PARDON me, but Freshman helps Cats beat Nebraska.

Northwestern Wildcats (1981 - Pres)

LINCOLN—Just a few days ago Dererk Pardon wasn’t even in Northwestern’s plans for this season. Wednesday, he was dominating Nebraska in the Big Ten opener for both teams.The freshman had 28 points and 12 rebounds in his second college game and led his team back from a 12-point second-half deficit in an 81-72 victory.The Wildcats (13-1) won their 10th straight game and are off to their best start since the 1930-31 season. The Cornhuskers (8-6) are 0-5 in Big Ten openers since joining the conference in 2011-12.Pardon scored 23 points on 9-of-10 shooting from the field in the second half, and he finished 11 for 14. Six of his seven offensive rebounds came after halftime.Northwestern coach Chris Collins activated Pardon on Sunday because of a foot injury that will keep 7-foot senior Alex Olah out indefinitely.

”I’m happy coach Collins gave me the opportunity, my teammates believed in me and I just went out there and did what I was supposed to do – help my team win,” Pardon said.

Collins said he initially decided to redshirt Pardon because he didn’t think he would be able to give significant minutes to the 6-foot-8, 230-pounder from Cleveland. In addition to Olah, the Wildcats also have the 6-foot-10 Joey van Zegeren.

”Just an outstanding performance by a young player who we had really high hopes for coming in,” Collins said. ”We thought we got a gem with him. He was an under-the-radar recruit that we felt had a chance to be really good, and his work ethic and his ability to be ready when called upon like he was when Alex went down was amazing.”

The Huskers had no answer for Pardon in the low post, and he scored nine points as the Wildcats were whittling a 51-39 deficit to three points. Scottie Lindsey’s 3-pointer from the corner tied it 60-all with seven minutes left.

”My coach told me to keep on attacking their guys and keep on attacking the glass,” Pardon said. ”I saw that Nebraska got a little tired. I kept pushing and running and got open opportunities.”

Tre Demps finished with 17 points and Aaron Falzon had 12 for the Wildcats, who made 8 of 9 free throws in the last 1:34.Andrew White made 5 of 8 3-pointers and scored 22 points to lead the Huskers, and Benny Parker had career highs with 17 points and five 3s.It was the second straight game Northwestern came back after being down double digits. The Wildcats erased a 14-point deficit to beat Loyola (Maryland) on Sunday. Pardon had six points and four rebounds in that game.

”The game was moving pretty fast for me, way different than high school,” he said. ”I had to slow myself down. That’s what I felt I did this second game. I feel like Loyola was a big learning curve. I played hard. The mistakes I made that game I didn’t make this game.”

Northwestern: The Wildcats held a 40-25 rebounding advantage. … Bryant McIntosh, coming off a 33-point game against Loyola, was held to 11 but had eight assists against one turnover.Nebraska: Parker had seven assists and two steals to go with his 17 points and five 3s. … Lost for the first time in five all-time meetings with Northwestern in Lincoln.Northwestern’s 55-percent shooting and 46 points in the second half didn’t sit well with Nebraska coach Tim Miles, and neither did his team’s nearly five-minute field-goal drought late in the game.

”It was just a really disappointing game,” he said. ”Down the stretch, I thought we got hesitant after Andrew went on his little burst and run. It seemed like after that no one wanted to shoot.”

Collins joked that because of Pardon’s remarkable performance, Olah was going to have the same fate as Wally Pipp. Pipp is the New York Yankees player who sat out a game because of injury in 1925 and never got his starting job back. Lou Gehrig replaced him and started 2,130 consecutive games.”He’s from Romania,” Collins said of Olah, ”so he doesn’t know what a fastball or curveball is. I told Alex I have a project for you tonight. I want you go to home after practice, I want you get on your computer and I want you go google the name Wally Pipp.”

As Olah walked to the team bus Wednesday, a reporter asked him if he knew about Pipp. Olah smiled and said, ”Oh, yeah.”

