Bulls

Frankie O: Worlds apart

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Frankie O: Worlds apart

By Frankie O
CSNChicago.com

At least in my sports life, worlds apart is how I would like it to be, unfortunately, its not going to happen. The problem with a sports affliction is that it wont go away, even if you move to a new city with plenty of issues in its own right. You dance with who brung ya. What happens eventually is that those worlds will collide, with the collateral damage ending up everywhere around you. As anyone who has read me before knows, moving to Chicago was never a part of the master plan. (Neither were my weight or age, but well have time for that later!) Life happens and then nothing else is the same. For me, Im never going to quit my teams, who would? As you would expect, my rooting interests has caused situations I could never have foreseen. Again, what else is new?

The Sixers-Bulls rivalry has been pretty much non-existent for my entire lifetime. My guess is that it will stay that way even whenever-next September-they start playing games again. Thats cool with me since out of the Chicago teams, the Bulls are the team I can openly root for, without feeling too much heat from my Philly brethren. It was awesome being here for the second Three-Peat. And Ill take D-Rose over Allen Emphasis on the I-version any day of the week.

The Phils and White Sox have played one inter-league series and I honestly cant remember who won. The part I do remember was that the game I went to was rained out, so I had to spend the rest of my evening at Jimbos Lounge on 32nd and Princeton. Oops! What happens at Jimbos stays at Jimbos! In the September make-up game I saw Joe Borchard hit the longest hit ball Ive ever seen live- it short-hopped the wall beyond the right field concourse- and that includes the Albert Pujols Show during the 2003 Home Run Derby at the Cell. As far as Cubs-Phillies, theyve gone back and forth over the years, with the Phills having a decided advantage lately, which definitely makes my work life a lot easier. But I dodged a huge bullet when the Cubs gagged against the Dodgers in 2008 preventing a NLCS clash for the ages. Everyone at the bar wished me well as the Phillies went on to the title, but I knew it had to hurt. Thats a feeling Im very familiar with.

Of course, for me, it never has been worse than the Flyers-Blackhawks Stanley Cup final to decide the champion of the 2009-10 season. The ups-and-downs were dizzying. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Im no Dickens, but it was Tale of Two Cities that even he could not have imagined. Thats as conflicted, well thats wrong, the conflict wasnt inside me, thats as awkward and tortuous a time as Ive ever had. There was the outcome, obviously, but also the fact that it happened over a span of two weeks. A lot of my friends here actually asked me who I was rooting for. Honestly? At least when Kaner asked me, he did it with a knowing smirk! It was as if I was supposed to turn off my lifetime of suffering with the Orange and Black. Most of the folks here though, didnt have a problem with me being a Flyers fan, especially after the Hawks won. Theres nothing like having a reminder of your teams success serving you a cold one.

And of course that brings us to the next big event on the Frankie O Armageddon Tour: Its Bears vs. Eagles on Monday Night Football. Actually, since Ive lived here the teams have played 10 times, with my Birds winning six, including a glorious stretch of five in a row. Recently though, the Bears have won 3 out of the last 4. Most importantly, in the only playoff encounter, Chicago native Donavan McNabb and the rest of the Eagles closed out the original Soldier Field with a 33-19 victory. Now that was a fun week. The similarity of the two major cities that I have called home is that they are sports-mad. The madness is most acute concerning their pro football teams. The weekly hype preceding a game only makes those fan bases more rabid. For Chicago its about being an original franchise and also being the home of the most dominant single team ever. (I wonder what year that was? LOL!) For Philly fans its about a bitter lifetime of defeat and disappointment. Oh, sure weve won it all: 50 years ago! See what I mean?

This Monday, for the third time ever on Monday Night Football, they will battle once again. Coincidentally, I was at the last Monday night game they played on September 12, 1994. I was already living with my future boss, who we all know is from the Southside, and had visited Chicago for the first time with her during the previous July, so I jumped at the opportunity to go to the game. This was during the infamous Rich Kottite era of Eagles football. The Eagles got out to a 30-0 lead. Game over, right? Not so fast. Eric Kramer threw 3 fourth quarter touchdowns, and had the Bears knocking on the door for another at the end of the game, but then the defense woke up and sealed the deal for a 30-22 victory. That Eagles team had a season much like that game. They started out 7-2, but then tried to hold on but could not, and lost their final seven and Kottites job. I couldnt get to Chicago fast enough! And I did, that next January.

