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Windy City Sports Report – 1/28/13

28 Jan

“Talent is God given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.” –John Wooden

Hello sports fans, Carlos here with the latest issue of the Windy City Sports Report. In this edition, the Bulls are on a roll and the Blackhawks are so scorching they are melting the ice.

This has been an intriguing season for the Bulls. Not much was expected of them at the start, since they were without former MVP Derrick Rose. They started out a bit shaky but are now the surprise of the NBA and are on a nice roll as his return nears. They had four games last week, and they went 3-1.

The week started on Monday as they hosted the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers stayed close for most of the game, but the Bulls used an 18-4 run in the final moments of the 4th quarter and came away with a 95-83 victory.

Buls

Kirk Hinrich led the Bulls with 22 points, and Marco Belinelli added 15. Joakim Noah grabbed 13 rebounds and had a season-high 6 blocked shots. It was the first game played since Noah was benched for the last 23 minutes two nights before.

Apparently, Noah was upset at being taken out of the game and had some choice words for Coach Tom Thibodeau that was not appreciated. No one would say what the words were but Noah took the blame for it. “I admit it,” he said. “It was my fault. I shouldn’t have said the things that I said.”

Jimmy Butler, making his second start in place of injured Luol Deng scored 10 points, and did a pretty good job guarding Kobe Bryant. Bryant had 16 points, shooting 7-22, and went to the foul line only 3 times.

On Wednesday, the Bulls hosted the Detroit Pistons, a team that has struggled this season, though they have been playing better as of late.

Of course, playing a team with a losing record, the Bulls dug themselves a hole and struggled throughout the game. They got it together late, erasing a 17-point deficit and escaping with the victory, 85-82.

Nate Robinson had 11 points, but 9 of them were in consecutive fashion as he led the Bulls in a furious 4th quarter rally.

The Bulls were looking lifeless before Robinson checked in. He injected some energy into not only the team but also the United Center crowd. After he got fouled on one possession, he raised his arm, calling the crowd to get on its feet, and it did.

“I just felt like I was invincible, unstoppable,” Robinson said of his energy. “My biggest asset to the game is energy. We needed a lift and I just had to force the crowd to get out of their seats and give us a boost.”

In the final seconds, Belinelli missed a go-ahead three, and the ball was going out of bounds, but Noah jumped with no fear for his body and got the ball back to Belinelli who hit the layup and was fouled. Tayshaun Prince and Rodney Stuckey each missed good-look threes.

This was the second time in a row the Bulls came from a 17-point deficit against the Pistons. In December, they rallied at Detroit for the victory. The win was also the 17th consecutive one for the Bulls over the Pistons.

After the nail-biter on Wednesday, the Bulls had a laugher on Friday. They hosted the Golden State Warriors and just blew them out of the water in a 103-87 win.

The Bulls had three players record a double-double. Noah had 14 points and 16 rebounds, Carlos Boozer had 15 points and 13 rebounds, and Butler had 16 points and 12 rebounds. They outrebounded the Warriors 56-37.

Another hot player was Hinrich. He scored 25 points and made 6-7 from the three-point arc. Spark plug Robinson scored 22.

“The guys set me up with some great plays,” Hinrich said of his hot shooting. “I was hitting shots and they just kept finding me.”

After the game, Thibodeau spoke highly of Butler, playing great basketball and allowing Deng to recover in his own time and not rush back. “He can do a lot better, too,” he said. “I love his toughness. He competes on every play. He’s not afraid. Guys like that can always continue to get better.”

After winning three straight for the week, the Bulls traveled to Washington to face the Wizards, another losing team. Even after a laugher on Friday, they once again played down to their competition, and again it bit them hard in an embarrassing 86-73 loss.

Robinson scored 19 points, but he was the only Bull to score in double digits. Noah just missed having a triple double, getting 9 points, 17 rebounds and a career-high 10 assists. “I think we got beat by a team that just played harder than us tonight,” Noah said. “We played tired basketball tonight.”

The Wizards do not have many victories, but three of them are against the Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder, and now the Bulls.

The loss left the Bulls with a 26-17 record, allowing them to leapfrog the Indiana Pacers for first in the Central Division. They are also now the 3rd seed in the Eastern Conference, just 3 games behind the Heat, and 1 ½ games behind the New York Knicks. They have 4 games again this week. They host the Charlotte Bobcats on Monday, and then embark on a road trip that takes them to Milwaukee to face the Bucks on Wednesday, Brooklyn on Friday to face the Nets, and Atlanta on Saturday to face the Hawks.

