Windy City Sports Report – 12/10/12

10 Dec

Hello sports fans, Carlos here for the latest Windy City Sports Report. In this edition, here we go again with the Bears, the Bulls trample through the week, and the ice is melting for the Blackhawks.

The Bears played the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday in a game that could be considered the most important of the year. They had lost 3 out of the last 4 games and got bumped out of the top spot in the NFC North. They had to get this victory, but unfortunately, they fell 21-14.

Adrian Peterson just streaked past the Bears’ defense. He ran for 154 yards and 2 touchdowns. In fact, he eclipsed the 100-yard mark IN THE FIRST QUARTER. The Vikings won in spite of their quarterback, Christian Ponder, throwing for only 91 yards. Jay Cutler completed 22 of 44 passes for 260 yards and a touchdown. He also threw 2 interceptions, one that was returned for the touchdown.

One question Bears fans should be asking is why did Cutler drop back 44 times? Forte was running well (13 carries 85 yards, over 6 yards per carry) and it was still a close game in the 2nd quarter so I don’t see why the running game was an afterthought.

Of course, having Cutler drop back that many times and having a poor offensive line does not bode well for his health. In the 4th quarter, he took a hit to the head by Everson Griffen (what, a dirty hit by a Viking? I am shocked) and it was feared he had his second concussion of the season. He stayed on the drive, but with about 3 minutes remaining he was taken out with a neck injury. Of course, on that hit there was a flag thrown, but it was negated on a (what else?) holding call on J’Marcus Webb.

This is a familiar story for the Bears. They have now lost 6 consecutive games in December over the last two seasons. Lovie Smith has a career coaching record of 79-62, which is pretty good, but is only 18-18 in December games. The importance of this is the fact that the big games come in December. It is the tail end of the season so every game in enormous when you are trying to win divisions or make it to the playoffs.

The Bears will now have to forget about this game and their December swoon if they want to get to the playoffs. After starting 7-1, the playoffs seemed a cinch. Now, however, they cling to the final playoff spot at 8-5, just a game ahead of Washington, Dallas, and Minnesota. Their next game is at home against the Green Bay Packers, their hated rivals who have beaten the Bears in 6 consecutive games.

The news is better at the Madhouse on Madison. The Bulls had a tough stretch last week, playing 4 games in 5 days. The week did not start out well. They faced the Indiana Pacers at home. It was a dreadful game for all concerned except for Paul George. The Bulls shot 38% for the game, and the Pacers actually shot WORSE (36%). The Pacers came away with the win, 80-76, and George had a career-high 34 points. The Bulls were led by Nate Robinson, who came off the bench to score 19 points. Deng added 17 points.

In addition to the low shooting percentage, the Bulls also had 19 turnovers that did not help. They did have a chance to tie the game in the end, though. In the closing moments of the game, the Bulls had the ball down 2. Luol Deng went baseline and was met by Roy Hibbert right by the basket. Deng went up, as did Hibbert, and they collided. The officials made a no-call that had the fans at the United Center going crazy. They wanted a foul called on Hibbert. There was not, the shot was blocked, recovered by Indiana and the game was sealed. I thought it was an excellent no-call. Hibbert went straight up as Deng initiated contact. As long as the defender is not leaning towards the shooter, there will not be a foul called. Besides, a team shooting 38% should not be arguing about a call.

After their dreadful performance on Tuesday, the Bulls traveled to Cleveland (Joakim Noah’s favorite place to play) to face the Cavaliers. Marco Belinelli, starting his second game in place of injured Rip Hamilton, seemed comfortable in that position. He exploded with 23 points, after only scoring 6 the previous night, and led the Bulls to a 95-85 victory. Deng added 22 points and Noah grabbed 15 rebounds. The Bulls took a lead 2 minutes into the game and did not give it up the rest of the game. It was a good bounce back game for them, shooting 47% for the game.