So its only fitting that in their next Monday Night tilt that I will be there. I know there is the talk about Monday night games not being the same and I sort of agree. But what isnt the same is the broadcast. Back in the day it was about Frank Gifford(Before he was Mr. Kathy Lee), Dandy Don and Howard Cosell. In fact it was in Philly on a Monday night that Howard famously lost the alcohol laced contents in his stomach on the Dandaroos cowboy boots and was promptly removed from the broadcast. (What can I say? Watching Eagles games affects us all in different ways!) For a young NFL fan, the game, and its announcers were larger than life. Even though thats not the case now, I still love a great Monday matchup, and for me this is one. In a season full of must-wins, this is another, for both teams. Everyone wants to give me grief about the Dream Team moniker that came out of Vince Youngs mouth. A back-up QB that was run out of town from his last job! No real fan would ever say that, we know all too well how that kind of talk turns out. But like Mike Vicks past, we will always carry that with us until they finally do something. So far what they are best at is giving away the football and fourth quarter leads. But then something funny happened last Sunday night. The Eagles stopped turning the ball over, got out to an early lead, allowing them to play on both sides of the ball as they were designed for, and they destroyed what everyone thinks is a talented (I say perennially under-achieving) Dallas Cowboys team. Who are the Eagles? I have no idea. They have the ability to be whatever they want, Im just along for the ride.

As for the Bears, Ive felt that they have tried to fight who they are for a long time. This team has a defense that should allow the team to be in every, or most, games. Its a defense built on patience and forcing turnovers. When they get turnovers, like everyone else, theyre tough to beat. But a lack of a pass rush in this league will get you lit up and against the high-powered New Orleans and Green Bay offenses, this was the case. In fact, in two games, wins, they had 10 sacks, and in the other five games they had 5 sacks, in which they were lucky to go 2-3. So which defense are they? That too, remains to be seen. But I will always question their offensive play-calling and philosophy. I know that comes as a shock! With this offensive line, and the caliber of running back Matt Forte they need to be a run-first offense. (Get off the bus RUNNING!) But sometimes their play-calling is mystifying. Well, maybe not. Mike Martz wants to drop back seven steps in the pocket and throw to a particular spot. The problem is a) These drops frequently get his QB killed and b)His QB is more accurate and has a higher QB rating when he moves OUTSIDE the pocket and c) You need to have receivers who know where that spot is that they need to be and have the ability to catch the ball, not drop it or let a defensive back take it away from them, when they get there. I honestly even less of an idea which Bears team will show up in a given week, although I think it was after taking their bye last year they were able to have a very accurate self-evaluation and played much more to their strengths on their run to the NFC championship game.

So what will happen Monday night? Well one thing, Frankie O is going to have a good time leading up to, during and hopefully, after the game. Among the things I know will happen: I will have at least 2 cheesesteaks during my visit. I will enjoy harassing my Chicago brethren and any other tourists I witness running up the art museum steps in front of the Rocky statue. And I will enjoy the constant complaining in the stands that accompanies any misstep the Eagles make during the game.(Did somebody say boo?) Some things never get old!

And for the game itself? I think the Bears play it close to the vest and feature a heavy dose of Matt Forte, exposing the weakness the Eagles have at the linebacker position. On defense Brian Urlacher will continue to haunt Mike Vick into the mistakes that will be the difference in the game. Final Bears 27-20.

Of course, I could be wrong, wouldnt be the first time. If you cant watch the game, to find out what happened, just come into the bar Tuesday night, the expression on my face and the banter over the bar will tell you all you need to know.

Bulls defense costs them late but showing 'competitive spirit' a step in right direction

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USA TODAY

Bulls defense costs them late but showing 'competitive spirit' a step in right direction

The Bulls defense is nowhere near where it needs to be, and it cost them dearly on Saturday night. But in a season that’s still about seeing progression both individually and collectively, the Bulls took a step in the right direction with their effort and what Fred Hoiberg called “competitive spirit.”

That won’t change the standings when they wake up Sunday morning, now facing an 0-2 hole in the early season. And while better effort and tougher defense helped them stage a second-half comeback they weren’t able to manage on Thursday, it was a defensive miscue that cost them the game.

Ish Smith split a double screen at the top of the key and sliced his way past Jabari Parker for a wide open go-ahead layup with 5.4 seconds left. Zach LaVine, who 20 seconds earlier had tied the game with the last of his 33 points, was unable to get a shot off after a timeout. Better than Thursday for 47 minutes and 50 seconds. But still costing them when it mattered most.

“We can’t give up a layup for the last play,” said LaVine, who was guarding Smith. “We just got to get our defense right. That’s why it’s really upsetting because we played so well, we came back but we can’t give up a layup. We at least have to make him take a tough one. That was as easy a layup as you can get. It’s really upsetting.”

Fred Hoiberg defended his decision to leave Parker in the game instead of inserting rookie Wendell Carter Jr. He opted to ride the group that helped the Bulls erase a fourth-quarter deficit when it appeared the Bulls were spiraling toward another double-digit loss.

But the Pistons were ready to find the weak link in the Bulls defense and expose it, like they did much of the fourth quarter while attacking Parker with Blake Griffin. As the screen was set Parker jumped outside to cut off Smith, who then made a cut inward and made a dash to the rim. Parker was a couple steps late, allowing the 5-foot-9 Smith to score with ease to give the Pistons their lead and the eventual game-winner.

Bobby Portis, whose shot wasn’t falling but played admirable defense against a talent like Griffin, was on the other side of the double screen and didn’t have a great view of the play. But he said allowing a layup with the game on the line is inexcusable.

