Predicting the East and West All-Star rosters

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Predicting the East and West All-Star rosters

In a few hours this will be moot, but with Thursday evening's announcement of the NBA All-Star Game reserves, below are CSNChicago.com's picks.
Keep in mind, these aren't predictions, just this writer's opinion on which players are deserving of the honor.
Eastern Conference reserves
Chris Bosh, Miami: Due to playing alongside East starters LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, Bosh often gets overlooked, but is an important piece on the defending-champion Miami, again the conference's top team.
Tyson Chandler, New York: The league's reigning Defensive Player of the Year has helped transform New York into a more defensive-oriented squad, while also contributing as an efficient offensive option.
Luol Deng, Chicago: Deng's recent injury might give coaches an excuse not to select him, but his consistency as a go-to scorer and workhorse is a huge reason Chicago is in the upper echelon of the East's standings.
Paul George, Indiana: The athletic swingman is experiencing a breakout season on both sides of the ball, picking up the slack from the sidelined Danny Granger as Indiana's alpha dog.
Jrue Holiday, Philadelphia: Although Philadelphia has struggled as of late, Holiday has emerged as one of the league's top-tier point guards.
Brandon Jennings, Milwaukee: Jennings is the best player on a surprisingly successful Milwaukee team, which has thrived under interim head coach Jim Boylan thus far.
Joakim Noah, Chicago: Observers have taken notice of Noah's offensive development, ability to handle a heavier workload and defensive presence, all of which have been integral to Chicago's early-season success.
Alternates
Brook Lopez, Brooklyn: It's tough to keep a Brooklyn player off the initial roster, but although the center has had a solid season, with fans voting in an undeserving Kevin Garnett as a starter, Lopez likely gets the short end of the stick.
Josh Smith, Atlanta: The combination of Atlanta's current slump and the versatile forward's recent one-game suspension could be the tie-breaker in ensuring he's snubbed for yet another year.
Snubs
Carlos Boozer, Chicago: The much-maligned power forward has been dominant in January, but his superb stretch likely occurred too late to send him to Houston next month.
Kyrie Irving, Cleveland: The second-year point guard is already an elite player at his position, but in addition to a chunk of games missed due to various injuries, Cleveland's dismal record is too much to ignore.
Western Conference reserves
LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland: Portland has cooled off as of late, but the underrated Aldridge has established himself as one of the league's best power forwards.
Tim Duncan, San Antonio: Aside from the flashback season Duncan's having, the future Hall of Famer is showing that he's still one of the premier big men in the league on a nightly basis.
James Harden, Houston: Harden has proven that he's worthy of all the fuss that occurred when he was traded to Houston at the beginning of the regular season, earning the right to represent the host city as one of the game's top scorers.
David Lee, Golden State: The Warriors have had a resurgence that's heavily based on improved defense and while Lee will never be regarded as a great player on that side of the ball, he's come to be viewed as a blue-collar type and the player most responsible for the squad's turnaround.
Tony Parker, San Antonio: Parker continues to quietly be the best player for an aging San Antonio team, as well as one of the league's top-five floor generals.
Zach Randolph, Memphis: Now healthy after missing most of last season due to injury, Randolph's blend of hard-nosed low-post scoring and dominance on the boards symbolizes Memphis' approach.
Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City: Playing in the shadow of three-time defending scoring champion Kevin Durant, the point guard is almost equally responsible for Oklahoma City maintaining its high standard of play after Harden's departure.
Alternates
Stephen Curry, Golden State: The oft-injured point guard is finally healthy, but as much as the sharpshooter has been praised for his impact on his team's turnaround, it would be hard to put two Warriors on the roster.
Marc Gasol, Memphis: In a similar situation, it would seem that only one of Gasol and Randolph will make the trip to Houston, and while the true center is clearly one of the best at a dying position, Randolph's elite rebounding gives him the edge.
Snubs
Jamal Crawford, Los Angeles: The early-season favorite for the league's Sixth Man of the Year is also his team's leading scorer, but his defensive shortcomings and the Clippers' array of weapons takes away from his influence on their success.
Serge Ibaka, Oklahoma City: Ibaka's impact on the defensive end has never been questioned, but while his improvement as a scorer has been remarkable, in a conference loaded with excellent big men, it would be hard to justify his selection.

Blackhawks break late tie to best rival Blues

Blackhawks break late tie to best rival Blues

Patrick Kane scored his 24th goal of the season and Artem Anisimov scored the game-winner as the Blackhawks beat the St. Louis Blues 4-2 on Sunday night.

The Blackhawks have won nine of their last 10 and are one point within the Minnesota Wild, whose bye ends on Monday night. Duncan Keith recorded a secondary assist for his 500th career point. Scott Darling, starting for Corey Crawford (illness), stopped 30 of 32 shots.

The Blackhawks got off to a 2-0 start in the first 12 minutes of the game, thanks to Jonathan Toews' 16th goal of the season and Kane's power-play goal. But the Blues kept chipping away and forced a tie game by the end of the second period.

But the second line, which hasn't been quite as productive lately, got in on the act late in the third. Panarin threw a perfect feed to Anisimov, who scored his 22nd of the season with 5:20 remaining in regulation.

Tanner Kero added an empty-net goal with 2.6 seconds remaining.

Illini keep NCAA tournament hopes afloat with dominant win over Nebraska

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USA TODAY

Illini keep NCAA tournament hopes afloat with dominant win over Nebraska

Illinois' last-ditch effort to reach the NCAA tournament is still alive.

The Illini won for the third straight time and the fourth time in their last five games Sunday night, using a monstrous second half to fly past the Nebraska Cornhuskers by a 73-57 score in Lincoln.

Illinois started the Big Ten season 3-8, but with this recent surge it's up to 7-9 and with two regular-season games remaining has at the very least given itself a much better position in the upcoming Big Ten Tournament and perhaps has played itself into a spot on the NCAA tournament bubble.

Defense has been the driving force throughout this recent stretch, and Sunday was no different, with Nebraska scoring just 57 points, the second straight game in which Illinois has held its opponent under 60 points.

But offense told the story Sunday, with the Illini catching fire in the second half and shooting the lights out at Pinnacle Bank Arena. Illinois shot 59.1 percent from the field over the final 20 minutes, including a stellar 8-for-13 from 3-point range. The Illini outscored the Huskers by a 43-29 margin after halftime.

All in all, Illinois shot 48.1 percent on the night and 13-for-26 from behind the 3-point line. The Illini's 73-point output was their highest since Jan. 25.

Malcolm Hill had a game-high 19 points and moved past Cory Bradford for fifth place on the program's all-time scoring list. Tracy Abrams joined Hill in double figures with 13 points. Hill and Abrams each hit four 3-pointers. Maverick Morgan scored 12 points.

Tai Webster scored 17 points for Nebraska, the only Husker in double figures on a poor offensive night. The team shot 37.5 percent from the field and went just 4-for-15 from 3-point range.

Illinois still seems like a bit of a longshot to make the NCAA tournament given its 17-12 overall record and the weakness of the Big Ten this season. But things are getting real late in the season. This surge could very well help the Illini end their three-year tournament drought and could do big things for head coach John Groce, who has had his job status talked about all season long.

Illinois' final two regular-season bouts come this week against Michigan State and at Rutgers.