Bulls

How important is the Heat game?

661560.png

How important is the Heat game?

If you ask Joakim Noah, Wednesday's Bulls-Heat clash is just as big as it's been advertised.

Yeah, I think it's an important game. I mean, everybody sees it the way they want to see it. Maybe in the standings, but everybody knows tomorrow is a big game. Were all excited, the center said after the Bulls Tuesday-afternoon practice at the Berto Center. You want to play against the best. Its going to be a competitive game. They have a lot of great players. Its a team that eliminated us and went to the Finals. We just want to set the tone.

However, according to Tom Thibodeau, the showdown is only important because, as hes fond of saying, its the next game on the teams schedule, meaning there wouldnt be any extra preparation for the primetime affair.

Just all your normal stuff. For us, its not going to change. Every game, we do the same. The routine remains the same, said the coach, who had a one-on-one post-practice video session with Derrick Rose, a staple during last season. To me, theyre all the same. They all count the same. We have to be ready to play.

While Noah and Thibodeau have conflicting views on how big the game is, the two do share similar opinions on philosophy.

Play smart. Try to really limit our turnovers. Play good defense, which is something we havent done in a while, and play our game, said Noah. All these games against Miami are really, really close. We know we gave up a lot of points in transition off our turnovers. If we can limit that, it will work in our favor.

Echoed Thibodeau: We know we have to defend, weve got to rebound, weve got to take care of the ball. That was one thing in the game down there we felt we didnt do a good job of and the way they convert turnovers into points, if they get into the open floor, theyre hard to stop, so weve got to do a better job. More inside-out and well go from there.

Just run our offense. Theyre an excellent defensive team and LeBrons an excellent defender, and their team is excellent, so we have to try to attack them before theyre set and if they are set, weve got to move them, keep the ball moving, keep our bodies moving and the big thing is taking care of the ball, he continued. Theyre a good team. Were chasing them. Theyre the Eastern Conference champions from last year, so we know we have to come out and play real hard.

Thibodeau said that while the Bulls can take some lessons from their narrow late-January loss at Miami, he isnt dwelling on that outcome.

That ones long gone. The big thing for us is to learn from the games, move on, focus in on the next game and all were concentrating on is tomorrows game. Whats happened in the past is the past. Theres nothing you can do about it but learn from it, move on and be ready, he said. Theres not a big difference amongst teams in this league. The talents great on every team and Miami certainly has a lot of talent, and whats transpired in all our games is theyre usually very hard-fought and very close. At the end, it usually comes down to a hustle play and a make or a miss. Miamis tough. Theyre not going to beat themselves. You have to play well to beat them.

Noah discussed the fact that the East-leading Bulls are currently fighting off the Heat, who are second in the conference, for home-court advantage in the playoffs.

We know there are a lot of good teams so you have to take it one step at a time. But it would be ideal, he said. Its very important to hang onto home court. We know in the playoffs that home court means a lot. You still have to win on the road, but playing at home definitely helps.

Added swingman Ronnie Brewer: Thibs comes and tells us how important home court is for morale, if you want to make it deep in the playoffs and you dont really want to watch what other teams are doing because you hold your own destiny, but you look at the standings and see where the Heat are, where the third-place team is at, where the fourth-place team is at, and you just want to try to go out there and take care of business every time you step out on the court.

Three Things to Watch: Bulls-76ers

2-22_76ers_matchup_nba_chi_tonight.jpg
NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Bulls-76ers

The Bulls square off against the Sixers tonight on NBC Sports Chicago, with coverage beginning at 6:30 with Bulls Pregame Live. Here are three things to watch as the Bulls begin the stretch run of their regular season.

1. The new rotation: Most of the Bulls’ rotation looks the same, but the addition of David Nwaba, Cristiano Felicio and Cameron Payne will have a different feel. The Bulls clearly want to get a look at these guys before the end of the regular season, meaning they’re not just going to get sporadic minutes. They’ll have to play through their mistakes, play out-matched at times and be put in uncomfortable situations. But the Bulls need to see what they have, especially in Payne, who has missed the entire season to this point with a broken foot.

2. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons: They’re quite the 1-2 punch and have the Sixers looking at their first playoff appearance since Derrick Rose hadn’t yet torn an ACL. Yeah, that’s a long time. Embiid just finished his first All-Star appearance (starting in his second year) and Simmons is the front runner for Rookie of the Year. The Bulls will have their hands full with these two. Luckily…

3. Kris Dunn is back: The Bulls wanted to get Dunn some run before heading to All-Star Weekend to play in the Rising Stars Challenge, and he looked healthy in that thumping against the Raptors last week. The good news is John Paxson says Dunn won’t be on a minutes limit, which means he’s healthy. That, of course, is more important than how he’s playing. It’ll be fun to see him, LaVine and Markkanen play together down the stretch. Their numbers together aren’t great, but the Bulls are 2-2 with all three in the lineup, and tanking or not…it’s more fun to watch when those three are rolling. 

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

2-21_forsberg_usat.jpg
AP

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

It was a rare sight to see the Blackhawks in a shootout on Wednesday night.

It was just the second time this season — and first time at the United Center — that the Blackhawks made it past 3-on-3 overtime. 

The last came on Dec. 2, 2017, a 3-2 shootout loss to the Stars in Dallas. On Wednesday night, the Blackhawks were on the other end, beating the Ottawa Senators 3-2 in a seven-round shootout. Nick Schmaltz netted the game-winner.

"We'll take it," coach Joel Quenneville said. "I thought we had a decent game tonight. Overtime not so good, I liked the shootout victory, Fors made some big saves for us particularly as the game got deeper. Our third was OK, I thought our first two were way better, and overtime we gave up some high quality, some bells were rings for a bit there. But it was nice to see the shootout win."

Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist, recording another multi-point game, his 16th of the season.

"I mean we need every point we can get at this point," Kane said. "There's still belief in this locker room. Obviously we need to go on quite a run and have a big record here down the stretch. But take it a game at a time and nice to get two points."

Anton Forsberg was a big reason the Blackhawks even recorded those two points. The 25-year-old netminder stopped 34 of 36 shots and made a handful of big saves down the stretch.

"It was really nice to get a win for sure," Forsberg said. "I would love to have a lot more wins, but right now just gotta look forward and get as many wins as possible."

Added Quenneville: "I think it was good for him to win a game the way he did. Lot of shots were on the line, as we progressed, got deeper, hitting the point first was big for him and for us and then finding a way to get the extra one was a good win."