After a day off, the Bulls went to Detroit to face the struggling Pistons on Friday. There, history would be made. There were not many fans at the Palace in Auburn Hills and perhaps the Bulls did not get into it early. They were down by 17 in the second quarter before rallying for a 108-104 win. Noah felt the energy was low. “I just felt like our energy was just low, from the start of the game,” he said. “It’s just human reaction, when there’s not a lot of people in the stands, to kind of put your guard down. I think we regrouped pretty well.”

Well Noah helped them regroup very well. He had a career night,scoring 30 points and grabbing 23 rebounds, both career highs. He was the
leader in the game, but he was not the only one balling. All five starters scored in double figures. Carlos Boozer had 24 points and Deng and Belinelli each had 16. Boozer also added 6 rebounds. The Pistons as a team had 28 rebounds, and Noah and Boozer together had 29 (though Noah did more of the work).

Even though the Bulls had a great come from behind win on Friday,they faced an incredibly tough game on Saturday in Chicago. Having played a tough game the night before, and having the starters play heavy minutes did notbode well for the next game against the New York Knicks. Yes, the same Knickswho lead the Eastern Conference, and the same Knicks who were resting afterblowing out the defending NBA champions Miami Heat by 20.

The Bulls fought and clawed, and even though they lost Taj Gibson to an ejection, and Kirk Hinrich to an injury, they came away with perhaps
their most impressive victory of the season, 93-85.

The Knicks were riding high after Thursday’s victory over the Heat (their second win against them this season, both by 20 points). They had
been hitting three’s by bucketloads and had a 5 game winning streak. Again, though, it was Belinelli and Deng leading the way, each scoring 22 points and playing monster minutes. Belinelli played 45 minutes, eclipsed by Deng, who played 46 ½ minutes.

After having a career game the previous night, Noah seemed very tired and sluggish going up against the reigning Defensive Player of the Year,
Tyson Chandler. Chandler had 14 points and 18 rebounds, while Noah got 10 points and 11 rebounds. Noah also had another career-high, but it was not one he will treasure. He committed a career-high 9 turnovers.

Coach Tom Thibodeau’s defensive team came through big time in the game. The Bulls have the #1 defensive team in the league, and have allowed the fewest 3-point shots. They outrebounded the Knicks and allowed only 8 treys. They also forced them to commit a season high 15 turnovers and shoot a season low 32%. In fact, they shot a little better from beyond the arc (34%) than they did overall.

After the game, Knicks head coach Mike Woodson commented on theBulls’ performance.  “You have to give them credit, they played great defense coming down the stretch run,” Woodson said. “I thought they made the hustle plays that they needed to make in order to win the game, and we didn’t.”

As long as the Bulls keep playing Thibodeau’s defense, the Bulls have a shot to stay afloat until Derrick Rose’s return. They are now 11-8, in
first place in Central Division, and riding a 3 game winning streak. As long as you have a great defense, you’ll be in every game, and when Rose returns, younever know what may happen. I don’t know if they can win a title, but they canmake some serious noise in the playoffs.

Up next for the Bullies- Tuesday at home against the Vinny Del Negro and the Los Angeles Clippers, Wednesday on the road against the Philadelphia 76ers, then back home on Saturday against the Brooklyn Nets.

In hockey news, nope nothing still. Commissioner Gary Bettman went to the cameras on Wednesday saying they were close, and privately he
thought there would be an agreement by Friday, but instead talks broke off, and today there will be an announcement of games cancelled through December 30th. It looks like the ice will melt in the NHL before we see games this season.

Well, until next week, stand in line to buy and enjoy the world famous Garrett’s Popcorn.s, so the defense had to go right back. Wilson torched them on an 80 yard drive that ended with a 12 yard touchdown throw to Sidney Rice. Rice was knocked unconscious by Major Wright as he lunged into the end zone, and he lost the ball, but the officials ruled correctly that the ball crossed the goal line before he lost it and that was game.

After the game head coach Lovie Smith was furious, but more at himself than in any of his players. “That hasn’t happened to us very often around here,” Smith said. “Terrible job I did getting our football team ready. I thought we were ready to go. Some decisions I made really hurt us early on.”

