Blackhawks

NBA MVP takes down the Bucks at the buzzer

696048.jpg

NBA MVP takes down the Bucks at the buzzer

From Comcast SportsNet
MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Derrick Rose faked like he was going to drive to the basket again, creating just enough of a cushion on defender Brandon Jennings. Then he slid to his left in a split second, drilling a winning shot at the buzzer. The reigning league MVP sure knows how to thrill a stadium filled with Bulls fans -- even when he isn't playing at home. Rose's off-balance shot just inside the 3-point line capped a 30-point night that powered the Chicago Bulls to a 106-104 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday. "It was like a kid, all the things that you dream about," Rose said. "It felt good. You're on the road, going against a team that's giving you their all and you hit a nice shot like that." Rose was mobbed by his teammates near halfcourt as a predominantly pro-Bulls crowd roared in approval, bursting out in chants of "M-V-P!" Joakim Noah added 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Bulls, who have won eight straight. "It was like a movie," Noah said. "Hit the shot, no time left on the clock, you hear the horn, the ball goes through the net. It must be an unbelievable feeling to hit a shot like that." Jennings noted that Rose wasn't having a particularly good night shooting from outside, so the Bucks were expecting him to drive. "I tried to make him take as difficult a shot as he could," Jennings said. "I was playing him to go to the basket, of course. He hit a step-back jump shot with a hand in his face. Hey, man, you go ahead and take that one." Bucks coach Scott Skiles said Rose made an incredibly tough shot look easy. "What a luxury to have, you don't even need to run a play," Skiles said. "You can just bring it in, throw it to a guy and he can get whatever shot he wants." Ersan Ilyasova had a career-high 32 points and Drew Gooden added a season-high 27 for the Bucks, who were coming off a home win over Philadelphia on Monday. The Bulls held Jennings to 11 points on 4 for 18 shooting. Jennings had scored 27-plus points in his previous three games coming into Wednesday. With the Bulls often double-teaming Jennings on defense, especially early, Gooden was left open for several outside shots -- and he cashed in, scoring 16 first-half points to keep the Bucks in the game. "I mean, it was a little difficult," Jennings said. "But like I said, Drew was hitting shots, Ersan was playing big for us." Once again, the Bradley Center was taken over by Bulls fans -- although Chicago's home-away-from-home-court advantage wasn't quite as pronounced as it was in the Bulls' Feb. 4 victory at Milwaukee, a Saturday night game that drew a huge crowd comprised mostly of Bulls fans. Still, the Bucks received a jarring greeting when they took the floor before Wednesday's game -- mostly boos -- and the crowd was decidedly pro-Bulls most of the game. When Milwaukee's Mike Dunleavy Jr. missed badly in the second quarter, he was subjected to "Airball!" chants. It left the Bucks in the odd position of having to talk about tuning out the crowd at home. "It hurts a lot that we lost this one, just the fact that we played so hard for 48 minutes," Jennings said. "Guys were down there battling. We didn't let the crowd get to us at all." The crowd apparently did get his attention before the game. "I told the guys before the game, we're just going to tune that out and play basketball," Jennings said. The Bulls have won all four meetings with the Bucks this season. With the Bulls up by two, Rose lost the ball out of bounds and officials initially ruled it went off a Bucks player. After a replay review, the call was reversed and the ball went to the Bucks with 55.2 seconds left. Milwaukee's Beno Udrih then drove for a layup, tying the game with 42.9 seconds left. Rose drove on Jennings, then tried to hit a turnaround jumper -- and drew a foul on Jennings and hit both shots for a 104-102 lead with 32.5 left. Ilyasova scored inside, tying the game again with 24 seconds left and setting the stage for Rose's last-second shot. "It was a great play by him," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "He took the clock down, he didn't leave any time because it was one of those games where whoever had the ball, you thought they were going to score next." Notes: The Bulls were without guards Richard Hamilton and C.J. Watson because of injuries. Hamilton has a right shoulder injury, while Watson has a left ankle sprain. ... The Bucks were without defensive ace Luc Richard Mbah a Moute because of a right knee injury, and Udrih played despite left knee soreness. Stephen Jackson continues to sit out with hamstring soreness, and no timeline has been established for his return.

Anthony Duclair regrets not making most of opportunity with Blackhawks

anthony_duclair_usa_today.jpg
USA TODAY

Anthony Duclair regrets not making most of opportunity with Blackhawks

Anthony Duclair knew what kind of opportunity he had in front of him when he was traded to the Blackhawks in January. The first day he stepped into the locker room, he admitted he was a little "star-struck."

But the marriage didn't last very long. 

After recording only two goals and eight assists in 23 games, the Blackhawks chose to move on from the restricted free agent by not extending a qualifying offer. Duclair later latched on with the Columbus Blue Jackets on a one-year, $650,000 "prove-it" deal.

"I wasn't surprised," Duclair said before Saturday's game against his former team. "I knew that I didn't perform as well as I did when I was there. I think I was there for only 20 games and didn't live up to the standards. As soon as I didn't hear anything from my agent I sort of got the message. But it was time to move on."

Duclair made no excuses for what went wrong in Chicago and accepted responsibility for not taking advantage of his opportunity, even though a leg injury sidelined him for the final month that prevented him from giving the Blackhawks a larger sample size.

