Blackhawks

The Lakers are starting to find their groove

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The Lakers are starting to find their groove

From Comcast SportsNetPHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers are winning again. It's just a two-game streak, but it's still a turnaround from their abysmal play of late.Bryant scored 34 points, Metta World Peace added 19 points and a career-high 16 rebounds and the Lakers won consecutive games for the first time in nearly a month with a 111-98 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday.Dwight Howard had 17 points and 11 rebounds for the Lakers, who led 60-50 at halftime. Darius Morris had a career-high 15 points, all in the first half, and Chris Duhon scored 14. It was World Peace's first double-double since Jan. 13, 2010, at Dallas.The Lakers (11-14), who beat Washington 102-96 on Friday night, won two in a row for the first time since a three-game streak from Nov. 16-20."It's guys playing with confidence and guys trusting each other," said Bryant, who was 12 for 21 from the field and 8 for 9 from the free-throw line. "We played well, communicated well, kept attacking and good things happened. I know the questions have been coming because we hadn't been winning, but our time will come."Even without injured stars Steve Nash and Pau Gasol, the Lakers hardly resembled the team which entered the night four games below .500. Bryant has scored at least 30 points in six consecutive games."We did a great job of attacking early and then we stayed with it," he said. "Our bench did a great job and stepped up and our whole team stepped up and just played with confidence."Nick Young paced the reeling Sixers (12-12) with 30 points while Spencer Hawes and Evan Turner added 16 apiece. Thaddeus Young had 14 for Philadelphia, which dropped its third straight game for the first time this season."We just have to keep working, keep going to practice and go back to the drawing board," Thaddeus Young said.Like the Lakers, the Sixers also have been playing short-handed. Point guard Jrue Holiday, who averages a team-best 18.4 points, missed his second consecutive game with a sprained left foot.Los Angeles led 87-73 after three, but the Sixers closed to 91-82 with 8:27 remaining.The Lakers responded with a 9-3 surge to go back up by 15 at 100-85 with 5:15 left. Suddenly, all those boos careening down from the rafters toward Bryant and his teammates turned into fans heading up the aisles to leave the building."They knocked down a lot of 3s and they kind of spread the floor," Nick Young said. "You have to give them credit."Los Angeles was 14 for 34 from 3-point range. Duhon was 4 for 10 from beyond the arc, and World Peace and Morris each made three 3s."Guys are playing well, we had open looks and guys were able to knock them down," Duhon said. "I think you have to take what the defense gives you."The Lakers' 10 3s in the first half broke the record for most in a half at the Wells Fargo Center, which opened in 1996.NOTES:Jordan Hill, a forward-center with Los Angeles, was a late scratch with back spasms. ... Sixers C Kwame Brown started for the eighth time. He also has seven DNP-Coach's Decision this season. Brown received a technical foul with 10:39 left in the third quarter. . Including this game, the Sixers are playing 10 of the next 12 against teams from the Western Conference. . Eagles running back LeSean McCoy attended the game. ... The Lakers went 19 for 24 at the line, compared to 6 for 11 for the 76ers.

The thought process behind overloading one line for Blackhawks

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USA TODAY

The thought process behind overloading one line for Blackhawks

Depth scoring is key in today's NHL. If you can't roll four lines, it will eventually catch up to you over the course of an 82-games season and, if you get there, in the playoffs, where it will certainly be exposed.

But equally important in today's NHL is having one dependable line that can be a difference-maker on a nightly basis. We're seeing it more and more across the league where teams overload one line as a "try and stop us" mentality and it's working.

Colorado's top line of Landeskog-MacKinnon-Rantanen leads all trios with 19 even-strength goals this season. Three other lines are tied for second with 16 (Panarin-Dubois-Atkinson in Columbus, Skinner-Eichel-Pominville in Buffalo and Hyman-Tavares-Marner in Toronto).

Boston’s trio of Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak has controlled a ridiculous 60.1 percent of the even-strength shot attempts over the last three seasons and has a plus-20 goal differential, according to corsica.hockey. Over that same span, Nashville’s first line of Forsberg-Johansen-Arvidsson has an NHL-leading plus-29 goal differential.

All of these teams are seeing the benefits both in the short-term and long-term as it’s translating to overall team success. Rather than playing pick your poison, the Blackhawks are trying to do the same in putting Saad-Toews-Kane together (along with DeBrincat-Anisimov-Schmaltz), hoping to spark some steady offensive production.

"If we play them together, they've got to produce," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "But sometimes when you spread them out, no one produces. By loading them up, it puts some pressure on them, but hopefully they play so well that it doesn't matter who has the puck. They're making plays, they break through anyways, no matter who they're playing against. That's what we ask of them, and so far they're coming through for us."

Patrick Kane leads the Blackhawks with 12 goals. Jonathan Toews is second with 10. Brandon Saad has six (three in his past five games). In putting them on a line together, the goal for them is to continue scoring at a high rate, but doing so on a more consistent basis.

“We’re definitely hurting for offense right now, and that’s from top to bottom, the production has gone down,” Kane said. “You take it upon yourself as a player that’s supposed to score and produce, be able to do that every night. It would be nice to be able to do that more often.”

Bulls Talk Podcast: Injuries continue to plague the Bulls, should the team pursue a trade for John Wall?

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Bulls Talk Podcast: Injuries continue to plague the Bulls, should the team pursue a trade for John Wall?

In the latest edition of the Bulls Talk Podcast, the Athletic’s Bulls beat writer, Darnell Mayberry joins Mark Schanowski to discuss Denzel Valentine’s season-ending ankle injury (2:25) and what to watch for with Lauri Markkanen, Kris Dunn and Bobby Portis all scheduled to return to the line-up in the coming weeks.

Should the Bulls pursue a trade for John Wall? (16:00) And, is Charlotte high-scoring point guard Kemba Walker a realistic target in free agency next summer? (13:30)

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

Bulls Talk Podcast

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