Brewer turns negative into a positive, rises to the occasion

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Brewer turns negative into a positive, rises to the occasion

After registering a DNP-CD--that's basketball jargon for the acronym "Did Not Play-Coach's Decision," which typically goes on the final statistics next to names like of fan favorite and deep reserve Brian Scalabrine in now-blowout situations--in Game 3 of the Bulls-76ers first-round playoff series, Ronnie Brewer took the high road. That doesn't mean it didn't sting.

"As a player, you dont ever want to be on the bench watching. You want to be able to get on the court and contribute, so having an opportunity in Game 4 and having another opportunity tonight, you want to add on to that and have another strong showing," he said. "Hopefully I can just continue to play better and continue to help this team out."

In Game 4, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau went back to the reserve swingman and got valuable minutes, especially on the defensive end, even though the Bulls would lose the game. In Tuesday's Game 5 win, Brewer stepped it up another notch and played his role--high energy, defensive pest, opportunistic scorer, transition threat--perfectly and was a major reason why the Bulls staved off elimination, something his teammates acknowledged afterwards.

"Ronnie was great tonight. Even last game in Philly, when we were watching the tape, Coach kept talking about how great Ronnie was defensively and tonight, he did it again. He just has a knack for stealing the ball and getting into players, really affecting their shots," said Luol Deng.

"Ronnie responded great to not playing in that game. A lot of players, it could affect them with their game, sitting out the whole game, but Ronnies a pro and he knows what he needs to do to help us. Sometimes you might not see it in the stats, but defensively, hes one of the best. I really believe it. Just doesnt get a lot of credit for it, but he really comes in with a lot of energy and when hes in the game, were able to get stops, and go out and run."

Echoed Taj Gibson: "Ronnie Brewer stepped up big even after not playing in Game 3 at all. He came in, did a great job. Solid professional."

Chimed in Carlos Boozer: "To me, Ronnie Brewer was the player of the game. Came in and changed the whole game with his activity."

Brewer's modest six points doesn't tell the tale of his impact, though his eight rebounds, three steals, three assists and a blocked shot in 29 minutes of action begins to illustrate what he meant to Tuesday's season-saving victory. More importantly, his blanketing defense on Philadelphia's cadre of talented perimeter players, from scoring-oriented guards Jrue Holiday and sixth man Lou Williams to Chicago native Evan Turner and All-Star Andre Iguodala, ensured there wouldn't be another fourth-quarter defensive collapse, as the Sixers simply couldn't go one-on-one to create scoring opportunities with Brewer on guard.

"Coach Thibs told me I need to bring the energy of both ends of the floor. In the first half, I tried to do that. I got some easy baskets, my teammates were finding me. The second half, I just try to show as much energy on the defensive end as I possibly can, slow down some of their guards. Theyve been killing us the whole series. We tried to contest their shots and get easy baskets in transition," Brewer explained.

"We all know that whenever Thibs puts us in there, you have to be ready. If he doesnt call your name, you have an obligation to be the eyes and ears for the guys who are on the floor, so when he doesnt call my name out there, I still have my part by telling Lu, Rip, Kyle what I see out there and how they can have an effect on the game, so when you put me out there, I knew I had to bring something that was lacking and that was energy on the defensive end, and trying to get stops because, in my opinion, that was something that was lacking and their guards really have been hurting us this whole entire series."

Added Thibodeau: "It was just the flow of the game. I thought the energy that he brought and again, they have three very quick guys off the dribble. Youre looking at Holiday and Williams, and whether its Turner or Iguodala, I think Ronnie matches up well with those guys. I thought getting to loose balls, his defense, offensively Ronnie running the floor. I thought he played very well and the team was functioning well when he was on the floor...Ronnie Brewer was terrific."

It's doubtful that Thibodeau will again neglect Brewer, even if he's mired in an offensive slump, for an entire contest, given how well he proved to match up with the Sixers in Game 5, but the defensive-minded wing, one of the nicest, most genuine players you'll find in the league, let alone the team--and that's saying something--will continue to take the same approach team-first approach, regardless of the circumstances.

"The same situation the whole entire season. Guys have been hurt, Ive had to step in different situations. Rips been having it going, Lus been having it going, Kyles been knocking down shots, so youve just got to be patient and wait your turn. Tonight, Coach called upon me and I just had to be ready to go out there, and play hard," he said. "At the end of the day, we have one common goal and thats to win. If that means Kyle, Rip, Lu playing as many minutes and were winning, Im all about it. Im a team player and Im all about winning, so I take it to heart, being a true professional. Whenever your name is called, you have to be ready and thats all I can do."

Blackhawks look to keep rolling vs. Coyotes

Blackhawks look to keep rolling vs. Coyotes

The last time the Blackhawks faced the Arizona Coyotes was the first game the current top line of Nick Schmaltz, Jonathan Toews and Richard Panik were thrown together.

Yeah, the combination's worked out well. So has the Blackhawks' game in general, as they've won seven of eight including that Feb. 2 game. Now the Blackhawks will try to keep the momentum rolling with their lines and their game when they host the Coyotes Thursday night at the United Center.