"I just didn't perform well," he said. "It's going to be one of my regrets, to get that opportunity in Chicago and not perform in the way I did. It was something I had to look in the mirror this summer and move on obviously, but at the same time whenever a team comes next I think I'm going to take that opportunity and run away with it."

It's obvious that Duclair's got the potential to be an effective offensive player in the NHL. But we've only seen that in flashes, which is a large reason why it didn't work out in Chicago and why, entering his fifth season in the league, he still finds himself trying to play for a long-term contract.

"Just being more consistent," Duclair said. "Thats comes up a lot and my agents talks to a couple GMs around the league and it's something I'm trying to work on. It's not something you can work on in the summer, it's more preparing mentally and physically and that's what I've been trying to do."

So far, so good in Columbus.

Duclair has two goals and two assists through six games and is averaging 15:22 of ice time playing in a top-six role, on track to shatter his previous career high in that category (14:23) when he did so as a sophomore in 2015-16 with Arizona. He even made headlines on Thursday after scoring a highlight-reel goal against the Philadelphia Flyers, saying his "phone blew up quite a bit."

How he scored it is what stood out and his perspective after it is encouraging for his overall growth, as well.

"I've already put it behind me to be honest with you," Duclair said. "I'm just focused on Chicago now. I want to be consistent throughout every shift. Look at that goal, [it was] second and third efforts. That's what I want to bring to the table every shift, especially with the guys I'm playing right now. I just want to be having the puck whenever you can and being big on the forecheck."

Three keys and prediction: Bears vs. Patriots

Three keys and prediction: Bears vs. Patriots

1. Good games from Roquan Smith and Danny Trevathan. Here’s a sampling of Pro Football Focus grades for primary middle/inside/will linebackers against New England this year: 

Reggie Ragland (KC): 60.1
Anthony Hitchens (KC): 30.2
Zaire Franklin (IND): 48.6
Najee Goode (IND): 47.1
Kiko Alonso (MIA): 63.9
Raekwon McMillan (MIA): 62.5
Christian Jones (DET): 59.7
Jarrad Davis (DET): 29.8
Telvin Smith Sr. (JAX): 64.1
Myles Jack (JAX): 61.0
Bernardrick McKinney (HOU): 68.7
Zach Cunningham (HOU): 43.2

Think what you will of Pro Football Focus’ grades, but the average here is 53.2. Interestingly, though, the average grade for these 12 players over the course of the 2018 season is 51.5. So maybe the issue is the Patriots have faced a bunch of mediocre-to-bad linebackers, allowing them to take advantage of those soft spots with Sony Michel running the ball and James White catching it. Smith’s PFF grade is 62.3; Trevathan’s is 64.3, so by this measure, they’re better than any of the interior linebackers the Patriots have faced but still are the weak spot in the Bears’ defense (only Jonathan Bullard has a lower PFF grade among players with 100 or more snaps). 

How Smith and Trevathan play will be key in determining how quickly Brady is able to get the ball out (with passes to White), and how many times they get into third-and-less-than-five situations (with Michel running it). Both those factors will be critical for the Bears’ pass rush, which brings us to our next point.

2. Pressure Tom Brady without blitzing. Brady is a master of beating blitzes, completing 23 of 21 passes for 314 yards with three touchdowns, no interceptions and only one sack when blitzed, per PFF (that’s good for a 138.4 passer rating). When he’s under pressure, though, he has his lowest passer rating — which is still 87.2 — but the point here is that the Bears can’t afford to have to send blitzes to try to get pressure on Brady. The Bears were one of the best teams in the league at pressuring opposing quarterbacks without blitzing before the trip to Miami, and how healthy Khalil Mack really is will be a critical determining factor in those efforts. But when the Bears do earn their pass-rushing opportunities, as Akiem Hicks put it, they need to at least affect Brady and not let him comfortably sit back to pick apart their defense. 

3. Convert red zone opportunities into touchdowns. This was a point Taylor Gabriel made this week about the state of the NFL in 2018: You can no longer afford to settle for three points or, worse, come away from a red zone possession with no points. Scoring is up league-wide, and the Patriots have scored 38, 38 and 43 points in their last three games. One of the biggest reasons the Bears lost that shootout in Miami was two turnovers from inside the five-yard line (Jordan Howard’s fumble, Mitch Trubisky’s interception). Stopping New England’s offense will be difficult, and the expectation should be for Sunday to be a high-scoring afternoon. If that’s the case, the Bears will have to get in the end zone every opportunity they get. The good news: New England’s defense is allowing a touchdown on 68 percent of their opponents’ possessions inside the red zone. 

Prediction: Patriots 31, Bears 27. The Bears’ defense sounded properly motivated after getting gouged by Brock Osweiler in Miami last weekend, but that only goes so far when one of the best quarterbacks of all time rolls into town. This winds up being a back-and-forth affair, but the guy with 54 game-winning drives in his regular season and playoff career makes it 55 late in the fourth quarter at Soldier Field. A close loss to the Patriots wouldn’t dampen the positive vibes around the Bears, so long as they respond with wins against the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills in the next two weeks.