Bulls hold off pesky Magic

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Bulls hold off pesky Magic

Even with one of the leagues top defenses, Coach Tom Thibodeau knew not to take the Magic lightly.

Devoid of All-Star talent, Orlando entered Tuesdays game having won its first two games by an average of 17 points while leading the league in three-point field goal percentage (.538) and coming in second in scoring (108.5).

They score the ball easily, Thibodeau said before the game. They have a number of guys that have been in big games before. Were going to have to guard them with a five-man mentality. If you allow them to get going early, they get their confidence going, youre going to be in for a long night.

It took all night, in a game that featured four ties and 14 lead changes, but the Bulls were able to stifle the Magics offense, winning 99-93.

Luol Deng led the way for Chicago with 23 points and eight rebounds. Joakim Noah finished with 20 points, and Nate Robinson chipped in seven of his 11 points in the fourth quarter.

The Magic shot 8-for-19 from three-point range and were led by Aaron Afflalos 28 points. ETwaun Moore added 17 points, while Glen Davis and Nikola Vucevic finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds apiece.

The Bulls got off to a quick start, moving the ball and building an eight-point lead towards the end of the period before the Magic closed the first quarter on a 14-4 run and grabbed a 24-23 lead.

The Magics hot shooting continued in the second period and they closed the first half on 15-for-27 shooting and led 48-45 at halftime.

The back and forth battle continued throughout the second half before the Bulls grabbed the lead for good after a Nate Robinson jumper put them ahead 72-71 with 9:15 remaining.

The Magic made a late charge, closing their deficit to 93-90 after three-pointers by Afflalo, JJ Redick (10 points) and a jumper by Moore. A Taj Gibson slam plus the foul extended the lead to six with 39 seconds remaining.

A combination of two late Afflalo jumpers and some missed free throws by the Bulls made things interesting, but there simply wasnt enough time for an upset. But fans were quite unhappy that they wouldnt be receiving the customary free Big Macs as Noah and Hinrich failed to drain even one of their final three free throw attempts in the closing seconds to top the century mark.

Class 1A-2A IHSA girls basketball state championships today on CSN

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Class 1A-2A IHSA girls basketball state championships today on CSN

CSN Chicago will be carrying live coverage of the IHSA Girls Basketball State Championships beginning on Saturday with Class 1A and 2A. Each telecast will be streamed live on CSNChicago.com and IHSA.tv, and will be made available via the NBC Sports app on tablets and smart phones.

CSN will also air highlights packages throughout the weekend, and live stream every postgame press conference.

Viewers are urged to visit CSNChicago.com's Channel finder or IHSA.org for complete channel location details for all games throughout the state. 

[LIVE STREAM: Watch the IHSA Girls Basketball State Championships on CSN]

For a full list of carriers and more information about CSN's live streaming service, viewers are urged to visit the following link: http://www.csnchicago.com/live-faq .  

Here's what the schedule looks like this weekend:

Friday, Feb. 24:

Class 1A Semifinal No. 1: Annawan 51, Harvest Christian Academy 42

Class 1A Semifinal No. 2: Mendon Unity 42, Calhoun 34

Class 2A Semifinal No. 1: Byron 53, Central [Coop] (Camp Point) 37

Class 2A Semifinal No. 2: Central Catholic (Bloomington) 45, St. Edward (Elgin) 42 

Saturday, Feb. 25:

11 a.m. – Class 1A: Harvest Christian Academy vs. Calhoun

12:45 p.m. – Class 1A: Annawan vs. Mendon Unity

5:30 p.m. – Class 2A: Central [Coop] (Camp Point) vs. St. Edward (Elgin)

7:15 p.m. – Class 2A: Byron vs. Central Catholic (Bloomington)

In first game of post-deadline era, Bulls come up with comeback overtime win over Suns

In first game of post-deadline era, Bulls come up with comeback overtime win over Suns

The post-deadline era has begun for the Bulls, with the directives clear on developing their young players and seeing what can be done in the last third of the season.

And while their youth sparked them early, it was the headliners who stepped up late in their 128-121 overtime win over the Phoenix Suns on Friday night at the United Center, as the team was clearly adjusting to life without Taj Gibson, who was traded Thursday.

Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade each had sluggish starts, to say the least. Each looked like he was going through an island-like malaise through the better part of three quarters before waking up.

Butler finally ignored the snooze button at the most opportune time, nearly winning the game in regulation with a tying triple, then a fadeaway 15-footer over Eric Bledsoe to cap off a late comeback that saw the Bulls rebound from an eight-point deficit with a few minutes left in the fourth.

"That's what great players do," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "They step up when you need them the most. Jimmy obviously had a tough night shooting the ball (early). ... What he's been doing all year, taking over the game in the fourth, and tonight was no different."

Then Wade, in one of his few post-halftime mistakes, controversially fouled Suns sharpshooter Devin Booker on a triple with 1.5 seconds left, but Booker missed the last of the three free throws to send the game into overtime.

"I think it was good defense," said Butler before giving a nod to his controversial whistle that went his way a week ago. "We don't wanna go back too far, but a foul's a foul."

Wade and Butler continued the assault into the extra session, with Wade rising for a late flush over Suns center Alex Len and raising his arms in celebration — having put together a 23-point performance after a scoreless first half.

"That dunk he had was unbelievable," Hoiberg said. "I should give him another week off."

In the early stages, Butler wasn't as futile as Wade, but he wasn't much better, scoring just eight before the fourth but being more aggressive and assertive with his moments and jump shots, finishing with 22 to go along with nine assists and four steals.

"Just keep shooting the ball and eventually it'll go in," Butler said. "And they did. Coaches put the ball in my hands, I kept taking the same shots, making the same plays. Then they went in."

The Suns led most of the way, mostly due to their team-wide speed and athleticism, getting out on the break the way they did in the first meeting two weeks ago. Booker scored 27, while Bledsoe, TJ Warren and Marquese Chriss each scored 17. Bledsoe added 10 assists and seven rebounds in 40 minutes.

They dominated the fast-break department at a 27-16 clip, and the Bulls actually countered with 3-point shooting, hitting 12 triples and shooting 46 percent from 3.

Nikola Mirotic was 4-for-7 from deep on the way to a 20-point night, while Denzel Valentine put together his best showing as a pro with 15 points, all coming on five made 3s.

Three straight triples from Valentine pulled the Bulls to within one late in the third quarter. The shots were decisive and confident — perhaps as he knew he wouldn't be removed for anyone at the first mistake.

"I like it, take the shots when you're open. Sometimes when you're not open, still shoot it and we know to get back," Butler said.

There were plenty of mishaps and things to complain about as the Bulls hit a new wave, but at least it started with some positive vibes after a day of uncertainty and confusion.