Butler tip in gives Bulls OT win over Pacers-Rose sits with strained Hammy

Chicago Bulls Logo - Red bull with script above head

Jimmy Butler tipped in a basket with 1.2 seconds left in overtime and the Bulls beat the Indiana Pacers 102-100 Wednesday night despite playing without Derrick Rose.On the last play, Butler was supposed to take the final shot but was guarded off the inbound pass. Instead, the ball went to Pau Gasol.Butler cut along the baseline, then tipped in Gasol’s one-handed lob pass.

”That’s on Pau,” Butler said.

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg gave credit to both.

”That was just a heck of a pass and an unbelievable finish in there by two guys that know how to play,” Hoiberg said.

Butler then defended Paul George on a lob to preserve the win. George didn’t sound thrilled Butler wasn’t whistled for a foul, but that wasn’t his only complaint.

”It shouldn’t have gotten to that point,” George said. ”We were up seven and pretty much in control before we got to OT. We let this one get away.”

Indiana coach Frank Vogel tried to be diplomatic about the final play.

”I’ll address it with the league,” he said.

Butler scored 28 points, including 15 in the fourth quarter and overtime combined, and Aaron Brooks had 29 points to help the Bulls win its third in four games. The Bulls got 52 points from the bench and held Indiana to 38.1 percent shooting from the field. Gasol had 13 points and 11 rebounds.Rose was scratched an hour before the game with right hamstring tendinitis. Rose had played in 27 of the Bulls first 29 games, averaging 14.4 points. The only two games he missed were in November because of a sprained left ankle.Hoiberg said Rose’s hamstring stiffened up during the day and they couldn’t get it loose enough for him to play.

”We took a cautious approach and decided to sit him tonight,” Hoiberg said.

Kirk Hinrich started in place of Rose and scored three points.Brooks played almost 41 minutes without Rose. He hit a floater with 58.7 seconds left in overtime that gave the Bulls a 100-95 advantage. Solomon Hill made two free throws, and Brooks’ turnover set up Monta Ellis’ tying 3-pointer with 3.7 seconds left.George’s floater with 59.9 seconds left in regulation put Indiana in front 89-84. Butler then hit two free throws and Chicago got the ball back after George Hill’s turnover. Butler’s 3-pointer bounced in with 34.9 seconds left to even the game at 89.Ellis made a layup with 31.3 seconds left, but Butler tied it with 25 seconds to go.

”To tell you the truth, they kept giving me the ball,” Butler said. ”I wasn’t making shots earlier but they told me to stay aggressive.”

Ellis’ 3-point attempt at the buzzer fell short.George Hill led Indiana with 20 points.The Pacers had their own injury issues. C.J. Miles (sore lower back) and Jordan Hill (dental work) both sat, forcing Indiana to test its frontcourt depth. Lavoy Allen started and scored 10 points with 12 rebounds in 38 minutes. Rookie Myles Turner played 22 minutes and scored eight points in his return after missing 22 games because of a broken left thumb.Then with 2:44 left in the third, Ian Mahinmi limped off the court favoring his left knee and didn’t return. He’ll be reevaluated Thursday.

NOTES—Butler criticized Hoiberg’s passivity after the Bulls’ loss to New York on Dec. 19. On Wednesday, Butler praised Hoiberg…..”I think that he’s holding me accountable for everything,” Butler said…..Miles was scratched about an hour before tipoff and missed his second straight game. … For the fourth time, the Pacers wore their ”Hickory” alternate uniforms, inspired by the Indiana high school team from the movie ”Hoosiers.” … George had 19 points….Doug McDermott (right knee) was questionable but played 21 minutes and scored five points. … Hoiberg said little-used forward Cristiano Felicio will be assigned to the D-League….Bulls host New York on Friday night.

Hot Wolverines too much for Illini

Illinois Fighting Illini (2004 - 2013)

CHAMPAIGN—When Michigan coach John Beilein looked down his bench and nodded at Mark Donnal early in Wednesday’s 78-68 win over Illinois, he wasn’t sure exactly what he would get.

