Bulls hope to continue success in Valley of the Sun

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Bulls hope to continue success in Valley of the Sun

Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2010
10:57 a.m.

Associated Press

Steve Nash believes he is showing no lingering effects from a groin injury that caused him to miss two games for the Phoenix Suns. He will likely need to be at full strength if he wants to try to slow down Derrick Rose.

Rose has guided the Chicago Bulls to consecutive wins in Phoenix for the first time in 21 years, and they'll try to make it three in a row at the US Airways Center on Wednesday night.

Nash returned Monday, and helped Phoenix (7-7) end a season-high three-game skid with a 123-116 victory at Houston. He had 24 points and nine assists, and said he felt fine physically.

"I had it in my mind that I wanted to play, so I was working every day to try to get ready," Nash said. "I felt like I made strides. I went through the day, trying to play, I got here, went through my routine and I was ready."

The two-time league MVP will have to be ready Wednesday since Rose has been the catalyst in Chicago's two straight wins at Phoenix. The Suns had won nine of their previous 10 home games against the Bulls (7-5) before Rose averaged 29.0 points on 67.5 percent shooting in the last two visits.

Nash averaged 11.5 points on 42.3 percent shooting and 8.5 assists in the losses for Phoenix, marking the first time the Suns had lost two in a row at home to the Bulls since dropping three straight from Feb. 4, 1988-Nov. 22, 1989.

The Suns have won three straight at home this season, with Nash averaging 22.7 points and 10.0 assists in that run. Phoenix is glad to have him back.

"He is the engine that drives the car," coach Alvin Gentry said. "He comes out and makes the plays and knocks down the big shots."

In Nash's absence, Grant Hill led Phoenix in scoring in both games with 21 and a season-high 23 points. Hill had 17 points, seven assists and seven rebounds Monday, and is shooting 60.5 percent over his last three games.

"I'm feeling really good and we are finding ourselves as a team in trying to establish our identity," Hill said. "I'm scoring and defending and being productive when I am on the court."

Phoenix ranks last in the NBA in opponents' field-goal percentage at 48.9, and is allowing 109.5 points per game for the second-worst mark in the league.

The Suns will be up against a Chicago team that has been a one-man show on this road trip with Rose scoring at least 30 points in three of the first four games. He had 30 and eight assists in Tuesday's 98-91 loss to the Lakers, although the All-Star guard missed all four shots in the fourth quarter when Chicago was outscored 24-18.

"They put a lot of pressure on us," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "The Lakers are a heck of a defensive team. You've got to make quick decisions against them, (and) I thought we settled too much for jumpers."

The Bulls fell to 2-2 with three games left on their annual circus road trip.

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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.