Blackhawks

Bulls, Lucas III stun Heat without Rose

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Bulls, Lucas III stun Heat without Rose

So much for the bogus theory that the Bulls are all Derrick Rose and a bunch of nobodies, something that should have been dismissed long ago in the first place.

It was just a regular-season game, so lets keep things in perspective, but although the Bulls (36-9) 106-102 win over the rival Heat (31-11) Wednesday night at the United Center, without the leagues reigning MVP in the lineup, may not have been enough to erase the memory of last springs playoff loss, it certainly went a long way in changing the perception that the team is a one-man gang, as the unlikeliest of heroes, John Lucas III, led the way.

Without Rose, the Bulls relied on their typically excellent ball movement and their unselfishness paid off in the form of easy layups and dunksswingman Ronnie Brewer (12 points, six rebounds), in particular, was a prime beneficiarywhile making timely defensive plays to propel the home team to a slim cushion early in the contest.

The visitors, lustily booed by the raucous crowd, struck back behind their two superstars, LeBron James (35 points) and Dwyane Wade (36 points), who each hit a variety of contested degree-of-difficulty shots.

That trend continued for Miami, as the All-Star wing duo provided the guests only offense in the opening period, although team defense and a slight edge on the glass made up for the lack of secondary scoring.

A gimpy C.J. Watson (11 points), starting on place of Rose while playing on a clearly tender left ankle, gutted out a solid initial stint, while Carlos Boozer played a strong all-around frame and his backup, Taj Gibson (eight points, eight rebounds), provided energy off the benchas did rookie Jimmy Butler (eight points), who fared well guarding James for a spellbut the Bulls trailed, 23-19, after a quarter of play.

Gibson, coming off one of his best efforts of the season Monday evening against his hometown Knicks, continued to spark the Bulls early in the second quarter, helping the squad regain the lead with big finishes, relentless rebounding and by providing a defensive presence.

He received help from a modified Bench Mobfeaturing Butler, who drove to the basket with abandon in transition, sharpshooter Kyle Korvers (12 points) outside marksmanship and backup center Omer Asik, who energized the building with a deft save of a loose ball before it went out of bounds, followed by a tip-in on the other endand the hosts obtained some breathing room, though Miamis third All-Star, Chris Bosh (12 points), began to contribute.

Upon Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau reinserting his starterswith the exception of Watson; John Lucas III (24 points, 8-for-12 shooting, 3-for-5 from three-point range) remained in the contestthe Bulls immediately stretched the spread to double digits, as All-Star Luol Deng (11 points, five rebounds), in his first game back after a two-game absence to rest his ailing right wrist, knocked down a triple, and Joakim Noah (14 points, six rebounds) absolutely posterized Heat center Joel Anthony.

Lucas, however, was the star of the show, as the diminutive floor general not only acquitted himself much better than he did when he last played against the Heat, but went above and beyond, knocking down three consecutive long bombs, including two three-pointers, to give the Bulls a comfortable lead, though a furious Heat run, fueled by James, cut the lead to 53-42 at the intermission.

Following the break, an expected Miami spurt took place early in the third period, but while the Bulls withstood the visitors initial push, the Heat gradually decreased the deficit, as a dominant James and increasingly efficient Wade went to work.

But the hosts refused to fade away and with timely scoring from the likes of Brewer and Watson, as well as continued hustle plays and strong team defense, they not only maintained their advantage, but built it back up to double digits again.

Deng and Noah, two of the teams normal starters, also imposed their will on the contest by becoming more assertive on offense, while consistently making hustle plays and getting defensive stops, all of which contributed to the Bulls advantage further ballooning. Thibodeau again went to his reserves, keeping Deng on the floor, and they responded, as they limited the Heat defensively and headed into the final stanza with an 81-70 advantage.

The balanced-attack Bulls continued to withstand the Heats repeated pushes, with solid rebounding, defense and unselfish offense leading the way, not to mention individual scoring plays at critical junctures from the likes of Deng and even the rookie Butler.

Once again, however, Lucas carried the Bulls offensively, seemingly scoring at willeven when guarded by James, the same strategy Miami used to stymie Rose in last springs Eastern Conference Finalsto hold off both an impressive individual run by Wade and a Heat comeback, at least as the game entered its stretch run.

Noah came up big late, finishing point-blank shots in traffic with contact, but Wade continued to exercise his will and on the other end, James blanketed the much smaller Lucas to get the ball out of his hands.