The junior forward came through with 26 points, grabbed nine rebounds and had three blocks – all career highs – to lead the Wolverines over the Illini to open Big Ten play for both teams.

Caris LeVert added 22 points, including the first nine for the Wolverines (11-3), who have won five in a row.But it was Donnal who dominated once he entered the game as the third Wolverine off the bench.LeVert tied a career best with 10 assists.Kendrick Nunn scored 23 points to lead the Illini (8-6). Jalen Coleman-Lands added 13 and Malcolm Hill 11.Coleman-Lands hit a 3 to close the first half and give Illinois a 37-34 lead at the break.Donnal scored seven during a 9-2 run to open the second half that put the Wolverines in front for good.

”They beat us in every aspect in that second half,” said Illinois coach John Groce. He singled out Donnal for praise. ”His energy out there today, his passion, his emotions, especially in that second half. We needed some of that, and we just didn’t have it.”Groce noted a trend this year for Illinois – good starts followed by a slow fade. ”We have to start responding to adversity better in the second half. This is, I think, the seventh game this year we’ve struggled in the second half.”

Nunn made a layup to pull Illinois within two with 13:48 left, but Michigan’s Zak Irvin answered with a 3-pointer that sparked a 13-2 spurt and made it 61-48 about four minutes later and held off the Illini thereon.Illinois had its five-game win streak snapped.Michigan’s Derrick Walton Jr. scored 9 points and grabbed nine rebounds.

NOTES—Illinois plays Sunday at Ohio State…..Michigan’s deep bench played a role in the victory, outscoring the Illinois bench 29-8….This is the second consecutive year Michigan and Illinois opened Big Ten play against each other. The Wolverines won last year’s opener 73-65 in overtime at home.

Hawks use strong Power Play and hold off Coyotes 7-5

GLENDALE—The Blackhawks hadn’t scored a power-play goal in three games, yet their unit ranks among the top five in the NHL.That showed Tuesday night when the Hawks converted on three of four man-advantage situations in a 7-5 win over the Arizona Coyotes.Patrick Kane scored a goal, assisted on two others and raised his NHL-leading point total to 53. Andrew Desjardins scored twice for the Blackhawks, his second and third of the season, and the Hawks overcame Shane Doan’s hat trick while setting a season high for goals in a game.

”The last few games we haven’t had very many (power-play) opportunities, so sometimes you get out of sync,” Kane said. ”We were 3 for 3 on our first three, so that helps when you get that going.”

Artem Anisimov scored his 13th of the season, Brent Seabrook had two assists and Duncan Keith added a goal and an assist.Doan scored three times for the Coyotes, tying Dale Hawerchuk for the franchise record with 379 career goals. Doan’s third of the night came on a power play with 27.1 seconds left.

”That would be a lot nicer if that was to tie the game instead of to make it a two-goal game,” Doan said. ”Obviously you appreciate it and you’re glad you did, but there’s no joy out of scoring in a game like that.”

The milestone wasn’t lost on his coach.

”It’s an unbelievable sacrifice he makes and the leadership he shows, that this game is out of hand and he’s not going to quit,” the Coyotes’ Dave Tippett said. ”So that’s a great lesson for our young guys in the lineup tonight.”

Desjardins’ first goal 2 minutes into the second gave the Blackhawks a 4-2 lead. Kane made it 5-2 with his goal with 6:12 to play in the period.Corey Crawford stopped 32 shots, though he allowed third-period goals to Doan and Connor Murphy as the Coyotes cut into a 6-2 lead.Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Tobias Rieder contributed three assists apiece for the Coyotes. Michael Stone added two assists.The Blackhawks jumped out to a 2-0 lead on a pair of power-play goals early in the first. Keith put in a shot off a slick backhand pass from Kane at the 13:39 mark, and Anisimov deflected a wrist shot through traffic from Seabrook and past goalie Anders Lindback just more than a minute later.Lindback was removed after the first period with only two stops on five shots. He was replaced by Louis Domingue, who made 19 saves.

