Positives balance out negatives in Bulls' win

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Positives balance out negatives in Bulls' win

CLEVELAND The Bulls 10th consecutive victory over the Central Division rival Cavaliers wasnt flawless. But after an emotional loss to Indiana at home Tuesday, its exactly what they needed.

I thought the first quarter was huge, getting off to a quick start, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said afterwards. The part of the game that I thought we probably could have done a lot better in was the end of the second quarter, but other than that, we had a really good rhythm going, I thought we had a good pace going, I thought the defense was very good and were still striving to be a 48-minute team. We know that theres a lot of things we have to improve upon.

Luol Deng added: Weve been trying to do that all year. It takes time. I think were getting there. The game last night, I thought we played great not towards the end, we could have made better plays but it takes a while. But hopefully, well get there. Well just keep striving for it and when you lose, its hard to see the good stuff youre doing. Now, when you win, its easier to recognize it.

All these new guys are going to get better. Theyre new to the system and weve still got a lot of games. As long as guys keep getting better, thats what its really about.

Joakim Noah explained it even more succinctly: Our coach is Tom Thibodeau, so youve got to stay focused.

Overall, I think we came with good energy tonight. It was a good win for us, he continued. They played very hard, theyre a hard-playing team, they rebound the ball real well and every game we play, every game we win is hard-fought. Marco played great for us tonight and we need that. We needed everybody to step up.

With the way Marco Belinelli played, as well as Noah and Deng both having excellent outings, it was easy to overlook Kirk Hinrichs night. But the point guard was quietly solid, playing great defense, he forcing Cavaliers counterpart Jeremy Pargo, starting in place of injured Cleveland star Kyrie Irving, into 3-of-12 shooting. Pargo, a Chicago native and the younger brother of former Bull Jannero got a technical foul late in the game for getting into verbally with Deng and Noah after throwing a ball, whether intentionally or not, into the face of Belinelli.

Hinrich also had a nice evening offensively, who scored 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting, including a big individual spurt to close out the third quarter as the Cavaliers were rallying, and added eight assists and two steals.

I thought Hinrich running the team was outstanding, Thibodeau said of the veteran. Terrific. Every night, his defense sets the tone for our team and he kept us organized. Thats huge. Thats what a point guard does.

On the downside, however, was Noah getting a technical foul his fifth on the season, tied for the league lead early in the fourth quarter, much to Thibodeaus displeasure.

Not only Jo, our team. We cant afford fourth-quarter technicals, just cant, Thibodeau said. Its too hard to make up, so weve got to clean that up and I know its an emotional game, hes an emotional player, but weve got to control the emotions, particularly late and theres an appropriate way to make your point to an official. Thats something, as a team, we have to learn.

[PHOTO] Joe Maddon, Miguel Montero patch things up over a drink

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USA TODAY

[PHOTO] Joe Maddon, Miguel Montero patch things up over a drink

Despite the Cubs ending their 108-year World Series drought, Miguel Montero made offseason headlines for all the wrong reasons when he complained about his role in the Cubs' 2017 championship campaign.

Montero criticized Maddon's communication skills, catching rotation and bullpen decision-making after the team's Grant Park celebration. Maddon brushed off the criticism, and last week at spring training Montero said he hadn't spoke with the Cubs' skipper.

That tension appears to be all but a thing of the past, as Montero posted this picture of him and his manager sharing a drink together sporting nothing but smiles.

It's safe to say Montero would describe his relationship with Maddon now as: #WeAreGood.

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks clash with Wild tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks clash with Wild tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Minnesota Wild tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Blackhawks.

Five Things to Watch:

1. Road warriors.

The Blackhawks have won six straight games away from the United Center, and are looking to make it a seventh in Minnesota tonight. They've scored the game's first goal in four of those wins, and in the other two, overcame 1-0 deficits to beat Dallas 5-3 and Edmonton 5-1, the latter of which they scored five unanswered goals.

2. Corey Crawford vs. Devan Dubnyk.

Crawford hasn't quite been the same since undergoing an emergency appendectomy on Dec. 3, but he turned in probably his best outing since then in the Blackhawks' last meeting against Minnesota on Feb. 8 when he stopped 35 of 38 shots in a 4-3 overtime win. He essentially stole two points, and prevented the Wild from picking up the extra one. Across from him tonight will be Dubnyk, who leads the league in wins (32), goals against average (1.97) and save percentage (.934).

3. Jonathan Toews on fire.

After a tough offensive drought earlier in the season that lasted longer than expected, the Blackhawks captain has six goals and 10 assists in his last 12 games, and upped his point total to 37, which now ranks fifth on the team. In the last meeting against Minnesota two weeks ago, Toews had a three-point night and scored the game winner in overtime. 

4. Mikael Granlund among league's most underrated players.

File Granlund under the category of players who don't get enough attention. He has 17 goals and 36 assists in 58 games this season, and his 53 points is tied with Jeff Carter and Artemi Panarin for 13th in the NHL's scoring race. The next highest point total on the Wild is Eric Staal with 45, an eight-point gap between him and Granlund. The 24-year-old forward registered his first career hat trick earlier this month, and also had a 12-game point streak just two weeks ago.

5. Ryan Hartman's closing in on 15 goals.

In Saturday's 3-1 loss to Edmonton, Hartman defended his teammate by fighting an Oilers defenseman that was practically twice his size. He called it a "no-brainer" to stick up for Tanner Kero and did well in the scrap, but it led to an Oilers power play and 10-minute misconduct which didn't do the Blackhawks any favors. He responded in a great way Sunday by scoring the game's first goal that helped his team win 5-1 in Buffalo. The next goal he scores will be No. 15, which would give the Blackhawks six 15-plus goal scorers on the year. They had only four a season ago.

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