Blackhawks

Rebounding machine Noah finds his groove

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Rebounding machine Noah finds his groove

After snaring a season-high in rebounds Sunday night at Philadelphia, then following up the performance by corralling 17 boards in a grudge match against Indiana, one might expect Joakim Noah to be exuberant. Not likely.

Im feeling good, feeling healthy, said Noah. Winning makes me happy. Its not about double-doubles. Its about winning.

Noah rarely talks about his personal accomplishments, unless hes being critical, but when it comes to his teammates and victories, hell fill up a whole tape recorder with delicious quotes. Earlier in the season, when he wasnt playing at what he considered to be a high level, it was obvious in both his body language and his comments to the media.

Now, despite his modesty, its clear that hes feeling good about himselfif that wasnt evident from his increasing frequent Tornado jumper attempts from the elbow and subsequent finger guns celebration after a makehis words might not reflect it, but the bounce in his step gives him away. But perhaps there was a reason for his slow start, as the lockout allowed him to get in excellent physical conditioning, though not find his rhythm, as he hadnt seen significant court time since his stint for runner-up France in the FIBA EuroBasket event.

At the start of the season, we had the heavy schedule and game conditions are a lot different. We had 14 games in 20 days and he was getting to a lot of balls, but he was bobbling. Now, hes snatching his rebounds with two hands in traffic, hes range rebounding, explained Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. His conditioning is great and I think the start of the season was more of a challenge for the big guys than it was for the perimeter players because its physical. Youre not going to get that type of contact other than in an NBA game. You can do all the conditioning you want, running and stuff like that, but its different.

Added teammate Derrick Rose: Jo, hes putting the effort in. Hes coming in, putting in his work, conditioning. It takes a lot of conditioning to go up there, for a big to chase down all the balls. Hes doing it and his confidencethats all I could say; in this league, all you need is confidenceand thats what he definitely has.

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks face Golden Knights for first time

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Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks face Golden Knights for first time

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Vegas Golden Knights Tuesday on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 8:45 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Corey Crawford vs. ... Oscar Dansk? 

The Golden Knights have seen both Marc-Andre Fleury and Malcolm Subban go down with injuries, so they're scraping for goaltenders at this point.

On one end of the ice, you have one of the best netminders in the league and a two-time Stanley Cup champion in Crawford. On the other, you have a 23-year-old rookie in Dansk making his first official NHL start who will be backed up by a 24-year-old rookie in Maxime Lagace, who has never appeared in an NHL game.

In his first game action, Dansk stopped 10 of 11 shots in relief during Saturday's 3-2 overtime win over St. Louis.

2. Fast start.

The Blackhawks are tied for second in both goals scored (13) and fewest goals allowed (four) in the first period, which has a large reason for their early season success.

The Golden Knights aren't the kind of team that gets out to a blazing start. They've allowed only five goals in the opening frame, but they've scored only five as well, which ranks among the bottom 10 teams in the league. 

3. Beware of James Neal.

The Golden Knights became the first team in NHL history to win six of their first seven games of their inaugural season. And they probably don't have half of those wins if it weren't for Neal, who scored the game-winning goal in each of their first three games.

He leads the club with six goals and eight points, and serves as the motor for a team that doesn't have much offensive talent. He's the go-to guy, and somebody you have to keep an eye on when he's on the ice.

 

Three Things to Watch: Bulls square off against LeBron and the Cavaliers

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Three Things to Watch: Bulls square off against LeBron and the Cavaliers

Here are Three Things to Watch in the Bulls' Tuesday night tilt against the Cavaliers on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live.

1. LeBron James will be on your television

Love him or hate him, LeBron James is must-see TV. Now in his 15th NBA season, James has shown no signs of slowing down. Despite playing just one preseason game (against the Bulls), James has shown anything but rust in three games, averaging 25.0 points on 60 percent shooting, 8.3 rebounds and 6.3 assists in nearly 37 minutes. He's a threat every night to do something you've never seen on a basketball court, His Airness included. Justin Holiday and Paul Zipser will have their hands full against the game's best player.

2. Lauri Markkanen, Week 2

Small sample size alert! But through the season's first week Markkanen and Ben Simmons are the only rookies averaging a double-double (Dallas' Dennis Smith has played just one game, averaging 16 points and 10 assists). While the Bulls have struggled through two games, Markkanen's net rating is third best on the team and he leads the Bulls bigs in rebounds per game and rebound percentage. Markkanen has shown some versatility offensively, and his 7 free-throw attempts have been a nice surprise as well.

3. Don't forget: The Bulls swept the Cavaliers last year

OK, so expecting a victory Tuesday night in Cleveland isn't smart. The Bulls will be underdogs just like they were in each of the four games last season, all of which were Bulls winners. It was the first time in 52 division series that LeBron James had been swept, which is pretty remarkable considering the Bulls were the No. 8 seed and the Cavs coasted to a third straight NBA Finals. We're not over here predicting a win. But just remember: the Bulls have fared well against James in the regular season.