Bulls

Heat's Miller is perfect in return

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Heat's Miller is perfect in return

From Comcast SportsNet
MIAMI (AP) -- Every part of Mike Miller's game was on display. A perfect night from 3-point range. Diving for loose balls. Coming up limping and in obvious pain after he dove for those loose balls. As a season debut goes, it certainly was memorable. "Fun!" Miller tweeted afterward. That's one way to describe his night. Miller was 6 for 6 from the field, all those shots coming from beyond the arc, and scored 18 points in 15 minutes. Still not fully recovered from offseason surgery to repair a hernia problem, Miller helped spark a huge second-half comeback by the Miami Heat, as they rallied from down 17 points late in the first half to run away from the San Antonio Spurs 120-98 on Tuesday night. "Every once in a while you get going when you're a shooter," Miller said. "I just happened to do that. First game back, it felt good." His teammates were more succinct. "You couldn't even script that any better," said Heat forward LeBron James, who led Miami with 33 points. Miller was able to leave the arena without any visible limps or icepacks, which these days represents a major victory for the veteran swingman. Since signing with the Heat in the summer of 2010, Miller has missed more than half the team's regular-season games and undergone four surgeries. His run of bad luck started after snapping his thumb when it got tangled in James' practice jersey during a training-camp workout last season, and he also dealt with shoulder and ankle problems over the remainder of the year. This season, it was the hernia issue that popped up shortly before training camp, and he sat out Miami's first 12 games even though he regularly pleaded with Heat coach Erik Spoelstra that he was ready to return. On Tuesday, Spoelstra was convinced -- to a point, anyway. He planned to play Miller for no more than six minutes. Making six 3-pointers led to a change in that plan. "I've played with this guy for four years, so this is old hat for me," Heat forward Shane Battier said. "I've seen him do this time and time again. He's one of the special shooters in the league. ... He gives us a lot more options. In a game like tonight when we needed a spark, he can give you that spark." He can also give coaches angst. Undeterred by his near-constant state of injury since joining the Heat, it took Miller -- who got a huge roar from the sellout crowd after checking into a game for the first time this season -- about two minutes before his first dive to the court on Tuesday night. By the second or third, he was limping away with some sort of lower-leg problem. "That's who he is," Spoelstra said. "At this point, I can't cringe any more than I already do. You can't tell him to play to a different personality than what he is. That's what he's always been. You go back to his days at Florida, he played with reckless abandon. That's why you love that guy, for the hustle, the effort plays. He's relentless." It was the 22nd time in Miller's career that he hit at least six 3-pointers, and the first time he took at least six without missing any. He was 5 for 5 from 3-point range on Feb. 17, 2010, for Washington against Minnesota. The six 3-pointers matched his most in a Heat uniform. Chris Bosh scored 30 points and the Heat used a historic third-quarter turnaround to erase the big deficit. Miami outscored San Antonio 39-12 in the third quarter -- matching the second-largest differential for any quarter in Heat history, and matching the second-worst differential for a period in Spurs history, according to STATS LLC. Even after a night like that, the most popular topic in the Heat locker room was Miller's return. "The fans, from Day 1, have been amazing to me," Miller said. "Last year when I came back, it was the same thing." He said he and the Heat have worked out an arrangement. If they don't ask him about any injuries, he won't tell them. "I'm not going to do another X-ray," Miller said. "Anything that comes in an X-ray is bad news. So they know my stance right now and I'm going to continue to play."

Bulls defense costs them late but showing 'competitive spirit' a step in right direction

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USA TODAY

Bulls defense costs them late but showing 'competitive spirit' a step in right direction

The Bulls defense is nowhere near where it needs to be, and it cost them dearly on Saturday night. But in a season that’s still about seeing progression both individually and collectively, the Bulls took a step in the right direction with their effort and what Fred Hoiberg called “competitive spirit.”

That won’t change the standings when they wake up Sunday morning, now facing an 0-2 hole in the early season. And while better effort and tougher defense helped them stage a second-half comeback they weren’t able to manage on Thursday, it was a defensive miscue that cost them the game.

Ish Smith split a double screen at the top of the key and sliced his way past Jabari Parker for a wide open go-ahead layup with 5.4 seconds left. Zach LaVine, who 20 seconds earlier had tied the game with the last of his 33 points, was unable to get a shot off after a timeout. Better than Thursday for 47 minutes and 50 seconds. But still costing them when it mattered most.

“We can’t give up a layup for the last play,” said LaVine, who was guarding Smith. “We just got to get our defense right. That’s why it’s really upsetting because we played so well, we came back but we can’t give up a layup. We at least have to make him take a tough one. That was as easy a layup as you can get. It’s really upsetting.”

Fred Hoiberg defended his decision to leave Parker in the game instead of inserting rookie Wendell Carter Jr. He opted to ride the group that helped the Bulls erase a fourth-quarter deficit when it appeared the Bulls were spiraling toward another double-digit loss.

But the Pistons were ready to find the weak link in the Bulls defense and expose it, like they did much of the fourth quarter while attacking Parker with Blake Griffin. As the screen was set Parker jumped outside to cut off Smith, who then made a cut inward and made a dash to the rim. Parker was a couple steps late, allowing the 5-foot-9 Smith to score with ease to give the Pistons their lead and the eventual game-winner.

Bobby Portis, whose shot wasn’t falling but played admirable defense against a talent like Griffin, was on the other side of the double screen and didn’t have a great view of the play. But he said allowing a layup with the game on the line is inexcusable.

“It’s a tough play but at the same time you don’t want to give up a layup at the end of the game,” he said. “You want to make him take a tough shot. That’s something we’ve got to work on, is late game execution on defense.”

But again, it’s about baby steps. The Bulls will want that final possession back, and Hoiberg might also want it back after leaving Parker in the game over Carter. But from where the Bulls were on Thursday, this was better. Granted, allowing 118 points and 18 3-pointers to the Pistons isn’t a recipe for success, it’s improvement nonetheless. Detroit got a career-high five triples from Griffin, four from Reggie Jackson (a career 32 percent 3-point shooter) and a pair from Stnaley Johnson (a career 29 percent 3-point shooter). The Bulls will be able to live with some of those makes.

On Thursday the Bulls trailed by just six early in the third quarter before the Sixers ripped off a 19-3 run to put the game out of reach. On Saturday the Pistons got out to a six-point lead on two different occasions, and then a seven-point lead with just 2:01 to play. All three times the Bulls came roaring back, using timely spots and clutch baskets from LaVine, Park and even Cameron Payne, who tied a career-high with 17 points.

Ultimately it wasn’t enough, but it’s a positive sign that they were able to battle back and show some fight defensively. They’ll certainly need that when they travel to Dallas to take on a Mavericks team that scored 140 points on the Jimmy Butler-less Timberwolves on Saturday. They should get Dunn back, which will help,  and now have a close contest under their belt on which to build. It didn’t result in a win, and the late-game cross-up was the cause, but the Bulls finished Saturday in a much better place than they were in on Thursday.

“Yeah but obviously we want to get the win. I feel like we fought hard,” Portis said. “Even when adversity hit everybody stuck together. We did our thing tonight. You want to win the game but I felt like we did our job tonight. We just gave up a bad play at the end of the game.”

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

COLUMBUS — 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."