”We need saves. Your goaltending is a big part of your penalty kill,” Tippett said. ”It shows us just how far we’ve got to go.”

The Hawks made it 3-2 on a third power-play goal when Artemi Panarin scored with an open shot after a pass from Seabrook. The Blackhawks were 0 for 4 on the power play in their previous three games.Panarin, a rookie, raised his season total to 11 goals.Arizona tied it at 2 in the first period with goals less than 2 minutes apart. Doan bounced a chip shot past Crawford with 9:42 to play, and defenseman Zbynek Michalek scored on a pass from behind the net from Ekman-Larsson.Michalek left the game in the final few minutes after taking a hit from the Blackhawks’ Marian Hossa.Desjardins fired a puck off the body of the Coyotes’ Nicklas Grossman and into the net with 14:56 left in the game for his second goal. Jonathan Toews scored an empty-net goal with 1:39 to play.

”I’ll take them. You’re just trying to get pucks to the net and good things happen, I guess,” Desjardins said.

NOTES—Coyotes C Antoine Vermette faced his former teammates for the first time this season. Arizona traded him to the Blackhawks last season in time for Vermette to help them win the Stanley Cup with seven points in 20 playoff games. Vermette then re-signed with the Coyotes last summer. … Coyotes C Laurent Dauphin, 20, made his NHL debut after being called up from Springfield of the AHL earlier Tuesday. Dauphin and fellow call-up Craig Cunningham played on the fourth line. … The Hawks are 19-3-2 this season when scoring first. … Arizona Senator John McCain performed the ceremonial opening puck drop at center ice before the game.

Snell comes to life as Bulls beat Toronto

Chicago Bulls Logo - Red bull with script above head

Tony Snell has no idea when he might play these days, so he prepares as if he’s still a part of the Bulls’ rotation.Snell and Pau Gasol each had 22 points, Derrick Rose added 20 and the Bulls pulled away late for a 104-97 victory over the Toronto Raptors on Monday night.

”I’m staying ready every day,” Snell said. ”I make sure I’m staying ready at all times.”

Snell, who was back in the rotation because Doug McDermott was a late scratch with a sore right knee, had 19 points in the final 17 1/2 minutes – including 16 in the fourth quarter – to spark the Bulls.If not for McDermott’s injury, Snell, who has started 21 games this season, might not have played at all – just like in two of the previous three games.

”I didn’t know he wasn’t going to play; I had no idea,” Snell said of McDermott. ”I just make sure to stay ready at all times.”

Aaron Brooks had 17 points and rookie Bobby Portis added 12 as the Bulls reserves outscored their counterparts 51-27.Kyle Lowry had 28 points and DeMar DeRozan added 19 for Toronto.Jonas Valanciunas had nine points in 20 minutes off the bench after missing 17 games with a broken left hand.

”He’s getting his sea legs back, getting the rust off,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. ”He’s going to be OK. Jonas is the least of our worries, getting him back in.”

Toronto actually got off to a fast start and held the lead for much of the first three quarters.Luis Scola, who finished with 13 points, had 12 points on 6 of 6 shooting to lead Toronto to a 32-23 lead at the end of the first quarter.The Bulls rallied in the second behind Brooks and Portis. The two reserves combined to score the Bulls first 19 points of the quarter as the Bulls took a 42-40 lead.They led by 49-46 before the Raptors scored the last six points of the first half for a 52-49 advantage.Toronto maintained the lead for most of the third before the Bulls scored the final eight points of the quarter for a 78-73 lead.

”We’ve got to have some support from our second unit,” Casey said.

The Bulls then continued the surge, opening the final quarter with a 13-5 run for a 91-78 lead with just under six minutes to play. Snell had seven points during the run, while Portis added four.

”I’m really happy for Tony,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. ”I’m really proud of Tony for staying in there. He’s one of those kids that’s easy to coach.”

