Bulls

Smith's shut out has 'Yotes one win from conference finals

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Smith's shut out has 'Yotes one win from conference finals

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The Phoenix Coyotes are on the brink of their first Western Conference finals thanks to their stingy goalie and the captain who traveled with the franchise from Winnipeg to the desert.Captain Shane Doan scored in the first period, Mike Smith made 25 saves and the Coyotes beat the Nashville Predators 1-0 on Friday night to grab a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference semifinal series. It was the first win in the month of May in the franchise's NHL history, and Phoenix can advance with a victory in Game 5 on Monday night in Arizona."To win like this is exciting because our goaltender's so good, and we know that we go as far as he takes us," Doan said. "He's been unbelievable in this and really solidifies how important he is and how good he is."Now the Coyotes, owned by the NHL, are 3-1 for the second straight series heading back home with the chance to advance. Chicago won Game 5 to put off elimination for a game, but Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said his message will not change."It's going to be the same kind of game," Tippett said. "Very little space, very little advantages and you're going to have to compete hard and hopefully we can find a way to win a game."The Predators played without forwards Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn for the second straight game, this time the decision by coach Barry Trotz to stick with the lineup that won 2-0 on Wednesday night. Trotz said he refuses to second-guess his decision, though lineup changes are likely."Plain and simple, we've got to win a hockey game," Trotz said. "That focus can't go any farther than that. Winning a hockey game, and it's going to have to be in Phoenix. I know when you're down in a series 3-0, the numbers don't look good. At 3-1, a number of teams have come back."The Predators thought they tied it with 7:12 remaining. But officials waved off the power-play goal with the official explanation that a whistle blew before the puck crossed the line. Trotz said he didn't get an explanation with officials telling captain Shea Weber a different reason."They said that (Patric) Hornqvist pushed the goaltender into the net. If you look at it, I don't buy that," Trotz said.The Predators wound up outshooting Phoenix 25-24, but they had chances with the net open they simply missed with Radulov and Kostitsyn on the sideline.Smith, the low-budget replacement for Ilya Bryzgalov after the Russian left the desert for a big contract with Philadelphia, credited his teammates with pressuring the Predators into making some bad shots."We were so aggressive," Smith said. "We didn't give them much, kept them to the outside and when they did get opportunities we had stick on puck. We had guys lying down blocking shots. My D was tremendous tonight. They have been good all playoffs long, but this is one of the better games they've played in front of me."

Radulov leads Nashville with a team-high six points in the postseason, and Kostitsyn is tied for the team lead with three goals. Fans cheered the announcement that the two were scratched after they were suspended for Game 3 for an apparent curfew violation last weekend in Arizona.Nashville had plenty of chances, outshooting Phoenix 10-5 in the third. The Predators even got a power play at 11:34 when Coyotes defenseman Derek Morris cleared the puck over the glass and went to the box. The Predators had a scrum in front of the net after Mike Fisher threw the puck at the net, but the official behind the net immediately waved no goal.Phoenix improved to 4-1 on the road in the postseason, spoiling what had been a big party in Nashville with three blocks of Broadway shut down right in front of the arena. The Predators put two big TVs outside for fans to cheer but didn't give them much to yell about.The Coyotes outskated and outshot Nashville from the start, coming with much more energy. They even got a power play 90 seconds in only to see the Predators kill that. Then Ryan Suter had a turnover near the net, and Coyotes left wing Mikkel Boedker had a chance on Pekka Rinne right in front before the 6-foot-5 Finn blocked it with his right pad.Fans did their best to try and spark the Predators with their usual standing ovation through a timeout in the first period to a catfish tossed onto the ice early in the third. Nothing helped the Predators' aim getting past Smith into the net."Their goalie was phenomenal tonight," Nashville defenseman Ryan Suter said. "It was definitely the toughest game to get anything going."Nashville went 0 for 3 with the man advantage. The first came when Rostislav Klesla was penalized for boarding Predators forward Matt Halischuk right in front of the Coyotes' bench. Replay showed Klesla appeared to grab Halischuk's jersey before pushing him into the boards, and Halischuk went to the locker room briefly. But the Coyotes, perfect in killing penalties on the road this postseason, did it again.Doan scored on a backhander as he skated across the slot with the puck going off the stick of Predators defenseman Roman Josi and over Rinne's right pad at 14:25 of the first.The Predators came out with more energy in the second but struggled to get a shot on net. Hornqvist had Nashville's best chance around the 6-minute mark when Smith came just out of the crease to handle the puck, and Hornqvist missed the net. The Predators struggled so much they couldn't even go on a 2-on-1 chance before being called for offsides later in the second.With Smith in net, Doan's goal proved to be enough with the way the Coyotes played in front of him. They blocked 10 of Nashville's first 15 shots, and Smith either covered up or gloved the others.
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The next preps-to-pros leaper, Anfernee Simons confident 'I'll be able to make this jump'

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USA TODAY

The next preps-to-pros leaper, Anfernee Simons confident 'I'll be able to make this jump'

Anfernee Simons looks more like a ball boy than a 2018 NBA Draft prospect right now. He’s not considered small, what with having a 6-foot-3 frame with a massive 6-foot-9 wingspan, and he weighed in at last week’s NBA Draft Combine at 183 pounds, “heavier” than Lottery-bound guards like Trae Young, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Collin Sexton.

