Bulls host rematch with Bucks on Comcast SportsNet

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Bulls host rematch with Bucks on Comcast SportsNet

The Bulls will be on the opposite side of a familiar situation tonight when they square off against the Milwaukee Bucks. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet with Bulls Pregame Live.

It's been an eventful past few days for Milwaukee, as Monday night head coach Scott Skiles mutually agreed with the organization to part ways after four-plus seasons at the helm. Replacing Skiles is former assistant Jim Boylan, whose only other head coaching experience came in 2007, when the Bulls fired Skiles on Christmas Eve. At that point, the 2007-'08 Bulls had underachieved to a 9-16 record, but Skiles had led the Bulls to three straight playoff appearances. His situation in Milwaukee was almost reversed, as the Bucks have missed the playoffs the past two seasons but surprisingly had played .500 basketball (16-16) as of Monday.

As is the case in most situations when a head coach is dismissed, the Bucks played inspiring basketball last night, coming from behind to beat the Suns 108-99. It broke a four-game losing streak, one that came on the heels of back-to-back home wins over Brooklyn and Miami. The roller coaster of a season through 33 games has included two contests against Chicago -- the Bulls were victorious in Milwaukee, and two days later the Bucks edged out a one-point win at the United Center.

While the Bucks' scouting report begins with their talented backcourt -- Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis have combined for better than 37 points and 11 assists per game -- one of the biggest changes that could come from Skiles' departure is new life for forward Ersan Ilyasova. One of the most improved players in the league last year, Ilyosova signed a five-year, 45 million deal this offseason to stay in Milwaukee, choosing the Bucks over the Nets and Raptors.
But a sluggish start made him a victim of Skiles' inconsistent rotations, moving him to the bench in favor of Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Tobias Harris, Marquis Daniels and John Henson. Nine different players have started in the Bucks frontcourt this year, but Boylan's first move as interim head coach was to place Ilyasova back in the starting lineup. He responded with 12 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists in the win over Phoenix, and while his minutes (26) were near his season average (22.8), Skiles leaving could be just what the fourth-year forward from Turkey needs to revive his slow start.

Staying in the frontcourt, the Bulls also will have to deal with an improved Henson. The No. 14 pick in the 2012 NBA Draft made a slow acclimation to the NBA, but his minutes have increased the last week-and-a-half and the results have been impressive. In his last four contests, the 22-year-old Henson has averaged 12.3 points and 12.0 rebounds in 23.4 minutes, including a 20-point, nine-rebound effort in a loss to the Spurs last week.

The Bulls out-rebounded the Bucks in both contests this year, including two big double-doubles from Carlos Boozer (22 and 19; 19 and 11) but should see an improved frontcourt tonight at the United Center. Both Ilyasova and Henson are making strides, and Larry Sanders -- who leads the NBA with 3.1 blocks per game -- could join the pair in making the difference in this Central division matchup. The Bucks enter the contest 2.5 games behind the Bulls, who are one-half game behind the leading Pacers, winners in eight of their last 10 games.

NBA Trade Deadline: Bulls deal Taj Gibson, Doug McDermott to Thunder

NBA Trade Deadline: Bulls deal Taj Gibson, Doug McDermott to Thunder

The Bulls turned into sellers ahead of the NBA's trade deadline.

According to CSNChicago.com Bulls Insider Vincent Goodwill, the Bulls have traded Taj Gibson, Doug McDermott and a second-round pick to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Cameron Payne, Anthony Morrow and Joffrey Lauvergne. The Vertical first reported the trade.

Both Gibson and McDermott had been on the trading block, as Goodwill reported last week.

Payne, 22, was drafted by the Thunder in the first round (14th overall) in the 2015 NBA Draft. In 20 games this season, Payne is averaging 5.3 points, 2.0 assists and 1.6 rebounds per game.

Lauvergne, 25, was acquired by the Thunder from the Denver Nuggets prior to the 2016-17 season. In three seasons, Lauvergne is averaging 6.3 points and 4.1 rebounds per game.

The 31-year-old Morrow is averaging 5.8 points in 40 games this season.

Bulls GM Gar Forman and VP of Basketball Operations John Paxson will meet the media following today's 2 p.m. deadline.

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)