Valanciunas had been sidelined since the second half of a game against the Los Angeles Lakers on Nov. 20. He still leads the team with five double-doubles . They entered the game leading the NBA with a plus-88 scoring differential in the fourth quarter…..Joakim Noah (left shoulder sprain) did some on court work before the game, but still isn’t close to being ready to return. ”He’s feeling better,” Hoiberg said. ”He’ll get reevaluated, I think, a week from today. He still has soreness and, obviously, he’s not doing any contact right now. We’ll know more next week.”…..The win over Toronto (19-13) continues the Bulls’ trend of being at their best against the NBA’s best. They’ve also beaten Cleveland, Oklahoma City (twice), Indiana, and San Antonio, while losing to Brooklyn, New York and Phoenix….
”It’s all about effort and energy,” Rose said. ”We have that when we play the best teams and sometimes we don’t against the lesser teams.”
The Bulls host the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday

Gould’s 4 field goals give Bears 26-21 win over Lovie, Bucs.

TAMPA—The Bears are determined to prove a losing record isn’t the best indicator of what kind of team they’re going to be in the future.Running back Ka’Deem Carey delivered a glimpse of what he might be able to contribute moving forward, rushing for one touchdown and catching a pass for another Sunday to help the Bears stop a three-game losing streak with a 26-21 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.Rebounding from a disappointing performance in a 21-point loss to Minnesota, the Bears (6-9) surpassed their victory total for a year ago to create some momentum heading into next week’s season finale against Detroit.Coach John Fox, hired after Marc Trestman was fired following a 5-11 finish in 2014, is confident the team’s headed in the right direction.

”We feel it; those guys feel it. We’re getting there,” Fox said. ”We need to improve. They know it, but they’re still trying to finish this year well. We’ve got one more game to try to avoid a double-digit losing season.”

Carey caught a 1-yard TD pass from Jay Cutler, and the third-string running back also scored on a 1-yard run while teaming with Matt Forte and Jeremy Langford to spearhead a rushing attack that gained 174 yards and kept Tampa Bay’s Jameis Winston off the field for long stretches.The victory was only the second in the past six games for the Bears. Tampa Bay has lost four of five, including three straight after rebounding from a slow start to climb into contention for a wild-card playoff berth.

”We’ve just got to bounce back. It’s the NFL. Sometimes this stuff happens,” Winston said of the tough stretch that ensures the Bucs (6-9) will finish with a losing record for the fifth straight season.Obviously we don’t want it to happen to us, but it happened. We have to be accountable,” the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s NFL draft said. ”And every one of those games, it’s our fault. You can pick two or three plays to say: `This could have changed the game.’ That’s what this game comes down to. … If you want to be a great team, you’ve got to make every single play count.”

Winston completed 15 of 29 passes for 295 yards with one costly interception. He threw for two TDs, including a 43-yard Hail Mary toss to Austin Seferian-Jenkins with one second remaining.Cutler was 20 of 27 for 156 yards, one TD and no interceptions. Robbie Gould kicked first-half field goals of 26 and 27 yards, then added a couple of long ones – 49 and 50 yards – after Tampa Bay took the lead early in the second half.The Bears, meanwhile, forced three turnovers – one of them Harold Jones-Quartey’s goal-line interception – and limited Pro Bowl running back Doug Martin to 49 yards rushing on 17 attempts.

”We had a lot of reasons to play well. We practiced well. I thought we were prepared,” said Bucs coach Lovie Smith, who also feels his team is better than it has performed during its late-season skid. ”We’re disappointed. What it says about our team is if you turn the ball over and you make a couple critical mistakes on the other end, you have an outcome like that,” Smith added. ”This is a better football team. Today we didn’t play our best ball.”

Both teams were eliminated from playoff contention last week, but want to use the final two games of the season to learn about young players and set the tone for next year.One of Tampa Bay’s goals also is to try to help Martin win the NFL rushing title. The fourth-year pro entered day as the league’s second-leading rusher, 9 yards behind Adrian Peterson.Martin scored on a 4-yard run set up by a blocked punt, but the Bears outrushed the Bucs 95-40 and controlled the ball for just over 20 minutes in building a 13-7 halftime lead.Winston then handed off to Martin five consecutive times before finishing a six-play, 78-yard touchdown drive with a sideline throw to Charles Sims that the running back turned into a 50-yard scoring play to put the Bucs ahead 14-13.