But the Bulls came up big when it counted most, as Korver knocked down four free throws and Lucas, the hero sealed the deal with a pair of shots from the charity stripe with six seconds to go, offsetting Heat designated marksman James Jones two late triples, allowing the Bulls to prevail and the unexpected to occur.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Hawks snap 8-game losing streak

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Hawks snap 8-game losing streak

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Patrick Sharp and Jamal Mayers join Pat Boyle to discuss snapping the 8-game losing streak, the Hawks no longer being able to rely on skill alone to win games, and what line combinations the guys would like to see on the ice.

2:00 The fourth line being the key to the Hawks win over the Penguins

4:00 Hawks giving up goals in the final minute of the first 2 periods

5:50 Hawks needing to outwork their opponents

6:55 Hawks looking more organized on the ice

7:30 Value of Marcus Kruger on the 4th line

9:45 The need to stick with lines for a few games for players to develop chemistry

13:00 Do the guys like the current lines?

15:00 Strome finding new life with his new team

18:45 What Brendan Perlini needs to do to be effective with the Hawks

23:00 What should the Hawks ask Santa for Christmas?

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

Blackhawks Talk Podcast

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Four takeaways: Blackhawks finally score first, snap eight-game skid

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USA TODAY

Four takeaways: Blackhawks finally score first, snap eight-game skid

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 6-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins at the United Center on Wednesday to snap an eight-game losing streak:

1. First-period demons exercised?

The Blackhawks have been talking and talking about starting on time for the last several weeks now, and the more they talked about it the more they thought about it too much and it eventually crept into their psyches. But they finally put those to rest. Well, at least for one night.

For the first time since Nov. 18 — a span of 11 games and 24 days — the Blackhawks scored the first goal. And even better, they built upon it by scoring the second one, too, just 2:36 later to go up 2-0 in the first period.

It had been a long time coming and the Blackhawks finally had a chance to play with a lead after doing so for only 41 seconds of their previous 662:32 minutes over the last 11 games.

"It’s been a while since we’ve scored first in a game," said Andreas Martinsen, who was credited with the first goal and registered his first multi-point game of his NHL career. "We’ve been talking a lot about having good starts, and we finally got one. And then we just kept going."

2. Staying with it

When you're on an eight-game losing streak, snapping out of it will never be easy. The Blackhawks found that out the hard way.

After taking a 2-0 lead in the first period, the Penguins responded by scoring three of the next four goals — all of which were by Bryan Rust, who recorded his second career NHL hat trick — to even it up at 3-3 through 40 minutes of play. It tested the Blackhawks' character and mental toughness. 

And it showed, as the Blackhawks answered back by scoring three unanswered in the third period, albeit two of which were empty-netters, to seal the deal for their first win in 18 days.

“It’s a relief," Jonathan Toews said. "It’s definitely just a good feeling for guys. We’ve got something to celebrate. We’ve got something to enjoy. We were reminded with an exciting reason to come to the rink in a few days and come out with the same effort. It’s something we’ve got to be aware of and build off of in the next one.”

3. Contributions across the board

The Blackhawks got contributions up and down the lineup, from their forwards to defensemen to goaltender.

Marcus Kruger, Martinsen, Brandon Saad and Brent Seabrook each recorded a goal and an assist. Toews had a goal and two assists to crack the 700-point mark for his NHL career. Patrick Kane extended his point streak to five games with an assist. Duncan Keith added one, too. Alex DeBrincat lit the lamp for the second straight night. And Corey Crawford finished with a season-high 40 saves on 43 shots for a save percentage of .930.

It was a well-rounded effort, one that makes it feel even better for the guys in the locker room when celebrating a true team victory.

"It’s always huge to pot a few," Toews said. "As an individual, it always helps your confidence. To see [Martinsen] and [Kruger] around the net and [DeBrincat] scoring the way he did, even if it’s on kind of a broken play or whatever you want to call that, it’s good for our power play. We’ll take those when we can. It’s good for our team. We’ve got to use that confidence now. We’re putting all that in the rearview mirror and let this snowball in the right direction now.”

4. Carl Dahlstrom's noticeable season debut

The Blackhawks made a series of roster moves prior to Wednesday's game, which was highlighted by the call-up of top forward prospect Dylan Sikura. But it was Dahlstrom who made a strong first impression on the back end.

The 23-year-old defenseman registered a primary assist, four shot attempts (three on goal), a plus-2 rating and one hit in 22:34 of ice time, which ranked third on the Blackhawks. Jeremy Colliton leaned on him heavily and clearly wasn't afraid to do so.

"He was good," Colliton said. "Very under control, he skates so well, such a big body, he can handle a lot of minutes. But I thought he was clean with the puck and he was able to get stops in D zone. Very good effort from him."