“It’s a tough play but at the same time you don’t want to give up a layup at the end of the game,” he said. “You want to make him take a tough shot. That’s something we’ve got to work on, is late game execution on defense.”

But again, it’s about baby steps. The Bulls will want that final possession back, and Hoiberg might also want it back after leaving Parker in the game over Carter. But from where the Bulls were on Thursday, this was better. Granted, allowing 118 points and 18 3-pointers to the Pistons isn’t a recipe for success, it’s improvement nonetheless. Detroit got a career-high five triples from Griffin, four from Reggie Jackson (a career 32 percent 3-point shooter) and a pair from Stnaley Johnson (a career 29 percent 3-point shooter). The Bulls will be able to live with some of those makes.

On Thursday the Bulls trailed by just six early in the third quarter before the Sixers ripped off a 19-3 run to put the game out of reach. On Saturday the Pistons got out to a six-point lead on two different occasions, and then a seven-point lead with just 2:01 to play. All three times the Bulls came roaring back, using timely spots and clutch baskets from LaVine, Park and even Cameron Payne, who tied a career-high with 17 points.

Ultimately it wasn’t enough, but it’s a positive sign that they were able to battle back and show some fight defensively. They’ll certainly need that when they travel to Dallas to take on a Mavericks team that scored 140 points on the Jimmy Butler-less Timberwolves on Saturday. They should get Dunn back, which will help,  and now have a close contest under their belt on which to build. It didn’t result in a win, and the late-game cross-up was the cause, but the Bulls finished Saturday in a much better place than they were in on Thursday.

“Yeah but obviously we want to get the win. I feel like we fought hard,” Portis said. “Even when adversity hit everybody stuck together. We did our thing tonight. You want to win the game but I felt like we did our job tonight. We just gave up a bad play at the end of the game.”

Four takeaways: 'Vintage' Corey Crawford steals two points for Blackhawks

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AP

Four takeaways: 'Vintage' Corey Crawford steals two points for Blackhawks

COLUMBUS — Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena on Saturday:

1. Corey Crawford steals the show

The Blackhawks had no business winning this game. They were being outshot 28-15 through two periods, committed four penalties and gave up 18 high-danger chances in the game. 

But Crawford bailed out his team like he often has done in the past, and was zoned in from the moment the puck dropped. He finished with 37 saves on 38 shots for a save percentage of .974, picking up his first win since Dec. 17, 2017.

"Yeah, I felt good," Crawford said. "I think everyone was playing hard, rebounds, taking away sticks. That was a great effort by everyone."

"He was standing on his head for us," Patrick Kane said. "As Q would say, that’s a goalie win for us."

Said coach Joel Quenneville: "That was vintage Crow."

2. Tic-tac-toe leads to go-ahead goal

The Blue Jackets were clearly the better team through two periods. The Blackhawks were fortunate to go into second intermission with the game still tied at 1-1.

The next goal was crucial, and they got it thanks to a give-and-go play by Brent Seabrook and Kane, who buried home a wide open net to give the Blackhawks a 2-1 lead with 4:14 left in regulation.

Was Kane expecting Seabrook to pass it back?

"No. Not a chance," Kane said laughing. "That’s his wheelhouse, coming right down there. He scores a lot of goals from that area. Saw it was like a 2-on-2, he was coming late, he jumped in the play on the first goal, did a great job, jumped in the play on that goal. Made a great pass. When I saw it come back, I just tried to stay patient, settle it down and make sure I hit the net, because I knew I had the whole open net."

3. Busy night for PK

The Blackhawks penalty kill was very busy. It was also on it's A-game, partly because their best penalty killer was Crawford.

The Blackhawks spent 6:31 of the first 40 minutes killing penalties, allowing 11 shots total on it. But most importantly, they killed off all four penalties.

"We had some tough clears, but I thought we did some good things," Quenneville said. "We withstood some extended PK zone time there and found a way to keep us in the game. Obviously that next goal was huge and that second period was a big part of them having so much zone time, keeping us in our end. We'll say, hey good job, but Crow was the best penalty killer tonight."

4. Catching up with Kane on Artemi Panarin

Kane and Panarin spent only two seasons together, but they brought Blackhawks fans out of their seats on a nightly basis and it was amazing to watch the instant on-ice chemistry they shared. And most of it was non-verbal, which made it even more impressive. They were always on the same wavelength.

"Sometimes it takes time to build some chemistry but that was one of those things where it was like, I don't want to say instant chemistry, but after one or two preseason games we kind of new that maybe something special was going to happen," Kane told NBC Sports Chicago. "I think he scored in his first game in the NHL, we had a really good game, we had the puck a lot, we sensed that this could be a fun way to play hockey."

Off the ice, Kane said Panarin would use Google translate on his phone to communicate while Kane would try using a Russian accent while saying English words.

The two of them got a chance to hang out for a little bit on Friday and Kane still keeps tabs on his former linemate.

"I always really enjoy watching him," Kane said. "If we have an off night or something, he's a really fun player to watch."