NOTES—angford rushed for 83 yards on 19 carries, Forte had 54 yards on 11 attempts, and Carey carried seven times for 16 yards. … Smith lost for the second straight season to Chicago, the team he coached for nine seasons from 2004 to 2012. The Bears won three division titles and appeared in two NFC championship games and one Super Bowl under him. … The Bucs forced zero turnovers. They have one takeaway in the past five games.

Hawks done in again by a hot(Lack)goalie

The Carolina Hurricanes are learning to keep pucks out of their net – and they’re finally showing signs of climbing from the depths of the Eastern Conference.Justin Faulk and Victor Rask scored, backup Eddie Lack stopped 35 shots and the Hurricanes beat the Blackhawks 2-1 on Sunday night for their third win in four games and seventh in their last 11.Brent Seabrook spoiled Lack’s shutout bid with 3 seconds left and Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford on the bench for an extra attacker. The Blackhawks lost 4-0 to Dallas in their previous game on Tuesday night.

”We’re going the right way,” Carolina coach Bill Peters said. ”We play more of a puck-possession game. Our D skate better and is very young. That’s exciting.”

Lack wasn’t consistently tested until the Blackhawks outshot Carolina 19-9 in the third period. No. 1 goalie Cam Ward got the night off while the Hurricanes played on the second night in a row.

”(Lack) played great,” Faulk said. ”Wardo played good, too (Saturday), and any time you have that going, you get a little bit more comfortable. You can make a few more plays and not worry about turning it over too much when they’re on their game.”

Faulk scored his second even-strength goal of the season after netting his first on Saturday night in the Hurricanes’ 3-1 win over New Jersey. The Carolina defenseman leads the NHL with 12 power-play goals and is tied for the team lead with 14 goals overall.The Hurricanes’ Jeff Skinner had two assists.Crawford made 25 saves, but the Blackhawks were nearly blanked for the second straight game.

”They blocked a lot of shots, but we were looking to make too many plays, either entering their zone or into the slot, that were denied,” Joel Quenneville said. ”We have to get greasier goals.”

The coach suggested Carolina and Lack might have gotten a little lucky, too.

”I counted about six chances that were either empty-net or potential empty-nets that we either misfired or didn’t bear down or weren’t hungry enough,” Quenneville said.

The Blackhawks outshot the Hurricanes 12-11 in the scoreless first and had the better of the few chances in the frame.Lack stretched to make a point-blank glove save on Jonathan Toews’ backhander at 7:45 of the second after Toews skated across the crease unchecked.Carolina’s Andrej Nestrasil’s shot hit the left post with just under 3 minutes left in the second.Faulk finally opened the scoring with 18.2 seconds left in the period when he fooled Crawford with a rising, screened shot from the left circle. With Seabrook blocking Crawford’s view, Faulk’s shot sailed over the goalie’s blocker.Rask made it 2-0 at 4:45 of the third from a faceoff with another screened shot. With Phillip Di Guiseppe parked in the crease, Rask beat Crawford high on the glove side from the right circle for his 10th goal.Lack made a couple of alert saves in the final minutes to nearly preserve his shutout. He stopped NHL leading scorer Patrick Kane from the doorstep with 40 seconds left.But Seabrook cut it to 2-1 when his shot from the slot slipped under Lack’s pads and trickled in.

NOTES—Blackhawks F Marian Hossa returned after missing two games with an injury. … Seabrook played in his 800th career game. … Carolina forwards Kris Versteeg and Joakim Nordstrom, members of the Blackhawks 2014-15 Stanley Cup team, skated against their former club or the first time since being traded to the Hurricanes in September in a move to open salary cap space. … The two teams will meet again on Jan. 26 in Raleigh, N.C.