The Blackhawks' current run of success started in the desert and part of that has been finding more consistent lines. Everything else has gradually improved off of that, from goal scoring to puck possession.

"I think it's puck possession, puck control, pace to the game," coach Joel Quenneville said. "I thought we were very inconsistent in that early and we were defending way more than we were accustomed to. You're vulnerable for penalties, you're vulnerable for quality scoring chances against and not generating enough. I think that's the progression in our game now, it seems like all four lines are having the puck and having some zone time and having some rush chances, zone chances and it seems like every line's contributing there, and that's the big difference."

[RELATED: By the bye - Blackhawks keep rolling following break]

The Blackhawks' top line didn't have immediate chemistry but Quenneville kept them together and let them work on it. But as Toews said, it was about the group keeping the all-around game going, points or no points.

"Sometimes you just gotta work until things start clicking," Toews said. "Everyone seems to start paying attention when you start scoring goals, regardless of [the fact you're] doing things right. It's nice that we're scoring but we have to stick with what's making us a successful line at both ends of the rink right now."

Corey Crawford will start vs. the Coyotes. Niklas Hjalmarsson did not skate this morning but is expected to play. Quenneville said Michal Rozsival could draw into the lineup.

Broadcast information

Time: 7:30 p.m.
TV: CSN
Live stream: CSNChicago.com

Blackhawks lines

Nick Schmaltz -Jonathan Toews-Richard Panik
Artemi Panarin-Artem Anisimov-Patrick Kane
Dennis Rasmussen-Marcus Kruger-Marian Hossa
Ryan Hartman-Tanner Kero-Vinnie Hinostroza

Defensive pairs

Duncan Keith-Niklas Hjalmarsson
Michal Rozsival-Brent Seabrook
Brian Campbell-Trevor van Riemsdyk

Goaltender

Corey Crawford

Injuries 

None

Coyotes lines (via Arizona Republic)

Tobias Rieder-Martin Hanzal-Radim Vrbata
Brendan Perlini-Christian Dvorak-Shane Doan
Max Domi -Alex Burmistrov-Ryan White
Jamie McGinn-Jordan Martinook-Josh Jooris

Defensive pairs

Oliver Ekman-Larsson-Luke Schenn
Alex Goligoski-Anthony DeAngelo
Jakob Chychrun-Connor Murphy

Goaltender

Mike Smith

Injuries

Lawson Crouse (lower body), Brad Richardson (tibia)

Ranking the five best games Mark Buehrle pitched with the White Sox

Ranking the five best games Mark Buehrle pitched with the White Sox

The White Sox will retire Mark Buehrle's No. 56 prior to June 24's game against the Oakland Athletics, a deserving honor for one of the best pitchers in franchise history. The left-hander compiled a 3.83 ERA and won 161 games during 12 seasons with the White Sox, and perhaps more impressively, he threw over 200 innings every year he was a full-time member of the team's starting rotation. 

So with the White Sox announcing Buehrle's number retirement ceremony for this summer, let's take a look back at the best games the St. Charles, Mo. native pitched with the White Sox. 

1. July 23, 2009: 9 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 6 K vs. Tampa Bay. Time of game: 2:03

Buehrle's perfect game, complete with Dewayne Wise's legendary catch, sits at the top of mountain of Buehrle's historic achievements with the White Sox. This was a vintage Buehrle game, with him working quickly and getting plenty of weak contact. It just turned out that Tampa Bay couldn't get anyone on base in it.

2. April 18, 2007: 9 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 8 K vs. Texas. Time of game: 2:03

By game score, this was actually the best game Buehrle pitched in his career thanks to the two more strikeouts he had than in his perfect game. And in no-hitting the Rangers, Buehrle still faced the minimum — after walking Sammy Sosa, he picked off the former Cubs slugger. 

3. April 16, 2005: 9 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 12 K vs. Seattle. Time of game: 1:39

The 99-minute game might get lost in Buehrle's career thanks to his no-hitter and perfect game, but it's right up there in terms of how impressive it was. Not only did Buehrle set a career high in strikeouts against Seattle, but only one Mariners player got a hit that day (Ichiro, who naturally had all three). And it was the first — and still only — nine-inning game to be completed in under 100 minutes since 1984.

4. Aug. 3, 2001: 9 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 3 K vs. Tampa Bay. Time of game: 2:12

Before Buehrle was an All-Star, World Series winner and no-hitter/perfect game thrower, he took a perfect game into the seventh inning against the Devil Rays before Damian Rolls singled to break it up. This wasn't Buehrle's first great start of his career — that came in a three-hit shutout of the Detroit Tigers on May 26, 2001 — but it stood up for a decade and a half as one of the best games he pitched in the majors. 

5. July 21, 2004: 0 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 3 K vs. Cleveland. Time of game: 2:31

This was another brush with perfection for Buehrle, who only allowed a one-out, seventh-inning single to Omar Vizquel (he got Matt Lawton to hit into a double play after, allowing him to face the minimum for the first time in his career). This is the longest game in Buehrle's top five thanks to the White Sox blasting Cliff Lee and the Indians for 14 runs, but even then, barely over two and a half hours was a relatively brisk pace.