Blackhawks

Bulls pass final preseason test, top Pacers at Notre Dame

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Bulls pass final preseason test, top Pacers at Notre Dame

SOUTH BEND, IND. With these two teams, the location (the campus of the University of Notre Dame, alma mater of Bulls executive vice president John Paxson, former Fighting Irish star), the host team (despite taking place in Indiana, it was a Bulls home game, which was reflected by the mostly partisan crowd) or time of year (last seasons preseason opener was a dogfight) doesnt matter.

Central Division rivals Chicago and Indiana gutted it out until the end Friday evening, resulting in a hard-fought 97-90 Bulls win in the preseason finale.

The Bulls jumped all over the Pacers from the outset, with Joakim Noahs (12 points, nine rebounds) hard-charging style leading the way and his teammates following suit. Rip Hamiltons (12 points, six rebounds, five assists) potent mid-range game, in either half-court or transition, was clicking, while Nate Robinson (21 points, eight assists) set the table in the absence of Kirk Hinrich and Luol Deng (17 points, seven rebounds) was his typically versatile self.

For the Pacers, All-Star center Roy Hibbert (17 points, eight rebounds) was an offensive force early leading to Noah picking up two quick fouls, though veteran backup Nazr Mohammed picked up the slack, in a continuation of strong preseason but couldnt stifle the Bulls singlehandedly, resulting in Indiana facing a double-digit deficit. After a period of play, the Bulls led, 28-16.

Taj Gibson (nine points, 11 rebounds), who was inserted into the contest after starter Carlos Boozer (13 points, six rebounds, three steals) picked up his second foul, displayed his normal high activity level on the glass, while Deng, in his role of go-to guy with the second unit, carried much of the offensive load, including showing as a post-up threat, a little-used wrinkle.

The reserve backcourt of inexperienced rookie Marquis Teague and veteran newcomer Marco Belinelli, both of whom had struggled throughout the exhibition campaign was solid, as Teague showed poise in directing the offense against his hometown Pacers and the slumping Belinelli hit some contested, high degree-of-difficulty attempts.

Despite the contributions of Indiana reserves Ian Mahinmi and Gerald Green, the Bulls maintained their comfortable winning margin and when Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau came back with his regulars, they continued to hold the Pacers at bay. At the intermission, the Bulls held a 52-43 advantage.

Although the Pacers picked up their intensity after the break, the Bulls didnt wane, as Boozer picked up his game, Noah remained a major factor and Robinsons underrated playmaking helped set up his teammates. It was a physical affair, but as the well-balanced scoring of the Bulls who placed all five starters in double figures on the nightpersisted, the gap between the two teams remained.

Robinsons abilities to distribute and take care of the basketball was significant to the Bulls effort, though the teams defense left something to be desired, regardless of the fast tempo and transition opportunities for both sides in the period. Heading into the final stanza, the Bulls were ahead, 78-66.

A Pacers run to begin the fourth quarter sparked by the inside play of Mahinmi and Greens aerial acrobatics made it a ballgame again, infuriating Thibodeau, who called a timeout to restore order. Whatever he told his players during the stoppage of play apparently worked as did reinserting his regulars, sans Gibson, who made a major impact on the glass, into the lineup as they raised their level of play and for the time being, staved off Indianas threat behind a more scoring-oriented stretch from Robinson.

But the Pacers refused to fade away quietly into the night, capitalizing on errant Bulls shot attempts with timely buckets of their own, making it a one-possession game, 93-90, after a traditional three-point play by power forward David West with 1:09 remaining. But a baseline jumper by Rip Hamilton with under a minute left gave the Bulls some breathing room and a improbable fadeaway by Robinson sealed the deal with 18.6 seconds on the clock.

Four takeaways: 'Vintage' Corey Crawford steals two points for Blackhawks

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AP

Four takeaways: 'Vintage' Corey Crawford steals two points for Blackhawks

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena on Saturday:

1. Corey Crawford steals the show

The Blackhawks had no business winning this game. They were being outshot 28-15 through two periods, committed four penalties and gave up 18 high-danger chances in the game. 

But Crawford bailed out his team like he often has done in the past, and was zoned in from the moment the puck dropped. He finished with 37 saves on 38 shots for a save percentage of .974, picking up his first win since Dec. 17, 2017.

"Yeah, I felt good," Crawford said. "I think everyone was playing hard, rebounds, taking away sticks. That was a great effort by everyone."

