Bulls not underestimating Cavs in road opener

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Bulls not underestimating Cavs in road opener

CLEVELAND On paper, the Bulls first four games Wednesdays season-opening win over Sacramento, Fridays road opener at Cleveland, hosting New Orleans in the second half of a back-to-back and Tuesdays home game against Orlando seem like virtual cakewalks against young, inexperienced teams. Tom Thibodeau doesnt see it that way.

The ultra-prepared Bulls head coach praised the Kings explosiveness both before and after his team outlasted them, and coming into Fridays tilt, his message has been similar. One of his frequently-used mantras, know your opponent, has definitely taken affect.

I think theyve got a good team. They run a lot of pick-and-rolls. Kyrie Irving creates a lot for them and last game I know its early in the season but they were going out and running, Luol Deng told CSNChicago.com Friday morning, prior to the Bulls morning shootaround at Quicken Loans Arena. Anderson Varejaos playing well. Its a tough game. Its one that we want to come in and get. Early games are always tough. Teams are playing hard, teams are trying to prove that theyre better, players are trying to show their coach that theyre better and those games are tough."

Its no surprise Deng is familiar with Irving, last seasons Rookie of the Year and his fellow Duke product via New Jersey or Varejao, a veteran, who was playing for Cleveland when LeBron James was still in town and the Central Division foes faced off in the playoffs. But if he showed that much deference to a clearly-inferior opponent, albeit an undefeated one after knocking off Washington in their season opener Tuesday, imagine what Thibodeau would say, especially after the Cavaliers beat the Bulls in an exhibition game.

Theyre tough. Irving, hes an elite point guard, makes people better. Varejaos coming off a huge game. Tristan Thompson is tough. Daniel Gibson comes in off the bench. Dion Waiters, a young player, very explosive. Theyve got a lot of weapons, Thibodeau explained. We have a good read. You have to study and know your opponent, and most of these teams, they have a mix of young guys, older guys. You look at a guy like Varejao, hes been around a long time. Gibsons been around a long time. This is the second time around for Irving. So, whoever they have out there. Donald Sloan has a done good job backing up the point.

Theyve added good young players. Varejaos healthy this year, which is huge for them, and Irving is a very special player because of his ability to make everyone else better. Waiters is real crafty off the dribble, gives them a multiple pick-and-roll game. So, they have good young talent, he continued. Of course, Varejao has a unique skill set, brings a lot of energy. Thompson is high energy, athletic, tough and I think because of what Irving and Waiters can do off the dribble if their penetration is breaking you down, it sets up the second shot for them so they can beat you with the second shot. So, you have to have a multiple-effort mentality, pack the paint and you have to gang-rebound. They have a lot of good young players.

Thibodeau was especially complimentary of Irving, who appears poised to join the group of tremendous young point guards in the NBA, including the Bulls Derrick Rose. This game, just like the two teams battles last season wont feature both young stars on the court together at the same time, as injuries continue to ruin that potential matchup.

One, his demeanor. He seems like hes a very under control type of player, Thibodeau said about Irving. He plays with a lot of poise and I think his understanding of the game, so hes a special player and he showed that last year.

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Five Things from Blackhawks-Canucks: Corey Crawford rebounds

Five Things from Blackhawks-Canucks: Corey Crawford rebounds

The Blackhawks’ starts have been all over the map this season but their finishes have usually been strong. That was the case again on Sunday night as the Blackhawks took a lead, lost a lead and regained a lead for good in their 4-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks.

This one featured a little bit of everything. So let’s just get to the Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ victory over Vancouver.

1. Jonathan Toews breaks through. If the Blackhawks captain’s confidence was a little shaken with his lack of scoring this season, it should’ve gotten a boost with his Sunday outing. Toews’ goal and three assists were as big for him as they were the Blackhawks, who needed every bit of it late against the Canucks. In his last 12 games Toews has three goals and eight assists. He’s getting there. Said coach Joel Quenneville, “it seems like he was around the puck way more and when he does that, usually good things happen.”

2. Great start. This hasn’t been written very often but it was more than evident on Sunday night. If this wasn’t the Blackhawks’ best opening period of the season it was pretty close, as they broke out to a 2-0 lead against the Canucks. The Blackhawks, outside of a 3 ½-minute sequence without a shot on goal, were tenacious and ready to shoot, taking an 18-9 shots-on-goal edge in that first.

3. Corey Crawford rebounds. Quenneville considered Scott Darling for this game, an understandable thought with Darling coming off a 30-stop shutout. But he wanted Crawford to get back to where he was prior to his appendectomy, and Crawford took a step in that direction on Sunday night. In stopping 25 of 27 shots Crawford got his 18th victory of the season and 200th of his career. Quenneville said Crawford “looked like he was in control.”

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4. Michal Kempny’s tough stretch. When Kempny has been good this season he’s been very good. When he’s been bad... The defenseman was in the penalty box when the Canucks scored their first goal and he was beaten by Bo Horvat on the Canucks’ second goal. Kempny didn’t play the final 14 minutes of the game. Quenneville, who liked what Kempny brought on the team’s road trip, said Kempny just has to work through some things. “Coverage with awareness and knowing sometimes it’s man coverage, sometimes it’s playing the puck and clearing the loose stuff,” Quenneville said. “Defenseman is a tough position as you’re growing and learning it, but the more you play the better you play and I still think he’s making progress.”

5. Brian Campbell gets to keep No. 500 this time. Campbell thought he had his 500th point against the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night but it was taken away. Well he got it back on Sunday night, setting up Richard Panik’s 11th goal of the season in the first period.