop right now -- I don’t want to oversell it, but his pop right now -- he’s strong. He’s very strong.”

Rizzo began batting practice hitting everything to the left side of the field. A ground ball here. A fly ball there. But once he got his timing down, he started launching home runs over the ivy.

“Once we got on the field and we’re out there, it’s amazing how fast you can tune everything out,” Rizzo said, “and just be Anthony Rizzo the baseball player, when I’m between the lines.”

Remember when 'Hamilton' cast sang 'Go Cubs Go' after World Series win

Remember when 'Hamilton' cast sang 'Go Cubs Go' after World Series win

Broadway hit musical "Hamilton" became available to stream on Disney Plus on Friday, which serves as a fun reminder.

Remember when the Hamilton cast sang "Go Cubs Go" after the North Siders won the 2016 World Series? Like the Cubs finally snapping their 108-year championship drought, it actually happened.

The Cubs won the Fall Classic on Nov. 2, 2016, a dramatic 8-7 affair that went 10 innings and finished after midnight, Nov. 3, in Cleveland. The Hamilton Chicago cast performed the night of Nov. 3, and the Cubs' clincher presented a perfect way to round out the musical's curtain call.

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Hamilton star Miguel Cervantes put on a special rendition of the song, fitting for the moment:

"Baseball season's done today/We better get ready for a brand new day/Hey Chicago, what do you say?/We won the World Series yesterday." 

The cast didn't know some of the later lyrics but we'll give them a pass. Check out the awesome performance here:

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