In other Bulls’ news, the All Star Game reserves were announced on Thursday and the Bulls had two-Deng and Noah. Boozer has had a terrific season, so his omission was bad. I have been as hard on Boozer as anyone, but he has shut up many of his detractors with his play. Now let’s hope he continues it during the playoffs.

There was word out that the Bulls were quietly planning on having Derrick Rose’s return on February 28th. I am sure the NBA and Adidas approve as the opponent for that game is…none other than the Philadelphia 76ers, the team the Bulls were playing when Rose tore his ACL. Also, the game will be televised nationally on TNT, so if he is ready, that would be the perfect date. Stay tuned for more information on The Return.

The lockout seemed to do the Blackhawks good. They won 4 games last week to run their overall record to 6-0, tops in the NHL.

After taking down the defending Cup Champions Los Angeles Kings in their season opener, and beating the Phoenix Coyotes, the team that eliminated them from the playoffs last season, the Blackhawks now faced the Central-Division Champions St. Louis Blues.

They hit the Blues early, and then took a 3-0 lead in the final period before the Blues tried to storm back, scoring two goals of their own, but Corey Crawford made two big saves late in the period to save the victory.

Goals were scored by Patrick Kane in the first, Brent Seabrook in the second, and Viktor Salberg in the third.

On Thursday, the Blackhawks traveled to Dallas to face the Stars. Marian Hossa scored his league-leading fifth goal in overtime to send the Blackhawks to a 3-2 win.

Captain Jonathan Toews tied the game with a goal late in the game, and Patrick Sharp had a goal and two assists.

“First really big test coming from behind and I think we didn’t quit,” Hossa said. “Huge goal by Toews at the end kept us in the game.”

On Saturday, the Blackhawks traveled to Columbus to face the Blue Jackets, and they came away with a 3-2 victory that matched the franchise mark for consecutive wins to start a season at 5. The only other time they started 5-0 was the 1971-72 season.

Kane had another strong game, getting two assists. Toews again had a big goal, getting the game-winning goal. Crawford continued his good play with 24 saves.

“That was one of those games where maybe we didn’t play our best hockey like we’ve seen in the last five games, but as a team it doesn’t matter who goes out there you’ve got to find a way to win,” Toews said. “And we did that.”

Crawford won for the fourth time this season, and he was particularly good when the team was shorthanded. He helped kill all five of the Blue Jackets’ power plays.

“I feel good, I feel focused,” Crawford said. “The puck looks pretty big right now. Also, everyone’s making the effort to play defense. It’s showing in the first bunch of games-guys are coming back to help out and that helps us get to offense after that.”

On Sunday, the Blackhawks hosted the hated Detroit Red Wings. They struggled through most of the second and third periods, but Nick Leddy scored a goal at 2:45 of overtime and they scored another victory, breaking the franchise record for consecutive victories to start the season. Never in their 85-year history have the Chicago Blackhawks started 6-0, until now.

Duncan Keith scored on a power play in the first, and it held until the Red Wings tied it at 4:30 of the third period.

Crawford again came up big, with 29 saves, and helped kill all six of Detroit’s power plays, including at one point a 5-on-3 advantage.  The Blackhawks have killed 22 of 23 power plays so far this season.

After taking much heat for the subpar season the Blackhawks had last year, Crawford has been much more focused this season. “Focus has been a huge part of it so far,” he said. “I thought I was focused last year, but I wasn’t quite there. This year, I’ve paid a little bit more attention to that, especially throughout the game. Every play around the net, I’m ready and getting low for little things around the net so I don’t give up those little goals.”

Out of their six games this season, four of them have been on the road. This week they embark on a six game road trip, and do not play at home again until February 12th. If they can continue to have some success on the road, the schedule gets pretty. At the end of the trip they would have gotten 10 of the 24road games out of the way. They will then have 22 home games left to play the rest of the shortened season. This great start is huge for them.

This week they have the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday. Then they go to Vancouver to face the Canucks on Friday and to Calgary on Saturday to face the Flames.

That is it for now, sports fans. Until next week, let’s hope both the Bulls and Blackhawks continue their hot play. Remember, too, that pitchers and catchers report to Cubs camp in 13 days (Feb 10) and 15 days for the White Sox (Feb 12)!

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