Bulls ready for marquee matchup with Thunder

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Bulls ready for marquee matchup with Thunder

For those who believe the Bulls will take the next step this season and advance to the NBA Finals, Sunday's showdown with the Oklahoma City Thunder could be a preview of what's to come.

A marquee matchup featuring the league's two best teams--and the only time the squads face off in the regular season--the matinee contest will be must-see TV for fans in the Chicagoland area and beyond.

"It's a big game, it's going to be exciting and we want to play against the best," said Joakim Noah. "They're a great team, we're a great team. Let's get it popping."

However, the charismatic center's boisterous sentiments weren't echoed by his coach. Tom Thibodeau, as one would expect, downplayed the upcoming affair.

"It's our next game. They're really good, it's going to be a great test for us and we've got to be ready. We've got to take care of the ball, we've got to play great defense. They've got great length, they're a well-balanced team, so we're looking forward to it," he said.

"They're a high-scoring team, they play in transition, they have a lot of weapons, but whenever you're facing a team like that, it's not only your defense. You have to play sound offense also, so we have to play a well-balanced game and defend, rebound, keep our turnovers down, share the ball, inside-out. That doesn't change from game to game."

Luol Deng, while taking a more humorous approach, took a middle ground between his coach's dourness and his teammate's excitement.

"They're a very good team. Even last night when I watched them, they played great. They've got so many weapons. Their big guys are really good defensively, block shots. It's going to take a total team effort, but we're going to go out there, play hard and try to win," said the first-time All-Star, who will likely be charged with defending two-time reigning NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant.

"When we play bad, you guys the media are going to kill us anyway, no matter who we play, so this game is for you guys, to hype it up and get everybody ready for it, but for us, it's another game we've got to go out there and play hard."

Regardless, despite Thibodeau's distaste for the media's labeling certain contests as "measuring-stick games," there will be plenty of analysis of what many believe could be an NBA Finals preview.

Blackhawks acquire Michael Latta from Kings in swap of minor leaguers

Blackhawks acquire Michael Latta from Kings in swap of minor leaguers

The Blackhawks made a minor league deal on Saturday, announcing the acquisition of forward Michael Latta from the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for defenseman Cameron Schilling.

Latta, 25, has two goals and four assists in 29 games this season with the Ontario (Calif.) Reign of the American Hockey League.

He has four goals and 13 assists in 113 career games in the National Hockey League, all with the Washington Capitals from 2013-16.

Latta, who was a third-round pick (No. 72 overall) by the Nashville Predators in 2009, will report to the AHL's Rockford IceHogs. He carries a $600,000 cap hit, and is a restricted free agent at the end of the season.

Schilling ranked second among defensemen on the IceHogs with 17 points (seven goals, 10 assists) in 40 games, and had a minus-3 rating. The 28-year-old blue liner signed a two-year contract worth $575,000 per season with the Blackhawks in July 2015.

Sunday on CSN: UIC travels to Valparaiso

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Sunday on CSN: UIC travels to Valparaiso

Horizon League basketball returns to CSN on Sunday as UIC travels to Valparaiso. This game tips at 2:00 p.m. live on CSN.

The Flames (11-8, 4-2) have won three straight games and have played pretty good ball after the loss of Dikembe Dixson to a torn ACL. Junior big man Tai Odiase, a Homewood-Flossmoor graduate, is playing well along with former St. Rita product Dominique Matthews.

Valparaiso (15-4, 5-1) is hoping to maintain its conference lead behind senior All-American candidate Alec Peters. The 6-foot-9 senior is averaging 23.9 points and 10.9 rebounds per game on the season.

The Crusaders won the first time these two teams played at UIC on Dec. 30 as Tevonn Walker had 23 points.