Bulls

Sharp, Bowman weigh in on Lidstrom's outstanding career

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Sharp, Bowman weigh in on Lidstrom's outstanding career

NEWARK, N.J. As a kid growing up in Michigan, Los Angeles Kings defenseman Matt Greene didnt have to look far for his hockey role model: Detroit Red Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom. Even if emulating him was a tough, if not impossible, task.

I realized early on I cant play anything like him, the Grand Ledge, Mich., native said. But as a young kid, thats who you wanted to model your game after. You talk about pure class. Hes definitely a role model in how the game should be played and respected.

When the four-time Stanley Cup and seven-time Norris Trophy winner announced his retirement on Thursday, the Detroit Red Wings lost a tremendous player. And the NHL lost a tremendous ambassador and gentleman of the game. Lidstrom epitomized class and talent throughout his 20-year career. And everyone from Central Division opponents to the defensemen who wanted to grow up and play just like him, chimed in on his legacy.

Hes probably one of the greatest defensemen to play the game, if not the greatest. That alone says something, Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said. Hes a special player. I think the game of hockey is lucky to have had him as many years as it has. Hes ending the greatest career of a defenseman Ive ever seen live.

Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp joked, hopefully the Wings leave that spot open and they get a little worse. Hes arguably the best defenseman who ever played the game. I have good memories playing against him. I talked to him personally a few times; hes a nice person and well respected. I dont think youll see anyone say a bad thing about him.

Indeed, youd be hard pressed to find that. Coaches included, too.

It didnt matter how you forechecked or how you set up. Hes one of the few guys who could control a game from the defensive standpoint, Los Angeles coach Darryl Sutter said. You think about how many guys there are in recent history are who are like that. Not many. We were kids, thought Bobby Orr could do that. Pretty awesome player.

Drew Doughty echoed that sentiment.

Im having to take hard strides. If you watch him, I dont think he ever took a hard stride. It always looked like he was gliding, the Kings defenseman said. Yet at the same time he was always in the exact position he needed to be. To this day I dont know how he did it. I want to try to model myself after him one day.

The 42-year-old Swede had a career some could only dream off, one filled with tremendous stats and impressive hardware. He also had an enviable curtain call: he went out on his terms, still a strong talent.

Its not that the tank is completely empty. I just dont have enough to carry me through every day at a high level that I want to play at, Lidstrom told reporters at his emotionally charged press conference. My family and I are completely comfortable with this decision. Retiring today allows me to walk away from the game with pride, rather than having the game walk away from me.

Lidstrom played the game they way it was supposed to be played, going through all the changes to it. Off the ice he carried himself the way a professional should: no histrionics, no hijinks, no headaches.

The Red Wings bid goodbye to a tremendous defenseman. The league bid goodbye to a class act.

Its sad to see him retire but its amazing to look back and see his stats, Greene said. You cant fault him for (choosing retirement). Playing as long as he has, everything hes accomplished, its unbelievable.

Three observations: Bulls come up short against Bucks — again

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USA Today

Three observations: Bulls come up short against Bucks — again

For the second time in less than a week, the Bulls played the Bucks close, but came up just short — this time falling 115-101 at the United Center. Three observations from a soul-crushing loss:

Daniel Gafford: Free man

If I dumped all the expletives I have written in my notebook about Daniel Gafford from this game, you’d never read another article under this byline.

So, while I catch my breath, here are the hits:

 

 

 

Gafford ended the game a -4 in 20 minutes, but it’s hard to overstate the impact he had on a particularly electric Bulls bench in this one. He was every bit the gumptious, brick-bodied big that Jim Boylen billed him as, and so much more. Every second without the ball in his hands on offense, his feet were moving — setting screens and leveraging rebounding position. In the air, every shot, pass or lob within five feet of him seemed to find his hands, and then — rather violently — the bottom of the net.

At one point, en route to his team-leading 16 first-half points, a fan behind me exclaimed: “Him and Giannis are going at it!” In reference to… Daniel Gafford. What a night.

