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Bulls vs. Trail Blazers: Chicago crumbles in second half, falls to Portland in closing seconds of the fourth

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After building up as much as a 20-point lead in the first half of the game, the Chicago Bulls completely fell apart in the second half against the Portland Trail Blazers to lose 112-107 on the road. Bulls All-Star guard Zach LaVine had an opportunity to potentially send the game to overtime with an open 3-point attempt with 12 seconds left on the clock, but the ball clanked off the front of the rim, giving the Blazers the win. 

After the game, LaVine said that he wasn’t surprised he was as open as he was, but he was shocked that he missed it.

“I got wide open off a pindown, great play and great shot, just missed it. Probably the most open shot I had tonight,” LaVine said.

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It was certainly as open as LaVine was all night, as the Blazers got stuck behind a great screen set by Tony Bradley which allowed the sharpshooting guard to get an ocean’s amount of space between him and the nearest defender to get off the shot. 

It was a tough miss for LaVine, but it should’ve never come down to that final shot. The Bulls were in full control for two quarters, shooting an absurd 56.5 percent from the field, and 44.4 percent from deep. DeMar DeRozan looked to be on track to add yet another sterling game to his MVP candidacy with 15 points, while LaVine tacked on 18 points of his own in the first half.

On defense, the Bulls were even better. They held Blazers guard CJ McCollum scoreless in the first half, and allowed Damian Lillard to rack up just six points, while going 1-for-6 from the field. Alex Caruso and Lonzo Ball were absolute pests guarding Lillard and McCollum, forcing other Portland players to beat them, which certainly didn’t work. 

But then the third quarter rolled around, and Chicago racked up 10 turnovers, resulting in 18 points for the Blazers. Lillard and McCollum were still struggling to get anything going on offense, but Norman Powell and Larry Nance Jr. picked up the slack, as Chicago’s lack of frontcourt size began to rear its ugly head. 

Nance bodied smaller guards like Ball and Javonte Green in the post resulting in easy buckets. When guarded by the Bulls’ lone healthy big man in Bradley, it didn’t yield great results for Chicago. By the end of the third quarter, Portland cut down Chicago’s 15-point halftime lead to just four points. 

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Then came the fourth quarter and against a player like Lillard, who is known for his late-game heroics, it’s always bound to be interesting. McCollum drilled a crucial 3-pointer to give Portland its first lead of the game since the first quarter with seven minutes left and, after trading the lead back and forth, Lillard scored eight points over the final five minutes of the game to give Portland the lead for good. LaVine missed three 3-pointers in the final minute of the game that would’ve either given Chicago the lead or sent the game to overtime, but he missed each opportunity.

DeRozan struggled mightily in the second half, going 0-for-7 from the field and totaling seven points, all of which came at the foul line. After the strong first half from both DeRozan and LaVine, the duo combined for seven of Chicago’s 11 turnovers in the second half, and no one else on the Bulls stepped up to fill the void on offense.

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“We just didn’t play the way we should have in the third and fourth quarter,” LaVine said. “Even going into the fourth quarter we’re still up [four] and [we] just got outplayed.”

It’s a tough loss for a Bulls team that has looked incredibly dominant in stretches on this current five-game road streak. Chicago put together strong wins over both Los Angeles teams but was blown out by a Golden State Warriors team that holds the league’s best record. This latest loss to the Trail Blazers surely stings a little extra given how strong the Bulls looked in the first half. The loss now puts Chicago at 10-5 on the season, the Bulls will finish up their road trip on Friday against the Denver Nuggets





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The Buccaneers Add Depth With A Familiar Face

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(Photo by Katharine Lotze/Getty Images)

 

The current Tampa Bay Buccaneers depth chart shows four players at right defensive end: William Gholston, Logan Hall, Benning Potoa’e, and Willington Previlon.

However, they only have two at left defensive end: Akiem Hicks and Patrick O’Connor.

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The team thought of adding another player to help their cause and they eventually turned to a familiar athlete.

Carl Nassib had his first tour of duty with the Buccaneers from 2018 to 2019 after being claimed off waivers from the Cleveland Browns.