One decision he regretted was to go for it on a 4th and 1 when the Bears had a 7-0 lead early in the 2nd quarter. Instead of going for the points and padding the lead, Michael Bush failed to get the 1st down and it was turning point in the game. After that, the Seahawks ran off 10 points to take a 10-7 lead.

The Bears also are getting bitten hard by the injury bug. Devin Hester was ruled out because of a concussion and Lance Louis, the best offensive lineman on the roster, was lost for the season after a dirty hit by the Minnesota Vikings’ Jared Allen. They then lost Earl Bennett to a concussion early in the game, which left them with only 3 wide receivers playing. Add in Brian Urlacher (hamstring) and Tim Jennings (shoulder) out on the game winning drive, and this was one shorthanded crew.

The loss dropped the Bears to 8-4 and into a tie for the NFC North lead with the Green Bay Packers, but since the Packers already beat them earlier in the year, they own the tiebreaker as of now. The two teams play in Chicago in two weeks so that should be a huge game.

Next up for the Bears is a rematch with the Vikings. That should be an interesting game considering Jared Allen ended Lance Louis’ season. Allen was fined for the hit, and we will see if the Bears linemen remember that hit on Sunday.

The Bulls had 3 games last week. On Monday, they did not start the week off on the right foot. They owned a 27-point lead against the Milwaukee Bucks, who had a 9 game losing streak against Chicago, but shockingly lost it and ultimately lost the game 93-92. Coach Tom Thibodeau was not happy after the game. “It can happen fast,” he said. “You can lose 10 points in an NBA game in a minute. Everyone says that doesn’t happen, but you see it all the time. If you don’t play tough with a lead, this is what happens.”

On Thursday, Thibodeau’s bunch showed how upset he must have been. They took on the Dallas Mavericks and absolutely blasted them in a 101-78 victory. This time, they took a big lead and never took the foot off the accelerator. They had a lead as big as 29 points and did not have it go below 17.

Luol Deng led the Bulls with 22 points and 6 rebounds. Joakim Noah pitched in 13 points and 10 rebounds. It was the bench that played big time, though, scoring 50 points. Jimmy Butler scored a career-high 13 points and Nate Robinson had 14 points and 6 assists to lead the reserves.

Fellow reserve Taj Gibson summed it up perfectly in explaining the turnaround. “It was good to come out and forget that last loss and move forward as a team. We understand we have a long season. There’s going to be a lot of bumps in the road, but we’re sticking together.”

After splitting the first two games in the week, the Bulls faced the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday. Yes, the same 76ers team that was fortunate to face the Bulls in last year’s playoffs when they lost Derrick Rose and Noah.

It came several months too late, but the Bulls had a hard-fought 93-88 victory. Deng once again led the Bulls, scoring 25 points (8 big ones down the stretch to ice the win) and dishing out 7 assists. Rip Hamilton put in 15 points, though he went down in the third quarter with plantar fasciitis. He did return and hit some key free throws late in the game, but it appears he will miss some time. Carlos Boozer had 12 points and 12 rebounds, marking the 6th time in the last eight games that he’s had a double-double.

After winning two of the three games for the week, the Bulls have an 8-7 record and now stand in a first place tie in the Central Division with the Milwaukee Bucks. This week they will be busy, playing two back to back games. On Tuesday they host the Indiana Pacers and Wednesday they travel to Cleveland to play the Cavaliers. Then after an off day, they go to Detroit to face the Pistons on Friday before they host the New York Knicks on Saturday.

Derrick Rose released the final of his and Adidas’ “The Return” videos documenting the work he’s put in to come back from the torn ACL injury he suffered last season. In it he talks about how he is thankful to the fans for their support and how he has inspired him with his videos. You can see the videos here.

In hockey news, NOPE, still not playing…

Until next week, enjoy a stroll on the Mag Mile and see the wonderful decorations and lights for the season.


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