Bulls stay focused, try to close out Pacers

448357.jpg

Bulls stay focused, try to close out Pacers

Saturday, April 23, 2011
Posted: 11:29 a.m.
By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

INDIANAPOLISDont talk to the Bulls about the potential impact of winning Saturdays Game 4. They dont even want to discuss it in theory.

If we start thinking about all the other things, were going to lose sight of what we need to do, said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau before Friday afternoons practice at IUPUIs (Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis) gym, The Jungle.

The big thing in this league is everybody looks at all the other stuff and thats not the way it works, said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. I think just being ready for the next game, thats enough and thats what you need to do. The next games always the hardest game in this league.

Added Derrick Rose: It feels good, but we still have one more game to play. I dont want to jinx myself by saying that were winning already, but were almost there. Weve got one more important game.

Chicago knows that despite their 3-0 series lead, the host Pacers wont exactly lay out the red carpet for them on their way to the second round. Indiana has been consistent in their primary focuslimiting Roseand after throwing a variety of defenders (including 6-foot-8 rookie Paul George, swingman Brandon Rush and Thursday, for the first time in the series, veteran Dahntay Jones) and maintaining their rough play in the paint, resulting in a 4-for-18 outing for Rose in Game 3, its likely that Pacers interim head coach Frank Vogel comes up with a few more adjustments in hopes of keeping his teams playoff run alive.

Because youre playing the same team over and over again, youre going to see a couple wrinkles here and there, but theyre not going to change who they are. That doesnt happen, said Thibodeau. Weve got to be consistent with our defense and our rebounding, and weve got to take care of the ball.
Read: Aggrey Sam's The Starting Five for Game 4 vs. the Pacers

Chimed in Joakim Noah: Weve seen a lot and I expect them to try to take the ball out of D-Roses hands and its on us to try to make plays when theres one less defender.

As for criticism that the Bulls arent winning by wide enough margins or playing an aesthetically-pleasing style, the team isnt concerned.

I dont worry about any of that stuff, said Thibodeau. I know that in the playoffs, wins are hard to come by, so you do what you have to do to win.

For a team that only has four players from last seasons 41-41 squad that barely sneaked into the postseason before being bounced in five first-round games, this is heady stuff.

Winning is important to us, more important than any of the controversies or whatever people are saying right now, said Noah. Were up 3-0, Ive never been in this position before, its very exciting and were not going to let peoples expectations get in the way of us enjoying this, enjoying the process, enjoying getting better, enjoying improving, and hopefully we can do big things.

Were going to keep the same approach, he continued. Hopefully get this series behind us and get ready for our next opponent.

If that happens to be in a sweep, all the better.

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.

Reports: Dolphins assistant Jeremiah Washburn to be Bears' new O-line coach

Reports: Dolphins assistant Jeremiah Washburn to be Bears' new O-line coach

The Bears have reportedly found a new offensive line coach.

According to multiple reports Monday, Jeremiah Washburn will become the team's new offensive line coach, replacing Dave Magazu.

Washburn worked as an assistant offensive line coach this past season with the Miami Dolphins under Adam Gase, the Bears' former offensive coordinator.

Prior to his season in South Florida, he spent seven seasons with the Detroit Lions, working three of them as the team's offensive line coach after three as an assistant offensive line coach.

[SHOP BEARS: Get your Bears gear right here]

This past season, the Bears ranked 17th in the NFL in rushing with 1,735 yards as a team. Only eight teams allowed fewer sacks than the Bears, who saw quarterbacks dropped by opposing defenses just 28 times. Bears quarterbacks were hit 73 teams, also a top-10 mark in the league.

The Bears also committed a good number of holding penalties, 1.68 per game, which was only bested by seven teams.

Magazu was a longtime member of John Fox's staffs in Chicago, Denver and Carolina.

Blackhawks' rough weekend 'a little bit of a wake-up call'

Blackhawks' rough weekend 'a little bit of a wake-up call'

Patrick Kane was summing up the Blackhawks' weekend, one that didn't go well in terms of points.

"Good way to kind of judge ourselves, where we're at," he said Sunday night. "Might be a little bit of a wake-up call to see how good we really are."

Well, in a way, it is. You can't really compare Friday's loss to Washington and Sunday's loss to Minnesota on performance; the Blackhawks didn't show up for the first game and were much better in the second. Nevertheless, it was the same result in each. The Blackhawks' lengthy hold on first place in the Western Conference ended, with the Wild taking over following Sunday's 3-2 victory.

It's not a sound-the-alarm situation, but the Blackhawks are certainly cognizant of the missed opportunity last weekend and that they came up short against the league's best.

Artem Anisimov agreed with Kane's assessment.

"We just need to play better. All four lines need to play better in all areas of the ice. Just be better in the little things," Anisimov said. "Back check, put stick in the right position, box the guy out, short shifts. All little things need to be better."

[SHOP BLACKHAWKS: Get your Blackhawks gear right here]

Many of the little things that were absent against the Capitals were back against the Wild. But coach Joel Quenneville wasn't happy with mistakes made on goals allowed, especially the first two. And while Kane and the second line were a consistent scoring threat against the Wild, the other three lines weren't. It's a problem that's plagued the Blackhawks a good deal this season, even when they were stringing together victories.

There is no reason to think that, because of this weekend's results, the Blackhawks are going to falter against strong teams. They've done well against others already this season. They beat Montreal earlier this season, when the Canadiens were healthy and steamrolling everyone. They beat the New York Rangers when the Rangers and former Blackhawks backup goaltender Antti Raanta were on their respective hot streaks.

Still, Kane's analysis is correct: This should get the Blackhawks' attention. The Wild have beaten the Blackhawks in eight consecutive regular-season games now and will face them three more times this season. They have two more meetings with the Edmonton Oilers, who beat them soundly in November.

The Blackhawks' long reign atop the Western Conference standings is over. They’re currently second in the Central Division, with an eight-point cushion over the St. Louis Blues. The Blackhawks have done fairly well this season. But this weekend was a reminder that they can be better.

"The game (on Friday) was kind of like a shock to the system thinking maybe you're one of the top teams in the league, or being able to compete with one of the top teams, and we obviously got thoroughly outplayed. We came back (Sunday night). It was pretty even in chances. We might've even had more so, just kind of didn't pull it out," Kane said. "But (when) you've played two of the better teams in the league and lose, there's got to be room for improvement, right?"