Opening week of NBA season offers some revelations

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Opening week of NBA season offers some revelations

A week into the NBAs regular season, its become clear that certain assumptions made before the campaign starting are off the mark, at least in the easy going. For example, as the Bulls learned Tuesday night in outlasting the previously-undefeated Magic at the United Center, Orlandodespite a roster blending young, under-the-radar talented and veteran role players not regarded as primary optionswont be the leagues worst team.

Another observation that can be gleaned from watching the Bulls is the fact that Joakim Noah could make his debut All-Star appearance, as alluded to Wednesday by the Chicago Sun-Times. Even with the league removing the center designation from the ballot, Noahs all-around play and improved scoringprovided he remains consistent with that aspect of his gamecant be ignored and being that hes both a fan favorite and a player opposing coaches respect, it wouldnt be a surprise to see him in Houston come February, assuming he stays healthy and the Bulls are, at minimum, in playoff position.

Speaking of the Bulls postseason prospects, early as it may be, they got a boost when the news hit that Indianas go-to scorer, Danny Granger, will miss three months with ongoing knee issues. In the wake of Derrick Roses own injury, the Pacers were anointed the successor to throne in the Central Division, but the supposed up-and-coming squad has flawsincluding a retooled and possibly less effective bench and while power forward David West appears to be back to his pre-ACL form, no certified alpha dogeven aside from Grangers woes.

Elsewhere in the division: Clevelands promising young backcourt of surprise fourth overall draft pick Dion Waiters and last seasons Rookie of the Year, Kyrie Irving, is exciting, but the Cavaliers dont yet have a roster to be taken seriously; Detroit has looked awful early on, though the young core of severely underrated big man Greg Monroe, second-year point guard Brandon Knight and raw, but talented center Andre Drummond is something for the Pistons to build upon; Milwaukees scoring-oriented backcourt of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis has better chemistry after an abbreviated season together and while the Bucks could challenge for a bottom playoff seed, they dont appear to be a team that upper-echelon opponents should truly fear.

As far as the rest of the East: Toronto, now anchored by the perennially-underrated Kyle Lowry, looks to be improved; New York got off to a fast start, sparked by defense and Carmelo Anthony dominating with Amar'e Stoudemire on the shelf; Boston continues to integrate its new pieces and is a work in progress, but has contender potential; and Miami, with Ray Allen fitting in seamlessly as an early Sixth Man of the Year candidate and Rashard Lewis showing that he still has something less in the tank, appears to be even better, now that they have the air of a champion, a defined style of play and improved three-point shooting.

Around the league, the incessant chatter about the Lakers ups and downsmostly the latter, with their exhibition struggles bleeding into the regular season, further compounded by Steve Nashs early-season injuryhas muffled some of the other storylines across the NBA. Out West, the Spurs have started quick and look poised to again be a juggernaut, the Clippers appear to be one of the leagues most talented teams and although the Nuggets have had early struggles, lack outside shooting and don't have a true go-to scorer, their athleticism and depth is scary. However, the most buzz has been generated by the blockbuster James Harden trade, a move that has changed the narrative surrounding the Thunder and elevated the Rockets back to relevancy.

Oklahoma City, the Bulls' opponent Thursday night, were declared winners of the deal by many observers--the structure of the current CBA forced the organization's hand, is the consensus--and because they received a 20 point-per-game scorer in Kevin Martin, there's no reason to for anybody to immediately hop off the bandwagon, though increased scrutiny will be paid to the likes of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Meanwhile, acquiring Harden energized Houston, thought before the season began to be one of the league's worst teams on paper, as well as easing the pressure off free-agent signees Jeremy Lin and former Bulls backup center Omer Asik, as Harden's scoring--he scored 37 in his debut, followed up by a career-high 45, propelling him into being the NBA's top scorer on the young season--and playmaking have some thinking the Rockets could sneak into a bottom playoff spot in a Western Conference that suddenly appears much more wide-open with the Lakers' early struggles, Dirk Nowitzki being on the shelf for Dallas and expected postseason contender Minnesota hamstrung by injuries to young stars Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio.

