Unlikely trio step up to close Bulls' victory over Orlando

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Unlikely trio step up to close Bulls' victory over Orlando

In a game tighter than the presidential race, the Bulls avoided a letdown similar to Saturdays loss to New Orleans by cooling down the Magic, 99-93.

While it was the defense that stifled Orlando into 37 percent shooting in the fourth quarter, an unlikely lineup contributed to the 31 points scored in the final frame in a game that featured 14 lead changes.

Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, Jimmy Butler and Nate Robinson played almost all of the fourth (Tom Thibodeau substituted Kirk Hinrich for Robinson in the final 39 seconds to help switch on screens Orlando was running to free their shooters), with each hitting timely buckets, which was a stark contrast to Saturday, when the Bulls couldnt find any offense late in the game.

They gave us a big spark, said Thibodeau. I thought in the second half we played a lot harder.

It would be hard to disagree with him as the Bulls allowed the Magic to shoot 46 percent in the first half compared to just 37 in the second half.

Deng scored eight of his 23 points in the fourth quarter.

Hes huge for us every night, said Noah of Deng. Hes so versatile. His rebounding and just how he affects the game in so many ways. Lu is huge for us.

Not to be outdone, the trio of Robinson (11 points, six assists), Noah and Gibson (12 points) scored seven points each in the final period.

Noah finished with 20 points to go along with nine rebounds and five blocked shots in 40 minutes of play.

Its similar the way he started the season two years ago, said Thibodeau. Hes playing with a lot of confidence. Hes doing it a lot of different ways. Hes running the floor, offensive rebounding, posting, hes got a lot of confidence in that 17-foot shot. But its his all-around play.

This is the second straight game that Thibodeau has sat Richard Hamilton, Hinrich and Carlos Boozer in the fourth quarter.

While its still early, it could happen some more as Thibodeau tries to find the right balance of scoring and defense to close games.

For now, the Bulls will just take the win and try and build upon that.

We lost our last game and we needed to win, said Deng. You dont want to lose two and now you have Oklahoma coming in on Thursday. The fourth quarter was really good for the team. Hopefully we pick it up from there."

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Will Gar Forman's plan work?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Will Gar Forman's plan work?

On the latest edition of the SportsTalk Live Podcast, David Kaplan is joined by Rick Telander (Chicago Sun-Times) and Mark Carman (WGN Radio) to talk Bulls. 

The panel breaks down the trade with Oklahoma City and question whether the team is better or worse now. 

Later, the guys talk about the Blackhawks' trade for Tomas Jurco and also break down the upcoming Daytona 500. Finally, Telander discusses his five-part series chronicling the Orr High School basketball team as they excel on the court and try to survive off it. 

Listen to the SportsTalk Live Podcast below. 

Blackhawks acquire Tomas Jurco from Red Wings

Blackhawks acquire Tomas Jurco from Red Wings

General manager Stan Bowman saw the potential in Tomas Jurco several years ago.

For the 24-year-old forward, it wasn’t working out with the Detroit Red Wings. Perhaps a change of scenery, an opportunity on a team that could vie for another Stanley Cup, makes a difference. The Blackhawks are about to find out.

The Blackhawks acquired Jurco for a third-round pick in this year’s draft on Friday afternoon. The 24-year-old Jurco has played in 16 games with the Red Wings this season but has yet to collect a point. In four seasons with the Wings, Jurco had 15 goals and 24 assists in 159 games. Red Wings general manager Ken Holland told Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press that, “things haven’t worked out” for Jurco there and that he wanted to go elsewhere.

Jurco was on a bye as a member of the Red Wings but, now that he’s with the Blackhawks, the bye ends. Bowman was hopeful Jurco would join the Blackhawks at practice on Saturday. Also, to clear a roster spot for Jurco, the Blackhawks reassigned Vinnie Hinostroza to the Rockford IceHogs.

[RELATED: Nick Schmaltz gaining confidence, effectiveness with Blackhawks]

Bowman said he’s been watching Jurco for a few seasons now.

“We’ll be patient with him but we really think there’s a good fit there, looking at his skills and the style of hockey we play,” Bowman said. “He’s been an accomplished player at a lot of different levels. He’s shown flashes in the NHL, not as consistently as he or the Wings would like, but you can see the talent and potential. You have to have some patience with these guys. It doesn’t always come together right away. I’m not expecting him to carry our team but I think he can contribute.”

It was an under-the-radar trade for Bowman but that’s not surprising. In late January, Bowman said he probably wouldn’t do much at the trade deadline; he liked how the Blackhawks’ young players were progressing and figured, if that continued, the team would be in good shape. Since then the Blackhawks have won eight of their last nine and are just three points behind the Western Conference-leading Minnesota Wild. As the Blackhawks kept winning it looked like, if they did anything, it would be a depth move.

So will there be any more moves? At this point it doesn’t seem likely, be it on forward or defense – Bowman didn’t have an update on Niklas Hjalmarsson (upper body) but said he’s happy with the depth in Chicago and Rockford on defense. Bowman said he’ll keep talking but, “but it’s a little bit different than in previous years when I thought we definitely needed something and were lacking in an area.”

“I’ve had a feeling about our team, not just recently but even a month ago. I liked the way this group was starting to come together,” Bowman said. “We’ve seen that enhanced over the last couple of week here. We’ve seen players step up, [Nick] Schmaltz in particular. [Ryan] Hartman’s been good all year. We’ve seen Jonathan [Toews] become a dominant player again. It gives your team a confidence that you have balance, scoring in different lines. We just added a young player to help us now as well as in the future. There’s a lot to be excited about. I’m not expecting more trades. I can’t predict more will happen but I have a good feeling about this group right now.”