- Created on 18 April 2013
With their star sidelined all season and just about everyone else in their rotation banged up at some point, the Chicago Bulls did not take the easy road to the playoffs.
They got there, though — even if the outside expectations are a little lower this time.
Carlos Boozer had 19 points and 15 rebounds and the Bulls locked up the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference with a 95-92 victory over the Washington Wizards in the regular-season finale Wednesday night.
Kirk Hinrich added 18 points and Nazr Mohammed added a season-high 17 for the Bulls, who will face the Brooklyn Nets in the first round.
Chicago finished with the best record in the East the past two years but has ceded that distinction to the defending champion Miami Heat.
Considering all they've overcome, they'll take it.
"We proved this year that we can beat the best and lose to the worst," Joakim Noah said. "Up-and-down year. It's been a tough year. I'm proud of the way we've handled so much adversity."
They've dealt with the soap opera surrounding Derrick Rose and his season-long recovery from surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, not to mention a long line of injuries to other key players.
Yet here they are, about as healthy as they've been all season and hoping to stick around and not make this a one-and-done playoff appearance.
They come in on a winning note, although this game sure wasn't easy.
They had to withstand A.J. Price going off for a career-high 24 points and John Wall finishing with 23 after a slow start, not to mention several big comebacks when the Wizards looked as though they were ready to be put away.
The Bulls led by 21 late in the first quarter but allowed Washington to pull within a point in the second. Chicago then got the lead back up to 11 in the third, but the Wizards rallied again.
This time, Washington tied it at 85 on a 3-pointer by Price with just over three minutes left before the Bulls responded with seven unanswered points. Richard Hamilton fed Jimmy Butler for an alley-oop dunk, Hinrich hit a floater and Luol Deng nailed a 3 — after missing five of his first six field goal attempts — to make it 92-85 with 1:42 remaining.
The Wizards cut it to 94-92 on a 3-pointer by Wall and a floater by Price with 26.1 seconds left. Hinrich then had a chance to make it a two-possession game but missed the first free throw before hitting the second to make it 95-92 with 17.1 seconds left.
Taj Gibson blocked a 3-point attempt from the wing by Price with 10 seconds left, and Wall put up an air ball from long range at the buzzer with Butler guarding him, preserving the win for Chicago.
"I was surprised (Gibson) got a piece of it," Price said. "I told him he's so long after he blocked the shot. I thought I had room. Had about four feet, but he still got a piece of it. Great defensive play by him."
The Bulls appear to be healing with the playoffs set to begin.
- Created on 17 April 2013
TORONTO — Josh Johnson's best start of the season wasn't enough to get a win for the Blue Jays.
Dayan Viciedo doubled home the go-ahead run in the ninth inning and the Chicago White Sox rallied to beat Toronto 4-3 on Tuesday.
Johnson was roughed up on a cold, wet day in Detroit last Thursday, allowing six runs and seven hits in 1 1-3 innings — the shortest start of his career.
White Sox slugger Adam Dunn figured that outing was an anomaly.
"I was telling the guys before the game 'Don't put too much stock in what you saw in the Detroit game,'" Dunn said. "You won't ever see that.
"Tonight was the guy that I remember," Dunn continued. "In my opinion, he's one of the best in the game."
Indeed, the climate-controlled environment of Rogers Centre seemed to suit Johnson much better.
He gave up two runs and four hits in a season-high seven innings. He walked two and struck out eight, also a season high.
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said Johnson was "terrific," and Chicago's Paul Konerko agreed.
"He was throwing 93 to 95 miles per hour with two different breaking balls that were really good," Konerko said. "Exceptional. His stuff was well above average tonight."
Johnson said he benefited from being aggressive with his pitches.
"I was just more aggressive overall," he said. "Fastball, curveball, slider, everything was going, not just to the catcher but through the catcher, through the zone. That was the main focus for this start and it worked out."
What didn't work out so well for Toronto was the ninth inning. Reliever Steve Delabar walked leadoff man Dunn, who was replaced by pinch runner Dewayne Wise. Konerko followed with a walk and Conor Gillaspie struck out before Viciedo drove in Wise with a double over the head of center fielder Emilio Bonifacio.
Alexei Ramirez was intentionally walked and Darren Oliver came on to face Hector Gimenez, who drove in Konerko with a sacrifice fly to right. Konerko slid home safely when the throw from Davis missed wide.
"I'm never really confident when it comes to me trying to outrun a ball," Konerko said. "I ran as fast as I could. Obviously the throw was off line a little bit. Even then it was still close."
Matt Lindstrom (1-0) got one out for the win and Addison Reed finished for his fifth save in as many opportunities.
Edwin Encarnacion and Adam Lind hit consecutive singles off Reed to begin the ninth, just the second and third hits he's allowed this season. Brett Lawrie followed with a sacrifice fly, but Reed got Rajai Davis and Maicer Izturis to fly out.
