Bears

Noah, Robinson help Bulls dominate Celtics

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Noah, Robinson help Bulls dominate Celtics

Following Monday nights loss in Memphis, the Bulls (14-10) lamented their rebounding, so Tuesday at the United Center rebounding is what they did, as in bouncing back with a 100-89 victory over the Celtics (12-12).
Besides winning the battle of the boards, the Bulls also employed a solid defensive effort, good ball security and outstanding individual performances, including Joakim Noahs triple-double, an efficient scoring night from Luol Deng and Nate Robinson stealing the show off the bench to close things out.
Sparked by the scoring of forwards Deng (21 points) and Carlos Boozer (21 points, 12 rebounds), as well as the uncanny playmaking of Noah (11 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists), the Bulls started the evening with more of an offensive tone than the previous night. However, they were countered by Bostons balanced scoring, led by future Hall of Famers Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, leading to a close-knit affair in the opening period.
Marco Belinelli was also a factor for the Bulls in the early going, as was Celtics floor general Rajon Rondo (26 points, eight assists), who was his usual playmaking self, setting up teammates for easy scoring opportunities. But Deng continued to excel for the hosts, leading to a 28-23 edge after a quarter of play.
Behind Dengs propensity for getting to the foul lineand accuracy, as he knocked down his first 10 attempts from the charity stripeand, in an effort to match up with Bostons small-ball lineup, a backcourt featuring Robinson (18 points, 5-of-7 three-point shooting) and Marquis Teague, the Bulls seized control of the contest.
Robinson and fellow reserve Jimmy Butler gave the hosts a boost of energy with their scoring and offensive rebounding, respectively, while Noahs all-around game hinted at a triple-double in the making and by getting out in transition and dominating the offensive glass, the Bulls took a double-digit lead. However, toward the end of the half, Boston battled back behind Rondo, but at the intermission, the Bulls maintained a 53-46 advantage.
After the break, Boozer became the focal point of the Bulls offense, shouldering the home teams scoring load, en route to them once again building the winning margin to double digits. Despite the stellar play of Rondo, who looked more for his shot as his teammates struggled to score, the Celtics couldnt dig themselves out of the hole.
Besides their offensive cohesiveness and improved rebounding after losing the battle of the boards in their three previous outingsthe defense wasnt outstanding, as Boston shot a decent percentageperhaps the biggest key to the Bulls success was their ability to take care of the ball and limit turnovers. Deng picked up the slack on the back end of the frame, then, just like the end of the previous quarter, the Celtics, propelled by Rondo, made another push, but heading into the final stanza, the Bulls led, 79-70.
Robinsons instant-offense scoring from deep gave the Bulls a big lift at the outset of the fourth quarter, giving the Bulls plenty of breathing room and further widening the gap between the two teams. Taj Gibson (13 points, five rebounds, four assists), playing on a gimpy ankle, also made his presence, and was on the receiving end of Noahs 10th assist of the night, giving the center a triple-double, the second of his career.
With Robinson leading the charge, the difference in the game grew to blowout proportions midway through the period and while the partisan crowd was still very much involved, it was all academic by that point in the lopsided affair. Even Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau had to tacitly admit that it was over and his team did a job well done, as he subbed out the likes of Deng and Noah, two of the NBAs leaders in minutes per game.

What’s at stake for the Bears in Sunday Night’s pivotal NFC North battle

What’s at stake for the Bears in Sunday Night’s pivotal NFC North battle

The Bears aren’t viewing Sunday night’s game against the Minnesota Vikings as an opportunity to make a statement. But this also isn’t just another game — it’s the Bears’ best opportunity to take control of a division in which they’ve been mired at the bottom for the last five years. 

“You could say whatever you want in these situations,” outside linebacker Khalil Mack said. “Ultimately, it’s all about getting a win — playing as a team and getting a win. You can’t really get too caught up in the hype. You gotta let that stuff roll off your shoulders and go out and ball, and that’s the mindset of this team, we’re going to go out and ball.”

The Bears enter Sunday with an 86.7 percent chance of reaching the playoffs, according to Football Outsiders. Their chance of winning the division is 68.9 percent, and the most likely playoff seed they’re in line for is No. 3 (35 percent). The Vikings, meanwhile, have a 43.8 percent chance of making the playoffs, and only a 17.4 percent chance of winning the division.

If the Bears win, here’s how the top three in the NFC North would look:

Bears: 7-3
Vikings: 5-4-1
Packers: 4-5-1

The Bears would be 1 1/2 games ahead of Minnesota and 2 1/2 games ahead of Green Bay. But how could that play out with these teams’ remaining schedules?

Bears: 

@ Detroit (Thanksgiving)
@ New York Giants
vs. Los Angeles Rams
vs. Green Bay
@ San Francisco 
@ Minnesota

Nothing is guaranteed in the NFL, and the Lions, Giants and 49ers won’t lose the rest of their games this year (especially at home). But at worst, the Bears can reasonably expect to win two of those three games against divisional bottom-feeders, and then one of three games against the Packers, Rams and Vikings. That almost seems like the worst-case scenario, and in it, the Bears get to 10-6. It’s easy to see how, with a win over Minnesota on Sunday night, 11-5 or even 12-4 could be in play. 

The Vikings, meanwhile, have a difficult road ahead:

vs. Green Bay
@ New England
@ Seattle (Monday night)
vs. Miami
@ Detroit
vs. Chicago

The Packers’ path is considerably easier:

@ Minnesota
vs. Arizona
vs. Atlanta
@ Chicago
@ New York Jets
vs. Detroit

But Green Bay probably can only afford one more loss. There’s a very real scenario in which the Bears knock the Packers out of playoff contention with a win at Soldier Field Dec. 16. 

As for the Vikings — a loss to the Bears Sunday night drops them to 5-4-1, though they could hang in the division race by taking two of three from that Green Bay-New England-Seattle stretch, then sweeping their final three games. 

The flip side to all this is what happens if the Bears lose: The Vikings would slide past the Bears into first place with a 6-3-1 record. It wouldn’t knock the Bears out of the NFC North race, not with the way each team’s schedule lines up. 

But psychologically, the effects of losing to the Vikings for the Bears could be longer-lasting than merely losing first place by half a game. Just as psychologically, the effects of beating the Vikings could have a longer-lasting impact than padding their lead in the division to 1 1/2 games. 

“We know it's a big game coming up,” left tackle Charles Leno Jr. said. “But all we've got to do is take care of our job. Do our job, block all the noise out and take care of business.”

Preseason Preps Basketball Power Rankings: No. 1 Whitney Young

Preseason Preps Basketball Power Rankings: No. 1 Whitney Young

Whitney Young

2017-18 record: 28-8, 7-2 Public League Red-North/West

Postseason results: Lost to Belleville West in Class 4A state title game.

Players to watch: The junior backcourt of Fenwick transfer D.J. Steward and Tyler Beard is potentially the best in the state as both players are consensus top-75 national prospects. Senior Myles Baker is poised for a big season after some strong play last season. Other seniors like Justin Warren and Keenan Jones are great role players who have helped win plenty of games.

Why they're in the power rankings: After falling just short of back-to-back Class 4A championships last season, Whitney Young reloads to replace departed seniors like Javon Freeman and Xavier Castaneda. It's rare a high school team loses two Division I prospects and replenishes with a backcourt that could be better, but that's the case here with Whitney Young. The Dolphins have the upside to be the state's best team this season.

Did you know? Whitney Young has been a state final qualifier seven times -- including five times under current head coach Tyrone Slaughter.