Bulls fail to guard Barea’s three pointers, along with key turnovers cost Bulls

Chicago Bulls Logo - Red bull with script above head

DALLAS—J.J. Barea pulled up from a couple of feet behind the 3-point line just after returning to the game and hit the last of his five straight from long range in the first half.The diminutive guard simply has that can’t-miss feeling right now.Barea made a career-high seven from beyond the arc and finished with 26 points coming off his first 30-point game, and the Dallas Mavericks beat the┬áBulls 118-111 Saturday night in a game delayed 30 minutes by tornadoes in the Dallas area.Starting for the injured Deron Williams for the second straight game, Barea made his first seven from long range and is 12 of 15 going back to an overtime win against Brooklyn on Wednesday, when he had a career-high 32 points.

”When you’re in a good rhythm, you basically try to look for more shots,” Barea said. ”But today they were good ones. With the ball screens on top, I just kept working until I was open, and it worked out.”

Derrick Rose led the Bulls with 25 points, including nine in the fourth quarter, but had a key turnover before getting called for a 5-second violation when the visitors had a chance to tie in the final 11 seconds.

”I think I lost this game with the turnovers,” Rose said. ”We were down to such a critical point in the game. I feel bad. I feel like I lost this game for the team.”

Dirk Nowitzki scored 16 points in his first home game since passing Shaquille O’Neal on the career scoring list, and Zaza Pachulia had 17 points and 12 rebounds. Barea was 7 for 8 from beyond the arc.Nikola Mirotic had 23 points, seven rebounds and three blocks for the Bulls, who were trying for back-to-back wins a night after winning at Oklahoma City. The Mavericks had a mini two-day Christmas break.Raymond Felton broke a late tie with two free throws after a strong drive to the basket, and then tipped a pass from Rose that Nowitzki grabbed and threw ahead to Chandler Parsons. After stopping at the basket, Parsons handed off to Wesley Matthews for a layup and a 112-108 lead.After Rose missed a runner that he had success with earlier in the game, Felton made two more free throws for a 114-108 Dallas lead with 38 seconds left.Jimmy Butler hit a 3-pointer that bounced around the rim, and the Bulls got another chance after a Dallas miss. But with Felton defending him, Rose couldn’t get the ball in. Felton had six of his 13 points on free throws in the final 1:07.

”I just thought our guys’ collective will carried them in this game,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. ”We got great contributions from every position.”

Pau Gasol had 18 points, nine rebounds and three blocks, and Butler scored 17 points with a game-high eight assists.Nowitzki got a standing ovation early in the first quarter after a video tribute for him passing O’Neal for No. 6 on the NBA’s scoring list in the Mavericks’ last game at Brooklyn. The 37-year-old German promptly hit a fadeaway jumper coming out of the timeout.The Bulls had another solid game coming off a three-game losing streak that ended with the victory at the Thunder.

”We went on the road in two very tough environments and got a great win yesterday in Oklahoma City and had a chance in this one in a tough building,” coach Fred Hoiberg said.

Parsons is getting closer to completing his recovery from offseason knee surgery. He had a season high in minutes for the second straight game, matched his season best with 20 points and perhaps had his best overall game. He tied Barea and Felton with a team-high five assists in 35 1/2 minutes.

”Parsons is ready,” Carlisle said. ”He’s feeling good. His all-around game was great.”

NOTES—Joakim Noah missed his second straight game with a left shoulder sprain. He got hurt Monday against Brooklyn and is expected to miss at least another week. … Rose and Mirotic both had their fourth 20-point game of the season….Mavericks: Carlisle wouldn’t put a timetable on Williams’ return from a left hamstring strain. … Devin Harris returned after missing three games with a right hamstring injury. … Pachulia had his 16th double-double, surpassing last season’s total in Milwaukee…..The Bulls host Toronto on Monday.

