Cubs

Teague comes of age in Bulls' victory

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Teague comes of age in Bulls' victory

PHILADELPHIA I just play basketball. Ive been playing against people my whole life, the 19-year-old said. Im just playing basketball. Its not a big deal to me. Its just like playing in the park.

It helps when those people include the likes of his brother Jeff, the Atlanta Hawks starting point guard, as well as injured Hornets shooting guard Eric Gordon and Indiana starter George Hill.

Bulls rookie Marquis Teague, although he hasnt had extended playing time this season, looked like a veteran in Wednesday nights 96-89 road win over the 76ers.

His statisticssix points, four assists, two steals in 20 minutes of actionwere modest, but the poise he played with spoke volumes, on a night when regular starter Kirk Hinrich was sidelined due to injury.

He did an admirable job on Sixers point guard Jrue Holiday, an All-Star candidate, on the defensive end, distributed the ball to his teammates, got in the lane at will, pushed the tempo, only committed one turnover and most importantly, knocked down two clutch free throws down the stretch to help the Bulls seal the deal.

Well, I see how hes working every day in practice, but hes also shown, in the minutes that hes gotten, that hes played well. In the Boston game, I thought he played very well. In this game, I thought Kirks been hurt before. When hes out, Nate steps up. He does his job and Marquis comes in, and does his. And Marquis is just going to continue to get better and better. Hes a bright kid, working hard and hes improving, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said afterwards, before explaining the rationale for leaving Teague in the game in crunch time.

Just the way the game was going. I thought the unit was playing well together on the floor. I thought his quickness, when youre dealing with the speed and quickness of Holiday, I thought he could match up with that speed and youve got to try to make a guy like that work for his points. Hes a load, hes an elite point guard and I thought Marquis did all he could to get over screens, try to get back in front of the wall, hustled and I thought that was important.

Luol Deng added: Man, its huge. Kirk went down, were trying to find answers, he comes in. Im not surprised. The kid, hes been coming in early. He hasnt played yet, hes staying late, hes staying with the coaches. Im proud of him. Tonight, we really believe him, Jimmy and Taj won us this game.

The soft-spoken Teague said that he kept his approach simple against the Sixers and that he enjoyed the rowdy atmosphere. His demeanor, which seemingly never changes was evident in the Bulls' narrow home loss to Boston last month, when he matched up with Celtics All-Star Rajon Rondo, but the road is a different environment.

Just wanted to be ready. Just doing whatever my team needed to help us win. Went out and defend the ball, give good pressure. Just make it tough on them and run the offense, Teague, a prolific scorer in high school and national champion at Kentucky during his lone college season, said.

It was great. It was fun. Just got a chance to go out there on the road with my team and get a win. Thats always great when you come out on top, so it just felt good.

I just like the fact that I was playing good defense. Thats what I like to do, come out and just defend, show energy on the defensive end, just pick up energy. I got pressured a little too much at the end. I let him get in me. I should have made an easier play or something, just letting Jrue Holiday get in me, continued the Indianapolis native.

I just take whatever the defense gives me. If Ive got to score, Im going to score. If Ive got a pass, Im going to make the pass to one of my teammates. I played with different teams since Ive been in high school. In high school, I played with teams that werent as good, so I had to score a lot of points. Now, Im playing with guys who are on a higher level, so its easier to make a good pass to them because you know theyre going to score the ball.

Predictably, Thibodeau wouldnt commit to giving the youngster more minutes.

Well see, Thibodeau said. Obviously when Kirk comes back, everyone comes back, but everyone has to stay ready. You never know what happens.

If Hinrich is hurt again, Robinson gets injured or Thibodeau simply decides to put him in the game, Teague will be unfazed.

Whenever he calls my name, Ill be ready, he said. Ill be ready to play.