Gafford ended his stellar NBA debut with 21 points, 5 rebounds, 2 blocks and approximately 2.716 million hearts stolen, on 10-of-12 shooting.

The three-guard lineup provides a spark

At the very beginning of the season, Boylen’s utilizing of a three-guard lineup (Kris Dunn-Coby White-Ryan Arcidiacono) was widely panned. Tonight, that group — with contributions from Thaddeus Young and a combination of Wendell Carter and Daniel Gafford at the center spot — proved their mettle. 

In the first half, that lineup catalyzed a 20-8 run that pulled the Bulls from down nine with 2:17 remaining in the first quarter to up two with 8:05 to go in the second. In the fourth quarter, a torrid stretch by Arcidiacono and White vaulted the Bulls from down 98-90 to up 99-98 in a matter of 66 seconds, sending the UC in a frenzy not seen in quite a while.

The Bucks pulled away from that point on, but this lineup showed something tonight — so much so that Boylen closed with White and Arcidiacono both on the floor along with Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter. (Stunningly absent was Tomas Satoransky, who logged only 18 minutes tonight after coming out of the gate aggressive, offensively.)

Arcidiacono was on every loose ball in sight. White was a blur in transition and coming off screens and dribble handoffs. Combined, they shot 7-of-11 from long distance. Maybe Boylen is on to something.

Bulls melt down the stretch

The Bucks finished the game on a 17-2 run after that aforementioned White-Arcidiacono blitz. For most of the game, the Bulls were able to hang around despite being out-shot from three and on the wrong end of a 35-14 free throw disparity, but their energy waned late in the game. Despite miraculously out-rebounding the Bucks 50-48, out-scoring them in the paint 50-46 and competing defensively throughout, the Bulls couldn’t buy a bucket down the stretch (they failed to score a field goal in the final six minutes), and it ultimately cost them.

The blame is shared in this one. Lauri Markkanen and Zach LaVine combined to shoot 6-of-28 from the floor (only 0-of-4 in the fourth) and were largely outplayed by the bench unit. 

In a performance reminiscent of last Thursday’s in Milwaukee, the Bulls appeared to everything necessary to win on Monday. But they didn’t. Now, with a record of 4-10, the heat is on.

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Tarik Cohen was Bears' best offensive player vs. Rams

Tarik Cohen was Bears' best offensive player vs. Rams

The Chicago Bears offense was uninspiring once again Sunday night in the team's 17-7 loss to the Los Angeles Rams. While they could've had another six points had kicker Eddy Pineiro connected on two early-game field goals, it still wouldn't have been enough to win the most important game of the season.

After 11 weeks (10 games), the Bears rank 28th in points per game with 16.9. To put their brutal season in perspective, the New York Jets, who've been atrocious this year, are averaging 16.4 points per game.

Essentially, Matt Nagy has coached Chicago's offense as effectively as Adam Gase has coached the Jets'. 

Still, it's worth acknowledging strong individual performances in the midst of an overall letdown, and in Week 11's loss to the Rams, it was running back Tarik Cohen who stood tallest among his Bears' offensive teammates.

Cohen posted Chicago's highest Pro Football Focus grade on offense with a 74.3. He logged 45 snaps, 10 more than David Montgomery, and was effective when he touched the ball. He totaled 74 yards and a touchdown on 14 touches en route to being the Bears' most effective running back against a tough Rams defensive front. Montgomery managed just 31 yards on 14 carries.

Cohen hasn't had the kind of season that was expected from his role as a do-it-all offensive weapon; he's way behind his normal pace of production as both a runner and receiver. Cohen had 99 carries for 444 yards and three touchdowns to go along with 71 catches for 725 yards and five scores in 2018. He's on pace for just 186 rushing yards and 402 receiving yards this season.

Still, Sunday night's effort was a step in the right direction for him and a sign that he may continue to get more touches as the season comes to a close.