Blackhawks

Asik excited about facing former team on his new turf

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Asik excited about facing former team on his new turf

HOUSTONThis citys Houston good, Omer Asik said. A little bit hotter than Chicago.

Besides the change in weather, the former Bulls center is thriving on the court, averaging 10 points and 12.3 rebounds per game, albeit for a 4-7 team. His new squad, the Rockets, host the Bulls at the Toyota Center in a battle of two clubs trying to snap losing streaks two consecutive defeats for the Bulls, a trio of losses for Houston Wednesday night.

Im really excited. I spent two years with them and we had a really good team, and good friendships with everybody, Asik told CSNChicago.com after the Rockets morning shootaround. Its going to be really interesting to play against them.

Asik, a native of Turkey whose mastery of English is far better than he lets on, has fond memories of his time in Chicago, despite signing a three-year, nearly 25 million contract with the Rockets as a free agent over the summer.

Actually, it wasnt totally my decision either. Its just happened like that, whatever happened and Im just moving forward, he said, referring to the Bulls decision not to match Houstons back-loaded offer sheet, which included a 15 million salary for the final year of the deal. I had a really good coach, Thibs, and really good, experienced teammates that helped me a lot in my first two seasons and Im very happy that I started my NBA career with them.

I watch some Bulls games, but not much. But theyve been playing very good, like they always do, continued Asik, who noted that the Bulls are used to playing without injured superstar Derrick Rose, who missed 27 regular-season games last year. Of course, when you play without the MVP, its a little bit tough, but I think theyve been playing very good, especially on defense.

Asik shrugged off praise for his offensive development, but did refer to the challenges of playing with one of the NBAs youngest teams, led by the dynamic backcourt of James Harden and Jeremy Lin.

Im trying to play hard, like usual. Im just trying to win the games to help the team. Thats all I can do, try to get better, he explained. Lin and Harden are really talented and James played last season in the Finals, which is a good experience at a young age and playing with them, we dont know each other yet, but I think itll get better.

Added Rockets interim head coach Kelvin Sampson, who is filling in for regular head coach Kevin McHale while the Hall of Famer deals with a family issue: Sometimes when a guy I think he averaged 14 minutes a game prior to coming here theres always a little bit of a mystery factor. What would he do if he had 30 minutes or 35 minutes?

Hes one of a handful -- 10 guys maybe -- in the NBA, thats averaging a double-double. I think that Omer has to never forget who he is, though. Sometimes, theres a double-edged sword with working with guys on their offense. They want to go to games and start experimenting. Id rather you experiment in practice, hoss, continued Sampson, who was familiar with Asik from his time as an assistant coach with Milwaukee, a Central Division rival of the Bulls.

He needs to be more sure of whats going on come game time. But Omer is more of a facilitator for us than a scorer. I think thats part of his growth as he gets older and more experienced, that he hes going to get more comfortable with catching the ball and scoring. Hes not there yet, but hes trying. But we dont want him trying at the expense of getting other guys shots. Omer needs to run the floor, needs to set good screens.

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' overtime loss to Lightning: Missed opportunities and one too many penalties

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' overtime loss to Lightning: Missed opportunities and one too many penalties

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks’ 3-2 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday night:
 
1. One too many penalties.

The Blackhawks flirted with danger in the first period when they handed the Lightning three straight continuous power plays, a four-minute double minor high-sticking penalty from John Hayden and a Jonathan Toews hooking call that resulted in a 5-on-3 opportunity for Tampa Bay for 43 seconds. 

The penalty kill unit that ranked fourth in the league entering the matchup, however, killed off all three of those penalties against the NHL's top-ranked power play, and did so in commanding fashion.

The Blackhawks went 5-for-5 on the penalty kill in regulation, but couldn't stop the sixth one — a questionable slashing call on Nick Schmaltz —  in overtime when Brayden Point buried the winner on a 4-on-3 opportunity.

It was also interesting that Jon Cooper elected to go with four forwards (Nikita Kucherov, Vladislav Namestnikov, Point and Steven Stamkos) and zero defensemen during that man advantage, putting all of his offensive weapons out on the ice. It's something more teams should do in that situation.

