Blackhawks

Bulls look to rebound in the Rose Garden

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Bulls look to rebound in the Rose Garden

Monday, Feb. 7, 2011
4:30 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

PORTLANDWith Bulls losses being few and far between this season, sometimes the smallest bump in the roadremember the gloom and doom after the two-game road losing streak last month to lesser lights New Jersey and Philadelphia?causes a great deal of consternation. When it comes to All-Star point guard Derrick Rose being off his game for an eveninghe recorded nine assists in Chicagos 101-90 defeat at the hands of the Warriors in Oakland Saturdayirrational implications that the Bulls are headed for a nose dive and subsequent crash landing become that much more magnified.

Derricks not going to play great in 82 straight games, quipped Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau prior to the teams morning shootaround at the Rose Garden, where they will face the Trail Blazers Monday night. Thats the reality of it. He wasnt at his best, but still, the guy scored 14 points, he had 10 assists.

For an ordinary player, not such a bad gameminus the turnovers, an aspect of Roses game he takes personally. But such an uncharacteristic outing for the superstar muddled the explanation of why it occurred in the first place.

Thats my first time ever seeing three people. Usually, its two, but last time they brought a third person over, explained Rose when asked about Golden States trapping defense, jibing with what he told reporters after Saturdays game. It seemed like I was Carmelo Anthony or something, or Kobe Bryant.

It was weird. I think I found the open person, looking at film and I think that we went over what were going to do about it. We will see how the Trail Blazers play us tonight. If they play us that way, I think weve got an answer for it, he continued. Of course it bothered me that night, but we play another game tonight to redeem ourselves.

I never was able to get into the game. In the beginning, a couple of plays. Never got that feeling.

Thibodeaus view of his stars subpar performance slightly differed.

Really, Golden State did nothing that we havent seen before and when you study what happened, most of his turnovers came in transition and on isolation plays. The double team or the trap, hes seen that all year, said the coach. In the third quarter, when theyre up 12, no ones talking about, What are they doing to Derrick? Most of his turnovers were mishandles in transition when you study the tape.

Regardless, when asked specifically Rose wouldnt let one poor game lead to a downward spiral and how the team in general would rebound, Rose and Thibodeau were on the same page.

Just do the opposite of what I did the last gamethats the biggest thingso turnovers, definitely that and just staying aggressive, said the point guard. I think that our defense is going to have to lead us tonight, if anything, because offensively, I think were all right, but our defense wasnt there that game. It seemed like we were trying to outscore them instead of stopping them and that was hurting us.

Recounted Thibodeau: In the fourth quarter, thats when we struggled. When Derrick went out of the game, we had a hard time. Thats when they got their cushion. And I liked a lot of the shots that we got off the pick-and-rollthats how we got the 12-point lead in the third quarterwhen you study the plays that Derrick and Carlos Boozer made off the pick-and-roll, thats how we got the lead.

The thing that concerned me more than anything else was we went into the game and our defense wasnt what it should have been, so when we had the 12-point lead and we missed some open shotsKeith Bogans had a wide-open three, which is his shot, from the cornerwe had no floor balance, they come down and get a two-on-onefast break, Thibodeau continued. What we do have control over is getting back in transition on the raise of the shot, protecting our basket. We couldnt count on our defense when we needed it the most, which is the fourth quarter; we gave up 28 points.

If we have our normal defense from the start of the game, that should carry us through, which we didnt have. So, Im more concerned about how we approached that game from a defensive standpoint than from an offensive standpoint. We shot 47 percent. Thats the big concern; the 31 points that they got in transition.

As far as Mondays opponent, Portland, both player and coach understand it will be a different ballgame than the frenetic, run-and-gun style the Warriors sucked the Bulls into Saturday.

I think that were used to this game, instead of the Golden State game, where it was up and down, up and down. I think that were used to pushing it sometimes, stopping, slowing it down, going into high-low, space outa game like that, Rose remarked. They almost do the same. Pick-and-roll, sometimes throw it into Aldridge, everybody spaces. Its like an isolationa lot of late isolationbut well see how tonight goes.

Thibodeau added: This team, theyve got a lot and Trail Blazers head coach Nate McMillan has done a great job with them. Theyve had a number of injuries throughout the season and hes kept them together, and theyre a tough team to play.