"He was standing on his head for us," Patrick Kane said. "As Q would say, that’s a goalie win for us."

Said coach Joel Quenneville: "That was vintage Crow."

2. Tic-tac-toe leads to go-ahead goal

The Blue Jackets were clearly the better team through two periods. The Blackhawks were fortunate to go into second intermission with the game still tied at 1-1.

The next goal was crucial, and they got it thanks to a give-and-go play by Brent Seabrook and Kane, who buried home a wide open net to give the Blackhawks a 2-1 lead with 4:14 left in regulation.

Was Kane expecting Seabrook to pass it back?

"No. Not a chance," Kane said laughing. "That’s his wheelhouse, coming right down there. He scores a lot of goals from that area. Saw it was like a 2-on-2, he was coming late, he jumped in the play on the first goal, did a great job, jumped in the play on that goal. Made a great pass. When I saw it come back, I just tried to stay patient, settle it down and make sure I hit the net, because I knew I had the whole open net."

3. Busy night for PK

The Blackhawks penalty kill was very busy. It was also on it's A-game, partly because their best penalty killer was Crawford.

The Blackhawks spent 6:31 of the first 40 minutes killing penalties, allowing 11 shots total on it. But most importantly, they killed off all four penalties.

"We had some tough clears, but I thought we did some good things," Quenneville said. "We withstood some extended PK zone time there and found a way to keep us in the game. Obviously that next goal was huge and that second period was a big part of them having so much zone time, keeping us in our end. We'll say, hey good job, but Crow was the best penalty killer tonight."

4. Catching up with Kane on Artemi Panarin

Kane and Panarin spent only two seasons together, but they brought Blackhawks fans out of their seats on a nightly basis and it was amazing to watch the instant on-ice chemistry they shared. And most of it was non-verbal, which made it even more impressive. They were always on the same wavelength.

"Sometimes it takes time to build some chemistry but that was one of those things where it was like, I don't want to say instant chemistry, but after one or two preseason games we kind of new that maybe something special was going to happen," Kane told NBC Sports Chicago. "I think he scored in his first game in the NHL, we had a really good game, we had the puck a lot, we sensed that this could be a fun way to play hockey."

Off the ice, Kane said Panarin would use Google translate on his phone to communicate while Kane would try using a Russian accent while saying English words.

The two of them got a chance to hang out for a little bit on Friday and Kane still keeps tabs on his former linemate.

"I always really enjoy watching him," Kane said. "If we have an off night or something, he's a really fun player to watch."

2018 IHSA Football Playoff Pairings

2018 IHSA Football Playoff Pairings

The 2018 IHSA Football Playoff pairings have been unveiled as teams from all over the state begin their postseason journey. 

Be sure to check our Twitter, @NBCSPreps, or the IHSA's Twitter, @IHSAState, for the latest IHSA Football updates. 

CLASS 8A

CLASS 8A EXPERT ANALYSIS

1. Brother Rice (9-0) vs. 32. Zion-Benton (5-4)
16. Oak Park-River Forest (7-2) vs. 17. New Trier (7-2)
8. Warren (8-1) vs. 25. Neuqua Valley (6-3)
9. Hinsdale Central (7-2) vs. 24. Conant (6-3)
4. Homewood-Flossmoor (8-1) vs. 29. Fremd (5-4)
13. Oswego East (7-2) vs. 20. Barrington (6-3)
5. Marist (8-1) vs. 28. Stevenson (6-3)
12. Plainfield South (7-2) vs. 21. Naperville Central (6-3)
2. Lincoln-Way East (9-0) vs. 31. St. Charles East (5-4)
15. Bartlett (7-2) vs. 18. Glenbard West (7-2)
7. West Aurora (8-1) vs. 26. South Elgin (6-3)
10. Evanston (7-2) vs. 23. Edwardsville (6-3)
3. Oswego (9-0) vs. 30. Taft (5-4)
14. Minooka (7-2) vs. 19. Loyola (6-3)
6. Maine South (8-1) vs. 27. Huntley (6-3)
11. Bolingbrook (7-2) vs. 22. Waubonsie Valley (6-3)

