Deep Celtics have Thibodeau's, Bulls' attention


Deep Celtics have Thibodeau's, Bulls' attention

Tom Thibodeau will almost always wish Celtics coach Doc Rivers well. That's what happens when two people win a championship together.

Just not tonight.

Thibodeau will face his old mentor tonight at the United Center when the Bulls and Celtics meet up on Comcast SportsNet. And while Thibodeau recently spoke with one of his good friends in the business, things changed around game day.

"I think any time that you win a championship with somebody, that ties you together forever," Thibodeau said at this afternoon's shootaround.

The two spoke recently, but Thibodeau said the two don't talk basketball when they're about to play each other.

"He's been a good friend for a long time, so I know how competitive he is and the make-up of that team. So like I said yesterday, we wish him well but not tonight."

Part of that 2008 NBA Champion Celtics team with Rivers and Thibodeau, Ray Allen, won't be involved in tonight's matchup. The NBA's all-time leading 3-point shooter signed with Miami in the offseason, but Thibodeau said the Celtics' two additions -- starter Courtney Lee and sixth man Jason Terry -- as well as returning proven scorers, have made it a seamless transition from Allen.

"They planned extremely well. I think it didn't work out, they wanted to bring Ray back. They covered themselves by going out and getting Jason Terry and Courtney Lee. So they got highly skilled guys," Thibodeau said. "Their shooting component is still very strong. Their bigs, Garnett is as good a shooter as you're going to find for a big. A 17-foot open jump shot for him is a layup. You can't let him get to that, and power forward Brandon Bass is very good mid-range shooter, they've got a lot of weapons on that team."

While Boston's shooting hasn't dipped, their rebounding has. A frontline of Garnett, Bass, rookie Jared Sullinger and Chris Wilcox isn't the biggest in the league, and the lack of a true center has resulted in the Celtics' being out-rebounded by more than four rebounds per game. Opponents also are scoring 13 more points per game in the paint, an area Thibodeau said the Bulls must play better.

"I think we're capable of doing much more, so we can't rely on one or two guys. We have to be a team rebounding-type team, where we do it collectively," he said. "Our smalls have to get in there and battle, and I think that puts you in the open floor. The better you rebound the more you get into the open floor. So we want to try to get as many easy baskets as we can also."

If the Bulls can rebound and get out on the break, it likely will be led by Nate Robinson, not Kirk Hinrich.

Hinrich, who strained his right hip Saturday against the Timberwolves, is listed as doubtful and did not partake in this morning's shoot around.

Regardless of who starts at point guard, Thibodeau knows the Celtics will be ready.

"They play hard, they play unselfishly, they play together, they're well-coached and they execute," he said. "They keep pressure on you at all times, so we have to be ready."

Rose won't make circus road trip

Tom Thibodeau said Monday that Derrick Rose will not accompany the team on their upcoming six-game road trip.

Rose is rehabbing from surgery on a torn ACL, and Thibodeau prefers Rose not travel to different locations in a short period of time.

"We want him focusing in on his rehab right now," he said. "So sometimes jumping around city to city, I want him in one place so that's the big thing for him right now."

Bears In-Foe: Vikings defense is Purple People Eaters, Part II

Bears In-Foe: Vikings defense is Purple People Eaters, Part II

It's bad enough that Jay Cutler will be rusty and he may not have Kyle Long and Josh Sitton protecting him. But even if all the Bears' offensive hands were on deck, Monday night's challenge would've been formidable anyway.

The Vikings' defense leads the league in fewest yards allowed (279.5 per game), is tied for the league-lead in allowing fewest points (14.0), third in rushing defense (81.7), fourth in pass defense (197.8), and sixth in third-down defense (34.2 percent). And oh yeah, they lead the league in turnover ratio (plus-11), courtesy of their nine interceptions (tied for second), seven fumble recoveries and 19 sacks (seventh-most in the NFL).

It's nice to have quality and depth up front. That's where that push comes from, especially off the edges, with ends Brian Robison, Everson Griffen and sophomore Danielle Hunter supplying four sacks apiece. That trio combined for 21.5 sacks a year ago (when the Bears totaled 35 as a team). And while injury-prone Sharrif Floyd finds himself sidelined again since the opener, tackle Linval Joseph (three sacks) is back playing at the All-Pro level he was at a year ago before an ankle injury slowed him. And Tom Johnson contributed 6.5 sacks a year ago rotating in with Floyd at three-technique.

[RELATED: Bears In-Foe: Purple a fitting color for Vikings' battered, bruised offense]

Reunited UCLA linebackers Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks are in their second year together in a run the Bears will likely have to deal with for another decade. This is the 11th and final year they'll see Chad Greenway, who's more leader than playmaker now in the middle of that defense.

Ryan Pace, Vic Fangio and position coach Ed Donatell must also be jealous of the Vikings' deep defensive backfield. Top cover man Xavier Rhodes, last year's top pick Trae Waynes and Andrew Sendejo have two picks each. Waynes still hasn't taken a job away from ageless 37-year-old Terence Newman. The Vikes were trying to upgrade on Sendejo, who answered the challenge and should be able to play Monday after departing the Eagles game with an ankle injury he suffered almost taking an interception to the house. It's almost unfair that second-round rookie Mackensie Alexander can't even surpass fourth cornerback Captain Munnerlyn for playing time.

But we must not forget Harrison Smith. The humble Golden Domer, humorously nicknamed "Gangsta White Boy" by Adrian Peterson, became the NFL's richest safety by inking a five-year, $51 million deal this summer, is coming off a first Pro Bowl that probably would've come sooner if not for a couple injuries. Two of his four career pick-sixes have come against the Bears, and Pro Football Focus has him as the only safety to grade positively in coverage, run support, and pass rush over each of the last two seasons.

Special teams

Just as Robbie Gould fell under the microscope of the current Bears brass with last season's rough finish, the strong-legged Blair Walsh probably feels a few more eyes on him after missing the 27-yard game-winning attempt in the frigid playoff loss to Seattle. He's 10-of-13 on field goals this season, 11-of-13 on extra points.

But while the Vikings' kickoff coverage was burned by Josh Huff's return Sunday in Philadelphia, the Bears coverage units have to be disciplined and smart against Cordarrelle Patterson and Marcus Sherels. Both have burned the Bears more than once before. With more than his seven kick returns, Patterson's 29.9 average would lead the league. Sherels' 14.6-yard return average on punts ranks third in the NFL. He's already returned two for touchdowns this season after burning the Bears at Soldier Field a year to the day short of Monday's contest.

Blackhawks get a point but Kris Versteeg wins it for Flames in shootout

Blackhawks get a point but Kris Versteeg wins it for Flames in shootout

Patrick Kane scored his second goal of the season, but the Calgary Flames were the latest team to punish the Blackhawks’ penalty kill in their 3-2 shootout victory on Monday night.

Kris Versteeg won it in the seventh round of the shootout, waiting long enough for Corey Crawford to be out of position, then slipping the puck past him.

Gustav Forsling was hit along the glass by Lance Bouma in the second period and did not return. An update on his status was not immediately known.

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Brian Campbell scored his first of the season early in the third period, tying the game at 2. Richard Panik looked to have the game winner in the waning seconds, but Brian Elliott stopped the puck with his right skate.

Crawford stopped 29 of 31 in the loss. Elliott stopped 31 of 33 in the victory.

The Blackhawks looked sluggish for a good part of this one, and then their penalty kill once again let them down. Sam Bennett scored the Flames’ first power-play goal just 39 seconds into the advantage. In the second period Sean Monahan buried a rebound for another power-play goal, this one also 39 seconds into the opportunity.