Bulls start fast, beat Thunder 105-96

Chicago Bulls Logo - Red bull with script above head

OKLAHOMA CITY—The Bulls were angry and on edge after three straight losses. They channeled those emotions into one of their best wins of the season.Jimmy Butler scored 23 points, and Pau Gasol had 21 points and 13 rebounds in the Bulls’ 105-96 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday.In a game that featured several skirmishes, the Bulls outrebounded the NBA’s No. 2 rebounding team 53-48.

”We’ve just got to go out there and attack,” Taj Gibson, who got a double technical with Oklahoma City’s Serge Ibaka, said. ”It’s no time to be friends with anybody right now. We’ve got enough friends in here. We’re with each other 24-7. We can’t go out there and look to be nice to everybody.”

Derrick Rose added 19 points, and Gibson had 13 points and 10 rebounds.The Bulls held the Thunder to 38.5-percent shooting, Oklahoma City’s third-worst showing of the season.Kevin Durant had 29 points, nine rebounds and seven assists for Oklahoma City, and Russell Westbrook added 26 points, eight assists and seven rebounds. The Thunder had won three straight and nine of 10.

”I think we did a really good job of making sure we closed out to 3-point shooters,” Rose said. ”We trusted the game plan. We know K.D. is a great 3-point shooter, (Anthony) Morrow, and Westbrook when his feet are set, and you just can’t let them get hot. Everybody else on the team, we forced them to make shots and make plays.”

Durant said he didn’t like the way the Thunder played at times when they got behind.

”If you try to get it all back in one play, try to get a steal, try to come down and shoot a pull-up 3 – just doing stupid stuff that we did all night, it will be tough to win,” Durant said.

The Bulls led 51-37 with 4:58 left in the first half, but the Thunder cut it to 54-52 at halftime. Durant scored 19 points in the half, and Westbrook had 12 points and five assists.Gasol and Butler each scored 11 points in the first half for the Bulls,who scored the first eight points of the second half to go up 62-52 and force the Thunder to call a timeout. The Bulls led 86-68 at the end of the third quarter.The Bulls led by 18 at the end of the third quarter. Oklahoma City changed things up and played Morrow and Enes Kanter with Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka for most of the fourth quarter. A pair of 3-pointers by Morrow cut the lead to 97-89 with just under 5 minutes to play, but the Bulls hung on.

”We withstood their run, which I think everyone knew they were going to go on in the fourth quarter, and they (the Bulls) made big plays down the stretch,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said.

The lineup that Oklahoma City started the fourth quarter with – Durant, Westbrook, Ibaka, Kanter and Morrow – outscored the Bulls 28-19. Morrow and Kanter don’t start, in part, because of defensive shortcomings, but that group held the Bulls to 6-for-20 shooting.Kanter wore Christmas socks with green stripes and red snowflakes. He is a Muslim, but he said he respects different cultures. ”Well, I live in the U.S. now, and I’m just really cool with all of the holidays – Christmas, Thanksgiving,” he said. ”It’s pretty cool.”

Gibson, on defending Westbrook: ”Russ is a hard opponent to go against, especially with the way he attacks,” he said. ”We just all wanted bodies in front of him. Put bodies in front of him and make sure somebody contested him at the rim, and compete.”

The Bulls ran out to an 11-0 lead. … C Joakim Noah sat out with a left shoulder sprain. … Beat the Thunder 104-98 at United Center on Nov. 5. … Butler hit a 35-foot 3-pointer at the end of the first quarter. … Rose fouled out.The Bulls are at Dallas on Saturday night.

GROBBER’S NFL WEEK 16 PICKS

AFC GAMES: KC over Cleve, MIA iver Indy, N.Eng over NYJ, Hou over TENN, Pitt over BALT NFC GAMES: Car over ATL, SEAT over St,L INTER-CONF GAMES: BUFF over Dal, N,ORL over Jax THURSDAY: OAK over S.Deigo SATURDAY: Wash over PHIL MONDAY: DEN over Cin NFC NORTH GAMES: DET over S.Fran, MINN over NYGiants(Sun Nite),ARIZ over G.Bay, TB over Bears HOME teams in CALL CAPS. LAST WEEK: Les 9-7, Producers 13-3