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Good morning, frents!
I can't decide if the fans still planning on going to tonight's Bears game are the team's truest fans or just completely insane. I guess maybe both can be true?
Busy week ahead for everyone, so let's get straight to it.
Bulls 115, Lakers 110
Illinois-Springfield at Northwestern (6, BTN+)
Rockets at Bulls (7, NBCSCH)
Vikings at Bears (7:15, ESPN)
DeMar DeRozan picks up where he left off
Last night's game against the Lakers may not have been played under the conditions that made it one of the most-anticipated dates on the Bulls' home schedule.
But fans who shelled out hundreds of dollars for the visit from LeBron James still had to feel like they got their money's worth.
DeMar DeRozan made sure of that.
Playing in his first game since December 4, DeRozan posted a game-high 38 points as the Bulls secured a series sweep over the Lakers with a 115-110 victory.
DeRozan said he went to the team's practice facility at 1 am earlier in the week after being cleared by the league and there clearly weren't any signs of rust. He scored a career-high 19 points in the fourth quarter, including a 18-foot jumper with just under a minute left that gave the Bulls the lead.
It's reaching the point where I'd consider betting my house on any DeRozan mid-range jumper in the fourth (though that would have been a disastrous idea had I made it on the jumper the next time down the court).
DeRozan shot 11-of-24 from the field and supplemented that take by sinking 16 of 17 free throws. Chants of "MVP" from Bulls fans rang out as he made two free throws to seal the win.
"I felt free as a bird," DeRozan told reporters at the United Center. "Just getting out there, being with those guys, being in front of the fans. Just getting out the basement I was in for 10 days."
The Bulls still have four players in COVID protocols, including Zach LaVine. DeRozan wasn't the only one who picked up the slack in LaVine's absence. Nikola Vucevic had 19 points and 13 rebounds. Alex Caruso posted a 17-point and nine rebound night while Lonzo Ball scored 19.
The Lakers got Russell Westbrook back for the game, but six players still remain in protocols. Coach Frank Vogel also missed the contest, as did Anthony Davis (sprained MCL). LeBron James scored 31 points as he tried to make up for Davis' absence in the post.
DeRozan also scored 38 points when the Bulls beat the Lakers in Los Angeles last month. The Compton native was asked if it was a coincidence that his two biggest games this year have come against the Lakers.
"You think it's a coincidence?" he asked. "Nah, it may be."
Next: The Bulls are back in action tonight as they ttry to avenge that weird loss to the Rockets last month. Houston was 1-15 at the time, but have won eight games since to move their record to 10-20.
Bears vs. Vikings preview: Picks, props and three things to know
Oh yeah, the Bears are playing tonight. COVID-19 didn't take a break from Halas Hall over the weekend as both Jaylon Johnson and Tashaun Gipson were added to the list. The Bears secondary is going to be a scary, scary place but we'll see which players reappear on the roster by gametime after the NFL reconfigured its protocols.
I didn't want to hit your inbox twice today, so click here for our usual Bears pregame post, including my bid for a third straight week of perfect prop picks.
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News and results
Hawks: Brett Connolly suspended for four games after hit
Connolly's hit on Tanner Kero during Saturday's overtime loss in Dallas sent Kero to the hospital and will cost him $70,000 in pay if he doesn't win his appeal.
- Tuesday's game against the Panthers at the United Center has been postponed as Florida deals with some COVID issues.
- It's looking incresingly unlikely that the NHL will partcipate in the Olympics. The league and players' union agreed to temporarily halt cross-border travel, which will make a multi-week trip to China almost impossible if the league wants to get a full season in.
Loyola hoops: Pair of games canceled
A positive test in the program nixed Sunday's home game against Norfolk State and Wednesday's trip to Davidson. Loyola is expected to be back in action against Southern Illinois on January 2.
1. Bills fans gave $442,000 to Andy Dalton's charity for getting them into the playoffs. Almost $100K went to a management firm. Buffalo News
2. The last play of NIU's loss to Coastal Carolina in the Cure Bowl was pretty bogus. The MAC commissioner agreed, calling the ending "egregious" and "unacceptable." ESPN
3. North Central College's bid for back-to-back D-3 titles came to a disappointing end, but alums still packed a downtown Naperville bar to watch the game. Naperville Sun
4. Bo knows Christmas miracles. WGN News
5. The great Paul Sullivan celebrated his 40th anniversary at the Tribune on Sunday by recounting 40 memorable characters from his reporting adventures. Tribune
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