Bulls open critical road trip in Milwaukee

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Bulls open critical road trip in Milwaukee

Saturday, Feb. 26, 2011
Posted 11:18 a.m. Updated 6:32 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

MILWAUKEEThursday nights home win in a marquee matchup over the Heat might have made league observers take the Bulls more seriously as true championship contenders, but to the team itself, it was just another game. Okay, maybe it wasnt that insignificant, but dont expect them to have a letdown performance in Saturdays contest against the Central Division rival Bucks.

Every game is important and I think that the last couple games just prove to you how difficult the NBA is. You beat a team like Miami; the day before, we lose to Toronto, Joakim Noah told CSNChicago.com before the teams morning shootaround at the Bradley Center. So, it just shows you have to be mentally prepared and you have to be ready for all obstacles.

Still, one would think preserving their perfect record against divisional opponents would be a motivating factor, right?

We didnt set out to do that. If we could, wed win every game. I think that were on a run right now. We came back from beating a good team. Weve got the opportunity to play a good team tonight to see how good we really are, said Derrick Rose, pooh-poohing that notion. Milwaukee has had a lot of injuries. A lot of their key players were out, banged up and that really can hurt your team. Trades and all that stuff, getting used to playing with each other, changing lineupsthats toughand they just havent had time to play with each other, really.

Rose professed that the Bulls remain an insular bunch, concerned with only their self-perception, winning games and continually improving.

We dont really care about what other people say. If anything, we knew in the beginning that we were going to be an all right team with the way that we work, the way that we practice and all that stuff. We go hard, so where were at right now or the way that were playing, were not surprised because we work so hard in practice and we trust in and have confidence in each other, said the All-Star point guard. Hopefully, but weve just got to continue to win. Winning takes care of everything. Youve got to notice us one day.

Concurred Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau: Each game, we just worry about the opponent were facing. All that stuffthe recordthat doesnt mean anything. To win tonight is whats important, so we focus on that. the big thing for us to have a good shootaround. This team is dangerous. Theyre getting guys back, theyre playing at a high level, so we know that we have to be ready right from the start of the game and establish a defensive identity to the game.

Not only is Thibodeau unconcerned with the fanfare garnered from the Heat win, the basketball lifer is truly preoccupied with how his squad will fare against the Bucks, who went from last years plucky Fear the Deer campaign to a disappointing, injury-plagued season thus far after being saddled with high preseason expectations.

That game is gone. I think you take it game by game and certainly analyze why you either win or why you lost, and then you move forward from there. The big thing is the improvement. If you keep looking back and youre not ready for this game, then it hurts you. If you learn from it, it prepares for your next game, then its good and thats what were trying to do, is each and every game, to move forward, to correct the mistakes that weve made in the previous game and keep adding, try to build the right habits. I think when we get to the playoffs, you want to make sure were building those habits that can make us successful down the road, said Thibodeau.

The big thing has been the injuries for Milwaukee. Bucks center Andrew Bogut had the big setback last year and hes continuing to work through it. To me, he still has great impact on the game because he anchors their defense, hes a great shot-blocker and hes a tough guy to stop when he gets good positioning. And then Brandon Jennings, when your point guard and your center get hurt, its tough to overcome and they have a lot of new guys. Swingman Carlos Delfino being out with his injury, that hurt them. But theyre dangerous. Theyre an extremely well-coached team, they have a defensive identity and now that theyre getting their players back, its a team thats hard to guard, they share the ball, the move the ball great. Its a great drive-and-kick team.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

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Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks battle Bruins tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks battle Bruins tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Boston Bruins tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Blackhawks.

Five Things to Watch:

1. Scott Darling gets the nod.

Joel Quenneville is giving a struggling Corey Crawford a breather tonight, electing to go with Darling in the final game of the father's road trip. Darling is 11-4-2 with a 2.34 goals against average, .924 save percentage and one shutout in 20 games this season. His numbers aren't as great on the road, where he is 4-2-1 with a 2.83 GAA and .901 save percentage compared to a 7-2-1 record with a 1.98 GAA and .928 save percentage at home, but he fared well against Boston last season. The Lemont native stopped 42 of 46 shots, good for a .913 save percentage, in a 6-4 win at the United Center last April.

2. The Panarin-Anisimov-Kane line.

The Blackhawks' trio of Artem Anisimov, Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin had a rare zero points in Tuesday's 6-4 win over Colorado, but don't expect to see that again. In fact, it could be the opposite. In their last meeting against the Bruins, a 6-4 win on April 3 during the 2015-16 season, they combined for 11 points (five goals, six assists), highlighted by a Kane hat trick that put him at 100 points on the season for the first time in his career. 

3. How the rookies build off a monsterous game.

In arguably the most well-rounded victory of the season Tuesday in Colorado, the Blackhawks had three rookies that had multi-point efforts. Vinnie Hinostroza had two goals, including the game winner. Tanner Kero had two goals and one assist, while Nick Schmaltz also had a goal and an assist. It was the top-six that was doing the heavy lifting earlier in the season, now the bottom-six is slowly starting to contribute on a consistent basis. The Blackhawks will be in great shape if they can confidently roll four lines that have the potential to find the back of the net on any given shift.

4. Patrice Bergeron vs. Jonathan Toews.

Two of the best two-way centers in the league will go head-to-head, and it's always a fun matchup to watch. Bergeron leads the league with 597 faceoff wins, and is ranked fifth with a 58.4 percentage at the dot while Toews ranks eighth in wins with 473 — despite missing nine games with a back injury — and sits at sixth with a 57.5 percentage. Both of the perennial Selke Trophy candidates have struggled offensively this season, with Bergeron recording only 21 points in 45 games and Toews with 22 points in 38 contests. Bergeron has been heating up as of late, though, scoring three goals and six assists in his last eight games. Bergeron also leads the league in possession numbers, with the Bruins controlling 61.9 percent of the even-strength shot attempts when he's on the ice.

5. Brad Marchand.

In September, Marchand inked an eight-year, $49 million deal and it's already paying dividends for the Bruins. He has 14 points (seven goals, seven assists) in his last eight games, and 45 points total, which is by far the most on his team and tied for sixth in the NHL. He's 16 points away from tying his career high of 61 set last season, with a little less than half the year to go. He's also had great success against the Blackhawks. In his last six games against Chicago, dating back to the 2013-14 campaign, he has registered at least a point in all of them, scoring four goals and adding five assists. To make life more difficult, he's a player that enjoys getting under people's skin, so expect him to be a big factor tonight.

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