2. Patrick Kane gets going.

After scoring just one goal in his previous 10 games, Kane found the back of the net twice in the opening frame against Tampa Bay and stayed hot against a team he historically plays well against. And he nearly netted a hat trick in overtime but couldn't cash in on a breakaway opportunity.

Kane has 20 points (eight goals, 12 assists) in 14 career regular-season games against the Lightning, and extended his point streak to five games. He has three goals and four assists over that stretch.

We wrote about how important it is for the Blackhawks' superstars to get going again with the offensive contributions mainly coming from role players as of late, and Kane getting into a groove is a perfect step in that direction.

3. How about that goaltending battle?

Corey Crawford and Andrei Vasilevskiy showed us exactly why they belong in the Vezina Trophy discussion, and as of this moment, it's hard not to include both of them as finalists. They put on a goaltending clinic, seemingly topping the other as the game went on.

The two teams combined for 71 scoring chances, and Crawford and Vasilevskiy came up big when their teams need them the most.

Crawford finished with 35 saves on 38 shots (.921 save percentage) in the loss while Vasilevskiy stopped 29 of 31 (.935 save percentage), and improved to 15-2-1 on the season. 

4. Missed opportunities.

You couldn't have asked for a better start for the Blackhawks. They scored the first goal 3:49 into the game and the second on the power play at 15:54, killed off three penalties, including a 5-on-3, had 24 shot attempts (13 on goal) compared to the Lightning's 16 attempts (11 on goal) and led in even-strength scoring chances 9-6.

It was a different story the rest of the way.

The Blackhawks took their foot off the gas pedal a bit and let the Lightning back in the game by getting away from what they do best, and that's control the puck. Obviously, you expected the league's best offense to push back and it's certainly not an easy task to keep them off the scoresheet all together. 

But the Blackhawks had their chances to stay in front or retake the lead and just couldn't bury them. Tampa Bay had 50 shot attempts from the second period on while the Blackhawks had only 32, and finished with 44 scoring chances compared to Chicago's 27.

5. Richard Panik in the doghouse?

Joel Quenneville didn't go to his line blender in this one, but he did shorten some leashes. Panik, most notably, had a season-low 12:28 of ice time in the loss and had 15 shifts, which was second-fewest only to Ryan Hartman (13) on the team.

Panik had a prime chance to break a 2-2 tie in the third period but was denied by Vasilevskiy, who made a remarkable left-pad save. Instead, Panik extended his goal drought to 12 games and didn't get a shift in overtime.

He's certainly better and will get his scoring chances when playing on the top line with Toews and Brandon Saad, but the missed opportunities are magnified in tight losses. It doesn't look like a move down in the lineup is coming given the success of Alex DeBrincat, who gives the Blackhawks an offensive weapon on the third line, but perhaps it should be considered.

Bring your own stuffing: Jazz swat Bulls on Thanksgiving Eve

Bring your own stuffing: Jazz swat Bulls on Thanksgiving Eve

On the second (turkey) leg of a back-to-back, the Bulls didn't bring much energy in a 110-80 loss to the Utah Jazz. 

Instead of diving into the nitty-gritty of the uninspiring effort, though, we decided to just serve you up a Thanksgiving meal of highlights. Here are the top blocks from Wednesday's game: 

5. Derrick Favors is no Rudy Gobert -- that we know -- but imitation is the highest form of flattery. 

4. Are Bobby Portis chase down blocks the new LeBron James chase down blocks? Let's not get carried away... yet. We'll chalk it up to just a real nice hustle play by Bobby. 

3 and 2. Speaking of hustle plays... Jonas Jerebko isn't exactly known as a dominant defender. He sure made it hard for the Bulls on what should of been an easy fast-break bucket in the third quarter, though. First, he silenced Kris Dunn's reverse. Then, he met Lauri Markkanen at the rim and sent the rookie packing. The Baby Bulls 2.0 can blame it on fatigue, but they just handed Jerebko a highlight tape for years to come.   

1. In fairness, Jerian Grant had to get up a shot as the quarter was coming to a close. It is as vicious as it looks, though.