Since then, he joined the Las Vegas Raiders on a three-year, $25 million contract.

He was released after two seasons which paved the way for his reunion with the Buccaneers.

The Athletic’s Greg Auman tweeted, “Bucs first got Carl Nassib as a gem of a waiver claim in 2018 from Browns — got 6.5 sacks that year, then 6.0 in Todd Bowles‘ defense in 2019. Didn’t find the same success in Las Vegas, totaling four sacks in two years, but now back to help with depth in Tampa Bay at age 29.”

The brief story showed that Nassib was often overlooked especially with Maxx Crosby‘s emergence.

Therefore, returning to the Buccaneers may help him resurrect his stalled career.

 

Lining Up The Buccaneers Defense

Nassib is one of the key additions to an already-stacked Tampa Bay defense.

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Aside from him, Hicks and Vita Vea will lead the push up front.

Meanwhile, their linebacker trio of Shaquil Barrett, Lavonte David, and Devin White could fly all over the field to shut down the opposing squad.

When defending the deep ball, defensive backs like Jamel Dean, Carlton Davis III, Logan Ryan, and Antoine Winfield Jr. should be at their best.

Add in Nassib and the Buccaneers’ defense got even more formidable.

The post The Buccaneers Add Depth With A Familiar Face appeared first on The Cold Wire.

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Sandy Alcantara Is On Pace To Shatter Marlins History

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(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

 

The Miami Marlins don’t have much of a chance to accomplish anything this year, but their staff ace Sandy Alcantara does.

The National League Cy Young favorite continued his run of dominance last night, tossing seven scoreless innings against the San Diego Padres and earning his 11th win of the season.

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Alcantara also struck out seven batters and allowed just four hits while only walking two batters and lowering his ERA on the season to 1.92.

In fact, last night marked the eighth time Alcantara has tossed at least seven scoreless innings in a game this year, which ties him with the late Jose Fernandez.

Only Dontrelle Willis has pitched more games where he went seven innings and allowed no runs in Marlins history.

He had nine of those back in 2005.

 

Alcantara’s Dominance

Alcantara is quickly becoming one of the best pitchers in all of baseball.

He might already be there.

With each start, he dominates his opponents and proves why the St. Louis Cardinals made a terrible mistake when they traded him away back in 2017.

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Only Justin Verlander has a better ERA than Alcantara, who is the clear-cut favorite to take home the National League Cy Young Award.

He has dominated in almost every start, and he did it at an important time last night, as he shut down the juggernaut offense of the Padres, who just recently acquired Juan Soto and Josh Bell.

While the Marlins aren’t going to go anywhere, Alcantara has a very good chance to achieve something special.

He matched a Marlins great and is now one dominant start away from matching yet another one.

We’ll see if he can keep up this run of success.

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The post Sandy Alcantara Is On Pace To Shatter Marlins History appeared first on The Cold Wire.





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WNBA Power Rankings: Aces, Sky title favorites as playoffs begin; Mystics lurking as darkhorse

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After a thrilling close to the regular season, it’s time to turn our attention to the 2022 WNBA playoffs, which will tip-off Wednesday night with two first-round Game 1s. In the first game of the night, the Chicago Sky will host the New York Liberty, and in the finale the Las Vegas Aces will take on the Phoenix Mercury. 

The Aces (+165) and Sky (+200) are the top two seeds and the top two title favorites entering the postseason, per Caesars Sportsbook.

The league has once again revamped the playoff format, eliminating the first-and-second-round byes in favor of a standard bracket. Play will begin with a best-of-three first round series, followed by best-of-five series in the semifinals and Finals. One interesting twist, though, is that in the first round, Games 1 and 2 will be hosted by the higher seed, while the lower seed will get to host a deciding Game 3, if necessary. The semis and Finals will be a standard 2-2-1 arrangement. 

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As we wait for the action to begin, here’s a look at how each team fares in our pre-playoffs power rankings. 