Despite Portlands winning record, injuries have historically plagued them and this seasons been no exception. Not only has it been another wasted campaign for former No. 1 pick Greg Oden, but fellow centers Marcus Camby and Joel Pryzbilla (now back in the lineup) have also gone down, not to mention star guard Brandon Roy.

Somehow though, the Blazers have managed to pick up the pieces, with power forward LaMarcus Aldridge emerging as a go-to scorer in Roys absence, with free-agent acquisition Wesley Matthewslike Bulls Boozer, Ronnie Brewer and Kyle Korver, Matthews is a Utah expatriate; the second-year swingmans contract raised eyebrows in the summer, but he seems like a bargain these daysalso stepping up on the perimeter with veteran floor general Andre Miller, French small forward Nicolas Batum and formerly disgruntled Spanish reserve sharpshooter Rudy Fernandez, once considered a potential Bulls trade target.

Aldridge is having a monster season. Since Roys been out, hes over 25 points a game and he can do it a number of different ways. Hes got a terrific post-up game and hes very good facing the basket, said Thibodeau. His touch away from the basket18 feetis automatic, so you have to close to him like youre closing to a guard and hes very confident down there.

Sometimes I think the thing that gets overlooked with this team is Andre Miller. I think Andre Miller does a great job of running a team and he also has the ability to make you pay for every body-position mistake that you make. When theyre running their catch-and-shoot plays, hes very good at finding the screeners insidetheyre very good at slipping screenshes one of the best lob passers in the game, hes an underrated shooter from 17 feet and hes a terrific post-up player, he continued. Matthews is having a terrific season, Fernandez is really coming on, so they can hurt you with the three, Batum has been very, very good for them.

Added Rose: I know its hard for them right now, where a guy Roy that was scoring what, 20-something points is gone. Aldridge is taking over and hes doing a great job.

Were missing Joakim Noah right now, theyre missing a key player.

So when impatience about Noahs return from injuryslated for after the All-Star breaksets in and despair about a lone off night (after six consecutive wins) against an unorthodox-styled squad rises to the surface, keep in mind that things could be a lot tougher, but still manageable. Ask the Blazers.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 3-2 loss to Blue Jackets: Looking at the bigger picture

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USA TODAY

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 3-2 loss to Blue Jackets: Looking at the bigger picture

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 3-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena on Saturday night:

1. Blackhawks squander two leads.

For the 13th time in their past 16 games, the Blackhawks scored the first goal of the game. They had won their previous three instances when doing so, but couldn't seal the deal this time and fell to 5-6-2 in those 13 games.

What strung even more is that the Blackhawks held two one-goal leads and couldn't hang on to either of them. They have the seventh-worst win percentage (.571) when scoring the first goal this season with a 20-10-5 record.

2. Vinnie Hinostroza continues to produce offensively.

If you're trying to look for a rare bright spot on the Blackhawks roster this season, here's one. Hinostroza registered a secondary assist on David Kampf's goal for his fifth point in six games, and was on the ice for 16 shot attempts for and seven against during 5-on-5 play for a team-leading shot attempt differential of plus-9 (also known as Corsi).

For the season, Hinostroza has 20 points (six goals, 14 assists) in 32 games and he's doing so while averaging only 13:27 of ice time. His point-per-game average is up to 0.63, which is tied with Jonathan Toews for third on the team; only Patrick Kane (0.92) and Nick Schmaltz (0.71) are producing at a higher rate.

Hinostroza deserves more minutes, but at the same time his ability to produce on any of the four lines has allowed Joel Quenneville to put him in a bottom six role for balance.

"I like his speed," Quenneville said recently on why Hinostroza has been so effective. "I think with the puck, he's been good with it as well. More strength, on it, managing it, better decisions with it, and good plays off it. He definitely brings you energy and some speed, he can catch people with that quickness."

3. Ryan Hartman's benching.

Hartman was part of the fourth line that contributed to the Blackhawks' first goal of the game, and he was on his way to having a strong one. But that changed quickly after he took an ill-advised penalty in the first period.

Already leading 1-0, the Blackhawks had a 2-on-1 opportunity developing involving Hinostroza and David Kampf but Hartman was whistled for high-sticking at 17:06 behind the play. The Blue Jackets converted on the power play, and that was the end of Hartman's night.

He took only five shifts and finished with a season-low 4:16 of ice time, with Quenneville using it as an opportunity for a teaching moment.

4. Tomas Jurco building confidence back up.

It's been a tough season mentally for Jurco. He started the season with the AHL's Rockford IceHogs after failing to make the team out of camp, and compiled 25 points (13 goals, 12 assists) in 36 games. 