Colby Rasmus and J.P. Arencibia hit solo home runs for the Blue Jays, who couldn't hold on after taking a 2-1 lead in the sixth.
Delabar (1-1) allowed two runs and one hit in 1 1-3 innings.
The White Sox opened the scoring in the second, loading the bases with two singles and a walk before Konerko scored from third on a wild pitch by Johnson.
Rasmus tied it in the bottom half with a two-out blast to center, his fourth.
Arencibia put the Blue Jays in front with a two-out homer in the sixth, his fifth of the season and second in two days.
Johnson had retired 10 straight White Sox batters but his streak ended quickly in the seventh as he fell behind 3-0 on Konerko before allowing a game-tying homer to left. For Konerko, the drive was his third.
"His stuff was really good tonight," Konerko said of Johnson. "I got lucky to get a couple of fastballs that didn't have a lot of movement."
Lawrie made his first start of the season after being activated off the 15-day disabled list Monday. Lawrie had been sidelined since early March with a strained left ribcage muscle suffered at the World Baseball Classic.
Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista was held out of the starting lineup for the second straight game suffering from a sore back and flu-like symptoms.
"He wasn't ready to pinch hit," Gibbons said. "Hopefully he'll be ready (Wednesday)."
Chicago's Dylan Axelrod allowed two runs and seven hits in six innings, walked one and struck out four.
- Created on 12 April 2013
Suddenly, Chicago is the place where long winning streaks go to die.
This time, it was Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks going down. Late last month, it was LeBron James and the Miami Heat.
Nate Robinson scored a season-high 35 points and Chicago rallied for a 118-111 overtime victory to stop New York's 13-game run. Anthony missed a potential winner at the end of regulation, and Robinson took over down the stretch, scoring eight points in overtime to lift the Bulls to another streak-breaking win on a charged night that had the feel of a postseason game.
"Crazy. Playoff atmosphere, to tell you the truth, against a playoff team," Chicago's Jimmy Butler said. "I feel like it's helping us."
Butler finished with 22 points, Luol Deng scored 16, and the Bulls busted a long run for the second time in about a two-week span, after ending the Heat's 27-game streak — the second-longest in NBA history — on March 27.
They put the Knicks' longest streak in nearly two decades to rest with a huge surge in the second half, offsetting Anthony's 36 points.
"For us, we're not focused on stopping streaks," Robinson said. "We're just trying to get better as a team going into the playoffs."
Robinson appears to be in gear. He's scored 18 or more in four straight games, and he put the Bulls over the top against his former team after two ugly losses to Detroit and Toronto.
In the end, all the Knicks could do was shrug it off.
"It would have been nice if Melo knocks down that shot," Woodson said. "We could have walked out of here with a win. It didn't happen."
Robinson started overtime with a three-point play to give Chicago a 108-105 lead, and after Anthony scored, the Bulls started to pull away.
Deng nailed a 3-pointer, and Robinson hit a free throw after J.R. Smith got called for a technical foul with 2:09 remaining for arguing a non-call against Deng on a missed drive. The Bulls guard then drove for a layup to make it 114-107, and Chicago hung on from there.
Chicago trailed by as much as 17 points and was down 79-64 in the third quarter before going on a big run to get back into it.
The Bulls were even up by nine — 99-90 — after a 3 by Robinson and layup by Butler with 5:42 remaining, but they did not get another basket in regulation.
The Knicks finally tied it at 105 with 14.5 seconds left when a driving Anthony got fouled by Butler and hit both free throws.
Deng then missed an off-balance fadeaway bank shot with 1.5 seconds left in regulation. New York's Raymond Felton grabbed the rebound, and after a 20-second timeout, Anthony's long jumper hit the rim and it went into overtime.
The loss ended the Knicks' longest win streak since a 15-game run from March 1 to April 2, 1994, and left them two games ahead of Indiana for the second seed in the Eastern Conference with four games remaining. New York plays the Pacers on Sunday.
"The crazy thing is they're only getting better," Chicago's Carlos Boozer said. "The more talent they put around (Anthony), the better his team is. This year, they went from being kind of a mediocre team in the East the last few years to ... top in the East for a very long time."
Anthony, trying to become the first Knicks player since Bernard King in 1984-85 to win a scoring title, was off target. He hit just 13 of 34 shots after averaging 40.6 points in the previous five games.
Smith scored 28 points and Felton added 19, but the Bulls hung on down the stretch in OT to complete the four-game sweep.
"They can have it," Anthony said. "They can have it. They can have it. They can have the regular-season wins. They did a great job at beating us four times. We're not worrying about them at this point."
The win left fifth-place Chicago a half-game ahead of Atlanta in the East, and they can thank Robinson for that. He beat his previous season high by a point.
Deng finished with 16 points after sitting out the previous two games with a hip injury.