Kris Bryant's injury looms large as Cubs finish home stand in underwhelming fashion

Kris Bryant's injury looms large as Cubs finish home stand in underwhelming fashion

There are 162 baseball games in a season and some days, you’re just not going to have it. On Sunday afternoon, in a 10-2 loss to the Reds, the Cubs just didn’t have it. 

“It’s already in the trash can...” Maddon said. “... so let’s flush it out and move on.” 

Things were bleak from the very first at-bat of the game, when Kyle Schwarber took a 3-2 fastball looking for one of his three strikeouts on the day. Anthony Rizzo was the only starter not to strike out at least once, as the Cubs’ finished with 11. Reds starter Tanner Roark was responsible for 9 of them, his season-high. 

Things weren’t much better on the basepaths or in the field. Besides making two errors, Anthony Rizzo was thrown out at the plate in the 2nd inning and David Bote got doubled-up at first after drawing a walk in the 6th. The Cubs were playing playing their 13th game in 13 days, and it showed.

“I feel really good about how we’ve been playing until today,” Maddon said. “This whole month we’ve been in almost every game except for this one, and maybe the [7-0 loss on May 10th] against Milwaukee. There’s not a whole lot to be upset about, and I’m not. I just want to make sure everyone’s well moving forward.” 

There was a scary moment in the 6th inning, as Kris Bryant and Jason Heyward collided in the right field gap while trying to make a play on a fly ball from Eugenio Suarez. Bryant was slow to get up and eventually had to leave the game. He’s still being evaluated for a head/neck injury, and the Cubs don’t yet know if he’ll go into concussion protocol. For what it's worth, Bryant was cleared to fly with the team. 

“He’s doing okay,” he said. “He’s still under evaluation. We don’t know exactly what we’re doing with this whole thing yet, but we’re trying to talk with the doctors and find out exactly where we’re at.”

“We collided, and I called for the ball,” Heyward added. “We were both going hard to make a play and ran into each other.”

The loss dropped starter Jose Quintana to 4-4 on the season. Quintana went 5.1 innings while allowing six runs on 12 hits with one walk and two strikeouts. Despite relatively weak contact, the Reds hit well all weekend. Their 42 hits over three games was the most for them in a three-game series at Wrigley since 1976, and they finished the weekend with a .404 BABIP. 

“Yeah, I just had to keep pitching, you know?” Quintana said. “Keeping my focus. It was really tough - too many base hits. In some contests that happens. I just try to stay close in the game.” 

The Cubs finished their 7-game homestand at 3-4, and now hit the road for a two-city trip. Up first comes the 35-19 Astros, who are 20-7 at home. This season Houston ranks first in on-base percentage, second in slugging percentage, and third in home runs. Their closer, Ryan Pressley, has the lowest ERA of all qualified relievers and is fresh off a streak of 40 straight scoreless appearances.

“I’m excited,” Joe Maddon said before Sunday’s game. “Let’s get by today, but I’m excited for the whole week. Look at our schedule - it’s been pretty firm, and it continues to be pretty firm. And that’s the way it should be. I’m looking forward to it.” 

Kris Bryant leaves Sunday's game after outfield collision with Jason Heyward

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Scott Chagnon/NBC Sports Chicago

Kris Bryant leaves Sunday's game after outfield collision with Jason Heyward

Add injury to insult for the Cubs. 

In the top of the 6th inning, with the Cubs already down 6 runs, right fielder Kris Bryant left the game after colliding with Jason Heyward in the outfield.

You can check out the video right here. 

It's possible that the move was simply precautionary. The Cubs are on their 13th game in 13 days, and being down six runs in the latter half of a getaway game isn't the time to roll the dice. That said, Bryant missing time would be a significant blow, as the Cubs' star is in the midst of a stellar season. Through 49 games, Bryant's slashing .288/.411/.576 with a .987 and a 160 wRC+. As of Sunday afternoon, only Javy Baez has a higher WAR (2.5) than Bryant (2.4). 

There's been no further announcement on the extent of Bryant's injury.