Thibodeau: Noah understands benching

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Thibodeau: Noah understands benching

DEERFIELD, ILL.Joakim Noah wasnt in the Bulls locker room when the media entered after the teams overtime loss Saturday to Memphis, he wasnt available to reporters after Mondays shootaround at the Berto Center and he, like many players, has a personal policy of not talking to the media before games, so his take on Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeaus decision to bench him for the final 23 minutes of the defeat to the Grizzlies will have to wait.

Thibodeau, as he did after in his postgame press conference, professed that theres no controversy brewing when asked about the situation Monday.

Just a coachs decision. We were struggling, we were behind. The group that got in there got us back in it. It was more the way that unit was rolling. I just felt we were so flat, that group was either going to win the game or lose the game for us, he explained. They were the ones that overcame a big deficit and thats usually the case. In the first half, I always go back with the starters. In the second half, if were struggling, its going to be the group thats going well. Thats the way it is.

Noah understands. Hes been around and the team has to come first. Thats the most important thing. That happens. Its not a big deal, the coach added. Hes responded well since Ive been here, so I always expect that. I expect the best out of him.

Although Thibodeaus explanation holds water because of the ultimately-failed comeback of the quintet on the floorstarters Carlos Boozer and Jimmy Butler, who played in place of the injured Luol Deng, as well as reserves Taj Gibson, Marco Belinelli and Nate Robinsonit did raise eyebrows when he inserted backup center Nazr Mohammed, who hadnt previously played Saturday, into the contest after Gibson fouled out in overtime.

Now, while Noah appeared animated when taken out of Saturdays game, thats nothing new to observers, as the high-energy center always wants to be on the court. Gibson insisted that the teams closeness and belief in Thibodeau should quell any speculation that Noah would harbor any resentment.

Not really because we just look at Jo and Jos calling out plays, calling out different stuff, and we just keep playing. We understand that Coach knows what hes doing and when Coach puts guys in, weve got to keep rolling with whoevers out there on the court, so if Jos not out there, eventually hes going to come in. but unfortunately, Saturday night, he wasnt able to come back. But its a new game, new style of play, big game tonight, so weve got to focus on tonights game, Gibson said. If youre doing well, Thibodeau is going to let you play. Hes not going to take you out. If youre doing your job, hes going to let you rock out. Its all about just helping the team. Thats the way Thibs coaches. Its all about winning.

Noah wasnt edgy at all at Mondays shootaround. We had a great walk-through this morning. We were talking, laughing like we always do, running through plays. Thibs was calling out plays. I thought it was a great walk-through for him and our team, he continued. Disagreements between coaches and players happen all year long, but were like a family here. Weve been together almost three years, going on four, so guys just put that in the back of our heads. We understand that we have a goal, one goal, to win games and challenge for a championship. Its a long season. Things are going to happen, heads are going to get butted, but we all love each other and we all know its for the best of the team, and were men, and one thing about men, you have to just let stuff go and this team, we let stuff go and get ready for the next game.

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.