CLASS 7A

CLASS 7A EXPERT ANALYSIS

1. Simeon (9-0) vs. 32. Rockford East (5-4)
16. Harlem (7-2) vs. 17. Lincoln-Way West (7-2)
8. Nazareth (8-1) vs. 25. Andrew (6-3)
9. Hersey (8-1) vs. 24. Lincoln-Way Central (6-3)
4. Batavia (9-0) vs. 29. Granite City (5-4)
13. Moline (8-1) vs. 20. Glenbrook North (7-2)
5. Willowbrook (9-0) vs. 28. Lincoln Park (5-4)
12. Maine West (8-1) vs. 21. Benet Academy (6-3)
2. Glenbard East (9-0) vs. 31. Prospect (5-4)
15. East St. Louis (7-2) vs. 18. Hoffman Estates (7-2)
7. Mount Carmel (8-1) vs. 26. T.F. South (6-3)
10. DeKalb (8-1) vs. 23. Lake Zurich (6-3)
3. Hononegah (9-0) vs. 30. Buffalo Grove (5-4) 
14. Wheaton Warrenville South (8-1) vs. 19. Belleville West (7-2)
6. Rolling Meadows (9-0) vs. 27. Alton (5-4)
11. Normal Community (8-1) vs. 27. St. Charles North (6-3) 

CLASS 6A

CLASS 6A EXPERT ANALYSIS

1. Cary-Grove (9-0) vs. 16. Wauconda (5-4)
8. Kaneland (6-3) vs. 9. Von Steuben (6-3)
4. Phillips (7-2) vs. 13. Lake Forest (5-4)
5. Prairie Ridge (7-2) vs. 12. Hinsdale South (6-3)
2. Antioch (9-0) vs. 15. Reavis (5-4)
7. Lakes (7-2) vs. 10 Belvidere North (6-3)
3. Kenwood (8-1) vs. 14. Crystal Lake South (5-4)
6. Niles Notre Dame (7-2) vs. 11. St. Ignatius (6-3)
1. Richards (9-0) vs. 16. Rock Island (5-4)
8. Yorkville (7-2) vs. 9. Dunlap (7-2)
4. Normal West (8-1) vs. 13. Peoria Notre Dame (6-3)
5. Shepard (7-2) vs. 12. Springfield (6-3)
2. Washington (9-0) vs. 15. Providence Catholic (5-4)
7. Sacred Heart-Griffin (7-2) vs. 10. Quincy (7-2)
3. Glenwood (8-1) vs. 14. Lemont (5-4)
6. Bloomington (7-2) vs. 11. Crete-Monee (6-3)

CLASS 5A

CLASS 5A EXPERT ANALYSIS

1. Payton (9-0) vs. 16. Evergreen Park (5-4)
8. Elmwood Park (7-2) vs. 9. Back of the Yards (6-3)
4. Montini (8-1) vs. 13. Woodstock North (5-4)
5. Sycamore (7-2) vs. 12. Rochelle (5-4)
2. Sterling (8-1) vs. 15. Phoenix Coop (5-4)
7. Hyde Park (7-2) vs. 10. Brooks (6-3)
3. Boylan Catholic (8-1) vs. 14. Glenbard South (5-4)
6. St. Francis (7-2) vs. 11. Amundsen (5-4)
1. Hillcrest (9-0) vs. 16. Jerseyville (5-4)
8. MacArthur (6-3) vs. 9. Morton (6-3)
4. Cahokia (8-1) vs. 13. Mt. Zion (6-3)
5. Carbondale (7-2) vs. 12. Champaign Central (6-3)
2. Highland (9-0) vs. 15. Rich Central (5-4)
7. Mattoon (6-3) vs. 10. Mascoutah (6-3)
3. Metamora (8-1) vs. 14. Joliet Catholic (5-4)
6. Marion (6-3) vs. 11. Rich East (6-3)

CLASS 4A

CLASS 4A EXPERT ANALYSIS

1. IC Catholic (9-0) vs. 16. Raby (5-4)
8. Dixon (6-3) vs. 9. Stillman Valley (6-3)
4. Urban Prep Bronzeville (8-1) vs. 13. St. Edward (5-4)
5. Marengo (7-2) vs. 12. Sullivan (6-3)
2. Coal City (8-1) vs. 15. Wheaton Academy (5-4)
7. Ag. Science (7-2) vs. 10. Johnsburg (6-3)
3. Richmond-Burton (8-1) vs. 14. Plano (5-4)
6. Genoa-Kingston (7-2) vs. 11. Clemente (6-3)
1. Taylorville (9-0) vs. 16. Illinois Valley Central (5-4)
8. Columbia (7-2) vs. 9. Freeburg (7-2)
4. Rochester (8-1) vs. 13. Breese Central (6-3)
5. Pontiac (8-1) vs. 12. Herrin (7-2)
2. Paris (9-0) vs. 15. Salem (6-3)
7. Breese Mater Dei (7-2) vs. 10. Effingham (7-2)
3. Bishop McNamara (8-1) vs. 14. Richland County (6-3)
6. Murphysboro Coop (7-2) vs. 11. Prairie Central (7-2)