Vinnie Hinostroza, rookies pace Blackhawks past Avalanche

Vinnie Hinostroza, rookies pace Blackhawks past Avalanche

DENVER – Vinnie Hinostroza scored twice in the third period as the Blackhawks overcame a lousy second period to beat the Colorado Avalanche 6-4 on Tuesday night.

Tanner Kero had two goals and an assist and Nick Schmaltz had a goal and an assist. Marian Hossa recorded his 600th and 601st career assists.

The Blackhawks trailed 4-3 heading into the third period. Hinostroza became a one-man show, scoring on a breakaway to tie it 4-4 and then scoring again 3:01 later for a 5-4 Blackhawks lead.

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Looking for a scoring spark, the Blackhawks altered their lines (except for the second one) entering tonight’s game. In the first period it looked like it worked for the fourth line. Schmaltz got his second goal of the season for a 1-0 lead. Matt Duchene tied it 1-1 before Brent Seabrook put the Blackhawks back up 2-1.

But midway through the second period things got very ugly for the Blackhawks. Blake Comeau scored off a Blackhawks turnover at the blue line to tie it 2-2 and just 63 seconds later Matt Nieto, following a Blackhawks failed clearing attempt, put the Avs up 3-2. Kero’s goal just 19 seconds after Nieto’s reversed momentum and tied the game 3-3. But about four minutes later Matt Duchene scored his second of the night for a 4-3 Avalanche lead.

Kero added his second goal, an empty netter, with 10.6 seconds remaining in regulation.

Bulls can't answer Wesley Matthews' game-winner in loss to Mavericks

Bulls can't answer Wesley Matthews' game-winner in loss to Mavericks

It was believed the Bulls needed no extra motivation going against a Dallas Mavericks team that's a half-game away from being worst in the Western Conference.

The Mavericks gave them a 25-point shellacking in Texas last month, giving the Bulls enough film to make a horror show. Usually these instances even out over 82 games.

But this is no ordinary season for the Bulls, and the Mavericks again emerged victorious when Wesley Matthews got free for a triple on one end and locked up his college teammate Jimmy Butler on the other end, leading to a 99-98 Mavericks win.

It looked like another Butler special when Butler nailed a step-up, contested jumper over Matthews to give the Bulls a 98-96 lead, completing his 24-point night.

But Matthews was undeterred, breaking free on the wing for a triple when Dwyane Wade had to help Nikola Mirotic on a Deron Williams drive with 11.7 seconds left.

And on the final possession, the Bulls' spacing looked gummed up when Butler couldn’t shake free of Matthews, forcing him to pitch it to Wade, who put up a heavily contested 21-foot jumper from the baseline

It caromed off the rim, and the Mavericks danced happily off the floor for their first three-game winning streak of the year, this win completing a season sweep of the Bulls.

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Butler scored 24 with 12 assists and nine rebounds but was 5-for-12 from the field as Matthews was in his chest all night. Wade had a strong fourth quarter on his 35th birthday but missed 13 of his 21 shots to score 17.

Six Mavericks scored in double figures, led by Harrison Barnes' 20 and Seth Curry's 18 as the Mavericks made 11 triples and had 27 assists, frustrating the Bulls.

With scoring at a premium, Robin Lopez had a season-high 20 points being guarded by Dirk Nowitzki — and they were necessary considering the Bulls were without Taj Gibson (ankle injury) and Doug McDermott couldn't repeat his 30-point showing from Sunday in Memphis.

Rick Carlisle has long been regarded as one of the top strategic coaches, and though he doesn’t have the usual personnel from the Mavericks' salad days, he had enough tricks up his sleeve to throw the Bulls off.

The Mavericks started Nowitzki at center, going to an almost all-small lineup. And though Lopez scored 14 in the first half, trying to feed him seemed to take the Bulls out of it in the second half.

The Mavericks played tougher and smarter with their personnel, and the Bulls got to see what happens when Wade or Butler can't save the day.