It earned him a call-up on Jan. 8, with Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman praising the way he progressed: "He looks like he's totally different, in terms of his composure and ability to make plays. That's why we brought him up here."

The problem? He was a healthy scratch for five straight games and went two weeks without seeing game action with the Blackhawks. Not exactly the best way to keep someone's confidence building. And since then, he's been fighting for a spot in the lineup.

For the last three games, Jurco has been given a shot on the second line with Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane and he cashed in for his first goal of the season tonight and first since March 27, 2017. It's also the second straight game he's recorded a point.

While he may not be worth much if the Blackhawks were to deal him ahead of Monday's deadline, perhaps a change of scenery to a team that believes in him as a fit will bring out the best of his abilities. The Blackhawks tried and it just hasn't worked out.

5. Blue line observation.

This is more of a big-picture takeaway, but the Blackhawks have gotten only 20 goals from their defensemen this season. The Blue Jackets have gotten a combined 19 from just Seth Jones and Zach Werenski. Last season the Blackhawks had 30 total.

The Blackhawks just haven't gotten the offensive production needed from their back end and it's so important as it helps alleviate some of the pressure off the forwards.

I asked Quenneville about this after Friday's game and here's what he had to say: "Whether you score or not, you need the D to be part of your attack, be it off the rush, in zone. But I think the whole game, the whole league is four-man rush game, five-man attacks, coming at you, night-in, night-out, wave after wave.

"But you need to get your D involved in your support on the attack and you need them on the offensive zone off the point. You need some shooters on the back end that can get them through as well. I think offensive production from the back end in today’s game really enhances your offense and your possession game."

Jimmy Butler's injury produced memories for Zach LaVine, Fred Hoiberg

Jimmy Butler's injury produced memories for Zach LaVine, Fred Hoiberg

MINNEAPOLIS — That feeling of having your knee buckle out of nowhere, Zach LaVine is all-too familiar with it.

That feeling of being on the sidelines and watching Jimmy Butler’s knee give out, Fred Hoiberg has been there, too.

Different perspectives, and different reactions but Butler’s knee injury produced a sick feeling to many who watched it Friday night. Butler turned to pivot in the Timberwolves’ game against the Houston Rockets and immediately collapsed on the floor, having to be carried off.

LaVine tore his ACL in Detroit over a year ago, while it was revealed Butler suffered a right meniscus injury. But it looked all the same and LaVine understood the uncertainty Butler must’ve been feeling before the MRI revealed it wasn’t an ACL injury.

“It’s scary,” LaVine said following morning shootaround at the Target Center Saturday afternoon. “I wish him the best. You don’t want to see that happen to anybody. Especially a player of his caliber and what he’s done for the team.”

When LaVine injured his ACL, he actually played a few more minutes before being removed and going to the locker room. The time between being evaluated by doctors and them coming back feels like a lifetime.

“It’s scary. You know you hurt yourself, you don’t know how bad,” LaVine said. “You think you’re good, you’re a tough minded person trying to get through it.”

“I saw him on the ground trying to get up, (Rockets guard) Chris Paul made him sit down. Jimmy’s a tough dude. Thoughts and prayers going out to him.”

Butler and LaVine were the centerpieces of the draft day trade involving the Bulls and Timberwolves. With Butler suffering the injury the night before playing his former team a second time, the timing produced a bunch of memories.

In Hoiberg’s first year with the Bulls, Butler went down in a somewhat similar manner in Denver, a non-contact injury. It looked just as bad, and Butler was taken off the floor in a wheelchair.

Thankfully it was a right knee strain that cost him several weeks but it wasn’t as bad as it looked. Considering the minutes he’s played over the last few years, Hoiberg was asked if Butler pushes himself too hard to be on the floor.

“Jimmy he wants to be out there,” Hoiberg said. “I remember the first year in Denver, he went down with what looked to be a serious injury. Thankfully he was back on the floor after 15-16 games.”

Actually, Butler missed 11 consecutive games before coming back for a nationally-televised game against the Rockets, playing 34 minutes in a Bulls win and missing the next three games for recovery.

“We really worried when he went down but it wasn’t something that ended his season,” Hoiberg said. “Jimmy’s a worker. He’s one of the hardest working guys I’ve seen. It’s a huge reason for the type of player he is, that work ethic to make him one of the elite players in the league.”