CLASS 3A

CLASS 3A EXPERT ANALYSIS

1. Byron (9-0) vs. 16. Rock Island Alleman (5-4)
8. Elmwood-Brimfield Coop (6-3) vs. 9. Princeton (6-3)
4. Lisle (8-1) vs. 13. Dwight Coop (6-3)
5. North Boone (7-2) vs. 12. Mid-County Coop (6-3)
2. Dunbar (8-1) vs. 15. Herscher (5-4)
7. Clark (6-3) vs. 10. Hall Twp. (6-3)
3. Eureka (8-1) vs. 14. UP/Englewood (5-4)
6. Monmouth-Rosevl. (7-2) vs. 11. Wilmington (6-3)
1. Monticello (9-0) vs. 16. St. Joseph-Ogden (5-4) 
8. Anna-Jonesboro (7-2) vs. 9. West Frankfort (7-2)
4. Farmington (9-0) vs. 13. Greenville (6-3)
5. Beardstown (8-1) vs. 12. Pleasant Plains (6-3)
2. Carlinville (9-0) vs. 15. East Alton-Wood River (6-3)
7. Vandalia (7-2) vs. 10. Paxton-Buckley-Loda (6-3)
3. Fairfield (9-0) vs. 14. Newton (6-3)
6. Williamsville (8-1) vs. 11. DuQuoin (6-3)

CLASS 2A

CLASS 2A EXPERT ANALYSIS

1. Gibson City-MS (9-0) vs. 16. Watseka (5-4)
8. Hope Academy (7-2) vs. 9. Knoxville (6-3)
4. Illini West (9-0) vs. 13. Mercer County (5-4)
5. Newman C.C. (8-1) vs. 12. Rockford Christian (6-3)
2. Orion (9-0) vs. 15. Fieldcrest (5-4)
7. Clifton Central (7-2) vs. 10. Rockridge (6-3)
3. Eastland-Pearl City Coop (9-0) vs. 14. Harlan (5-4)
6. Collins Coop (8-1) vs. 11. Chicago Christian (6-3)
1. St. Teresa (9-0) vs. 16. Staunton (5-4)
8. Eldorado (7-2) vs. 9. Athens (7-2)
4. Pana (8-1) vs. 13. Oakwood (5-4)
5. Nashville (8-1) vs. 12. Tri-Valley (5-4)
2. Maroa-Forsyth (9-0) vs. 15. Routt Coop (5-4)
7. Warrensburg-Latham (7-2) vs. 10. Chester (6-3)
3. Tuscola (8-1) vs. 14. Villa Grove-Heritage Coop (5-4)
6. Bismarck-Henning (8-1) vs. 11. West Hancock Coop (6-3)

CLASS 1A

CLASS 1A EXPERT ANALYSIS

1. Princeville (9-0) vs. 16. Polo (5-4)
8. Annawan-Wethersfield Coop (6-3) vs. 9. Aurora Christian (6-3)
4. Lena-Winslow (8-1) vs. 13. Lewistown (5-4)
5. Orr (8-1) vs. 12. LeRoy (5-4)
2. Ottawa Marquette (9-0) vs. 15. Orangeville (5-4)
7. Stockton (7-2) vs. 10. Dakota (6-3)
3. Milledgeville (9-0) vs. 14. Fulton (5-4)
6. Forreston (7-2) vs. 11. Hiawatha (6-3)
1. Argenta-Oreana (9-0) vs. 16. Cerro Gordo-Bement Coop (5-4)
8. Fisher (7-2) vs. 9. Cumberland (7-2)
4. Red Hill (8-1) vs. 13. Central A&M (6-3)
5. Madison (8-1) vs. 12. Edwards County (6-3)
2. Camp Pt. Central (8-1) vs. 15. Greenfield-NW Coop (6-3)
7. Sesser-Valier Coop (7-2) vs. 10. Carrollton (6-3)
3. Triopia Coop (8-1) vs. 14. Georgetown-RF (6-3)
6. Arcola (7-2) vs. 11. Salt Fork (6-3)