Butler came up big after scoring a career-high 28 in Tuesday's loss to Toronto. He ignited the crowd with back-to-back breakaway dunks in the third that got the turnaround started and helped defend Anthony.
"You want to go up against the best," Butler said. "You don't back down from things like this. You want to accept those challenges. You don't back down from things like that. He's a great player."
- Created on 16 April 2013
TORONTO — Mark Buehrle pitched in and out of trouble into the seventh inning to beat his former team , J.P. Arencibia and Maicer Izturis hit solo homers and the Toronto Blue Jays topped the Chicago White Sox 4-3 on Monday night.
Arencibia went deep in the first and Izturis connected to begin the second as the Blue Jays opened a seven-game homestand with their third victory in four games.
Buehrle (1-0) went 6 1-3 innings in his first career start against the White Sox, allowing two runs and nine hits. The left-hander walked two and struck out three.
A four-time All-Star during his 12 seasons with the White Sox from 2000-11, Buehrle starred for Chicago's 2005 World Series championship team, pitched a no-hitter in 2007 and perfect game in 2009.
- Created on 09 April 2013
Starlin Castro gave it a good ride with the bases loaded in the ninth inning. The drive might have gone out at the start of the game, but the wind had shifted and it died on the warning track.
That's how Wrigley Field's first game of the season went for the Chicago Cubs.
Edwin Jackson got off to a rough start and the Cubs' final rally was wiped out by the fickle breeze, giving the Milwaukee Brewers a 7-4 victory on Monday.
Chicago scored two runs in the ninth and had the bases loaded when Dave Sappelt struck out. Castro then hit a fly ball deep to right, but the wind held it up and Norichika Aoki hauled it in.
"Yeah, I had a bad feeling when we got things going there," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "We had nobody out and with those guys coming up, that wind shift was going to obviously have a factor in the game both ways, and it did."
The wind was blowing out at the start of the game — a rare sight for an April date at the 99-year-old ballpark — and Brewers manager Ron Roenicke thought Castro's ball probably would have went off the wall at that point.
"Things went our way," he said.
Marco Estrada pitched seven effective innings and doubled home a run, helping the Brewers stop a five-game slide. Aoki had three hits and Ryan Braun made a successful return to the lineup.
Jim Henderson picked up his first save of the season in his first opportunity since he replaced John Axford in the closer's role.
"It's just nice to win," Braun said. "We needed to win."
Estrada allowed two runs and five hits while bouncing back from a lackluster season debut against Colorado. The right-hander also drove in Alex Gonzalez with a drive into the gap in right-center during Milwaukee's two-run seventh.
"I just kept telling myself just leave the pitches down, especially the changeup," he said. "As long as I don't leave balls up, I should be OK. Especially because, you know, I'm a bit of a pop-fly pitcher and I knew in this park with that wind it could be trouble."
Welington Castillo belted a two-run homer for Chicago, which has dropped four in a row and five of six. Edwin Jackson was hit hard in his first home game since he signed a $52 million, four-year contract over the winter, surrendering five runs and eight hits in six innings.
Braun, who missed Milwaukee's weekend sweep by Arizona due to spasms on the right side of his neck, went 3 for 4 with two doubles before he was replaced by Logan Schafer in the eighth inning. The 2011 NL MVP has at least one hit in each of his four games this season.
It was Braun's first road game since his name surfaced in records from the now-defunct Biogenesis of America LLC clinic alleged to have provided banned substances to several players. After his name was connected to the clinic, he issued a statement in which he said he used the clinic's operator, Anthony Bosch, as a consultant in appealing a positive drug test that was overturned last year.
Braun was lustily booed by the crowd of 40,083, but the fans hardly seemed to notice he was at the plate in the eighth after they got done jeering struggling reliever Carlos Marmol when he came on to pitch.
"Yeah, I don't think they've ever cheered for me here," Braun said with a grin. "Not too much different than it's ever been in the past."
The day began with a tarp over the infield as showers rolled through the area, but the grey clouds soon gave way to sunshine for an unusually warm opener at the ballpark. Hall of Famers Fergie Jenkins and Billy Williams each threw out a ceremonial first pitch, and Ernie Banks led the crowd in the singing of the "Take Me Out to The Ball Game" during the seventh-inning stretch.
As soon as Jenkins and Williams left the field, the Brewers jumped all over Jackson (0-2).
With runners on first and second and two down, Jonathan Lucroy and Gonzalez had consecutive walks to force home a run. Martin Maldonado then delivered a bases-clearing double into the right-field corner, lifting Milwaukee to a 4-0 lead.
The Brewers added another run in the second when Aoki reached on a leadoff double and scored on Braun's one-out double to center.
"I just have to do a better job of executing and executing pitches when I put myself in the position to get out of a jam," Jackson said.
That was more than enough for Estrada (1-0), who struck out six and walked one. He was coming off a no-decision against the Rockies, when he allowed four runs and nine hits in five innings.