1. Las Vegas Aces — No. 1 overall seed

Sunday’s comeback win over the Storm to secure the No. 1 seed capped off a tremendous close to the season for the Aces. They won four straight, including a win over the Sky and two over the Storm. Their reward was a first-round matchup against a depleted Mercury team that should be little challenge, and home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. During their mid-season slump there was concern that the Aces had peaked too early, but they’re back on track and the title favorite. 

2. Chicago Sky — No. 2 overall seed

A mini skid during the final week cost the Sky the No. 1 seed and home-court advantage for the entire playoffs. They won the title as a No. 6 seed last season, though, so they won’t be too concerned about their position. What is worrying, is they haven’t been playing their best basketball down the stretch. They went 3-3 in August after losing just four games in June and July combined, and have not been great defensively. Still, we know this team can flip the switch and they have championship experience, cohesion and the ability to be elite on both sides of the ball. 

3. Connecticut Sun — No. 3 overall seed

On the one hand, Sun had an easy schedule post-All-Star break, and cleaned up by going 11-3 down the stretch to secure the No. 3 seed and best net-rating in the league at plus-9.5 points per 100 possessions. On the other, they were 10-0 against bottom-seven opponents and 1-3 against top-four opponents, picking up just a solitary win over the Storm. The Sun are a definite contender, but their 1-6 record against the Aces and Sky is of real concern, especially considering they would likely have to get through both teams to win the title. 

4. Seattle Storm — No. 4 overall seed

Even in defeat to the Aces on Sunday in the regular season finale, we saw how dangerous the Storm can be when everything is clicking. Moving Tina Charles into the starting lineup has indeed juiced their offense, and that new unit has a plus-20.9 net rating in 16 games together. In the last two playoff runs where the trio of Breanna Stewart, Jewell Loyd and Sue Bird have been healthy, the Storm are 12-2 in the postseason and won the title both times. Can they do it again? Perhaps, but they have not been one of the elite teams over the balance of the season, and do not have the same level of supporting cast as they did in 2018 and 2020. 

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5. Washington Mystics — No. 5 overall seed

Despite being the No. 5 seed, the Mystics could be a darkhorse contender. They coasted through the regular season to some extent in order to keep Elena Delle Donne healthy for the playoffs, and it’s clear they could have been a higher seed if she played a full schedule. In her 25 games they went 18-7 – a .720 winning percentage that would be right in line with the Aces and Sky over a full season – and had a plus-12.3 net rating with her on the court. In the 11 games she sat out, they were 4-7. This team could cause problems if Delle Donne can withstand the demands of a playoff schedule, but they would almost certainly have to beat three of the top-four teams in succession in order to win the title, which may be too much to ask. 

6. Dallas Wings — No. 6 overall seed

The Wings caught fire toward the end of the season and won five straight games from July 30–Aug. 8 to clinch a second consecutive playoff berth. That stretch included victories over the Aces and Sky, and they seemed to have unlocked something by giving more playing time to Teaira McCowan. They will be without All-Star guard Arike Ogunbowale for at least the first round, however, due to a hip injury, and while they’ve had some good games in her absence, her shot creation will be missed in the playoffs. During the regular season they were 2-1 against the Sun, and should be competitive, but actually winning the first-round series will be difficult. 

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7. New York Liberty — No. 7 overall seed

The Liberty enter the playoffs as one of the hottest teams in the league. They closed the season on a 6-2 run, and had the third-best net rating (plus-6.8) in the league in August. When healthy and at their best, they have the ability to play with and beat any team in the league thanks in large part to their prolific 3-point attack. However, they have not been able to reach that level on a consistent basis this season, and will be sizable underdogs against the defending champion Sky. 

8. Phoenix Mercury — No. 8 overall seed

After losing in the Finals last season, the Mercury went all in for another run at the title. Their plans fell apart over the course of the last six months, however, as Brittney Griner was detained in Russia, Tina Charles abruptly left the team mid-season and both Diana Taurasi (quad) and Skylar Diggins-Smith (personal reasons) are now sidelined. They deserve a lot of credit for even making the playoffs, but they lost five of seven games to close the season and it’s hard to imagine them being competitive against the Aces. 



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