But there’s plenty of potential to unpack from the soon-to-be 19-year-old, baby-faced combo guard. Don’t let the appearance fool you. Simons is one of the most talented players in the class, and a team patient enough to let him develop at his own pace could reap major benefits in due time.

You won’t find much video on Simons, as the IMG Academy star is preparing to be the first prospect to go preps-to-pros without a year in college since Thon Maker did so in 2016.

Simons, a consensus five-star recruit in the 2018 class, originally committed to Louisville in November 2016 and then decommitted the following September shortly after Rick Pitino was fired. Since he had graduated from Edgewater High School in Florida and was playing a post-grad year at IMG Academy, he became eligible for the 2018 NBA Draft because he is a year removed from high school. That’s where he played this past season, declaring for the draft and signing with an agent in late March.

“The opportunity is there. Me and my parents talked about it a lot and I feel like I’m confident in myself that I’ll be able to make this jump,” he said at last week’s Combine. “So I just felt like, do it now and not waste any time.”

Simons has been on the radars of NBA teams, even if he’s not a household name like Ayton, Doncic and Bagley. He’s currently projected outside of the Lottery, in part because teams haven’t seen him compete against collegiate level talent and because his wiry frame almost surely means time in the G-League as a rookie. But again, the skill set is there.

Simons is a point guard with solid range beyond the arc. He may struggle off the ball because of his size, though that long wingspan and a quick release from his chest should allow him to get off shots. He’s a blur in transition and finishes well at the rim – his 41.5-inch vertical was tied for third best at the Combine, and his three-quarters court sprint was eighth fastest.

He’s a mixed bag defensively. Wingspan is the fun buzz word these days, and that will help him at the next level, but his small frame means there’s work to be done. A strength and conditioning coach will salivate at bringing Simons into the weight room and getting his body NBA-ready.

“Just staying durable through 82 games,” Simons answered when asked about his biggest challenge physically at the next level. “Taking care of your body is real pivotal so I feel like learning how to take care of my body now is a good thing.”

Simons maturely answered that the “unknown” of his game will be both a positive and minus during the pre-draft process. While fellow prospects he may face in team workouts don’t know as much about him and, thus, his game, teams also need to find out more about Simons’ game and off-court habits.

“Coming in young, people don’t know who I am and haven’t seen me play much. That’s the good side about coming in early,” he said. “It could be the same thing (negatively). People haven’t seen me like that, so I feel like they don’t know who I am. They probably think I’m too young to play in the league.”

Simons met with the Bulls and has scheduled a pre-draft workout with them. Though the Bulls feel like their rebuild could go quicker than anticipated – especially if they hit on their No. 7 pick – there could be plenty to gain from drafting for upside on a player like Simons.

Jerian Grant and Cameron Payne will both be free agents in 2019, and Denzel Valentine’s long-term future isn’t set in stone in Chicago. That leaves plenty of openings in the backcourt behind Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine. Simons won’t be ready to contribute much in 2018-19, but the Bulls wouldn’t need him to. A handful of outlets projected Simons as a top-5 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. The Bulls could snag him a year earlier, let him develop in Hoffman Estates and bring him up in a year when they’re a step closer to contending.

Daily White Sox prospects update: Gavin Sheets hits his first homer of 2018

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Daily White Sox prospects update: Gavin Sheets hits his first homer of 2018

Here's your daily update on what the White Sox highly touted prospects are doing in the minor leagues.

Class A Winston-Salem

Gavin Sheets hit his first home run of the season in a 12-4 loss. While it's taken him this long to hit his first ball out of the park, Sheets has a .380 on-base percentage and his 24 walks make for one of the top 10 totals in the Carolina League. Blake Rutherford doubled in this one, while Sheets, Rutherford, Alex Call and Luis Alexander Basabe combined to draw five walks.

Class A Kannapolis

Luis Gonzalez and Evan Skoug each had a hit in a 9-3 win.

Triple-A Charlotte

Charlie Tilson had two hits in a 9-3 loss.