1. Bulls no longer on parade
When you consider the Chicago Bulls used to rely heavily on a “superstar” that played in only 50-percent of the team’s games from 2010 to 2016, it makes their run of sustained success this decade all the more impressive. Averaging 47 wins per season since 2011, the Bulls have built up some impressive streaks in that span with a rotation of players coming through the lineup, and only one constant: Jimmy Butler. That’s why the news that Dwyane Wade was lost for the season didn’t seem like a big deal at the time: this team could still battle for a playoff spot without him.
But last night officially became panic time for Chicago after the team’s impressive 11-game winning streak over the Raptors came crashing to a halt. The Bulls blew a 15-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, as Toronto rallied to win 122-120 in overtime. We knew Chicago wasn’t that talented, but the mental advantage they had over a lot of Eastern Conference opponents always gave them a chance. Now, the end may be near for Fred Hoiberg and company.
We’ll see how far Butler and the Bulls have really fallen as they put two more impressive streaks on the line in the coming weeks. On Friday, they’ll welcome a 76ers team that has lost 12 straight to Chicago. Then, next Thursday, they’ll host the Cavaliers on TNT: a national time slot in which they’ve won 18-straight home games. The way things seem to be falling apart for this team, I’d wager against both streaks continuing.
2. Puerto Rico and USA for WBC Championship
Regardless of your thoughts on the World Baseball Classic, you have to enjoy that there were no rain delays for the gentle mist that refreshed Team USA during their 2-1 win over Japan last night. There’s no rain in the L.A. forecast for tonight when Adam Jones and company will take on Puerto Rico in an attempt to win the States’ first WBC.
The Americans are slight favorites (-130), but the game is a virtual toss up. Both rosters are loaded, with Puerto Rico sporting the likes of Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa, Carlos Beltran and Javier Baez (to name a few), while USA is led by Andrew McCutchen, Giancarlo Stanton, Ian Kinsler and Nolan Arenado.
Puerto Rico won the first matchup between these two in the round robin (6-5). Tonight will see the same pitching matchup as the initial meeting: the Blue Jays’ Marcus Stroman against Mets’ rookie Seth Lugo. While it sounds like a mismatch, both teams have talented arms available if the starters get in trouble, so it shouldn’t really matter too much. That’s why I’d recommend the unpatriotic play and take the Puerto Ricans to prevail again.
3. NHL to Olympics in serious doubt
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has come out to say that the only fun event at the Winter Olympics is about to get a whole lot worse. Negotiations with the IOC over insurance, travel costs and marketing aren’t going anywhere, so the commish has told fans to “assume they [meaning NHL players] aren’t going.”
While no pros sucks from a viewing perspective, from a betting perspective, it means that Canada will no longer be enormous favorites to win. So that’s fun, right?
Photo credit: Shinya Suzuki (Flickr)[https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/]