Butler goes off in second half as Bulls pull away from Bucks 91-82 for 2-0 series lead.

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Jimmy Butler set a playoff career-high for the second straight game with 31 points, and the Bulls beat the Milwaukee Bucks 91-82 on Monday night to take a 2-0 lead in their first-round series.After scoring 25 points in Game 1, Butler trumped that with another terrific performance. He was at his best down the stretch, scoring 14 points in the fourth quarter.Derrick Rose scored all of his 15 points in the second half after dominating in the series opener.Pau Gasol added 11 points and 16 rebounds and Mike Dunleavy Jr. scored 12 points as the third-seeded Bulls grabbed a commanding lead in the series.Game 3 is Thursday at Milwaukee.Khris Middleton led the sixth-seeded Bucks with 22 points, and Michael Carter-Williams scored 12.The Bulls were trailing 74-71 early in the fourth when Butler started a 13-0 run with a 3-pointer.He drove along the right side for a vicious two-handed dunk on Zaza Pachulia and hit the free throw to complete the three-point play. Butler finished the run with another 3, giving the Bulls a 84-74 lead with 6:01 remaining.Pachulia was ejected with 2:48 left in the game after he and Nikola Mirotic shoved each other on the court while going for a loose ball. Middleton then hit a jumper to pull Milwaukee within seven points with just over 2 minutes left, but Rose sealed the win when he scored with 55 seconds left to make it 91-82.Rose missed his first seven shots after scoring 23 points in his first playoff game since 2012 and was 4 of 14 overall. He finally nailed an open 3 early in the third and scored 12 in the quarter.

NOTES—Don’t expect Jabari Parker to promote his return. Unlike Rose, the Bulls’ star and fellow product of Simeon High School, he has no plans to advertise his recovery as he works his way back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.”I’m not gonna Tweet about it,” Parker said. ”I’m not gonna Instagram it. What is mostly important is I act on it. I can’t say anything. I just have to do it.”After he tore the ACL in his left knee in the 2012 playoff opener, Rose documented his recovery through a high-profile campaign with Adidas’ titled ”The Return.”I’m not gonna promote it so much, where I have all-around access,” Parker said……Kirk Hinrich (left knee) remained sidelined. He sat out the final two regular-season games and the first two of this series….. Milwaukee has lost eight straight playoff games since beating Atlanta on April 28, 2010.

 

Hawks rebound with 4-2 win, lead Preds 2 games to 1.

Marian Hossa was everywhere. Jonathan Toews powered the Blackhawks to a big second period, and Brandon Saad had a key play for the Blackhawks.The Hawks skilled top line found plenty of room to roam with Shea Weber out with an injury.Toews had a goal and an assist, Hossa had two assists in a dazzling performance, and the Blackhawks beat the Nashville Predators 4-2 on Sunday for a 2-1 lead in the first-round playoff series.Toews, Saad and Brent Seabrook scored in the second to help the Hawks earn its 20th win in its last 24 home playoff games. Scott Darling made 35 saves and Andrew Desjardins got his third career playoff goal in the first as the Blackhawks bounced back after Friday night’s 6-2 loss in Nashville.

”We’ve been here a while and went pretty deep the past two years,” Saad said. ”We know what we need to do. At the same time, after Game 2, we know we needed to be better. I think everyone brought it tonight.”

Mike Ribeiro and Mattias Ekholm scored for Nashville, and Pekka Rinne had 26 saves.The Predators were without Weber and forward Mike Fisher, who were sidelined by lower-body injuries. Fisher is day to day, but Weber did not travel with the team to Chicago and the star defenseman likely will be out for Game 4 on Tuesday night as well.Darling, a native of Lemont, was solid in his first postseason start after Corey Crawford was ineffective in the first two games of the series. The rookie also replaced Crawford in Game 1 and made 42 stops as the Blackhawks rallied for a 4-3 victory in double overtime.

”The guys have been unbelievable and really helped me out today,” Darling said.

Joel Quenneville did not announce his goaltender for Game 4, but talked as if Darling would get another start.

”We’ll talk about it, but certainly he did everything he could to put himself back in the net,” Quenneville said. ”I thought he was rock solid today.”

The Predators’ convincing victory in Game 2 led Quenneville to try a different look for the Blackhawks’ first home game of the playoffs. Darling was in goal, and forwards Antoine Vermette and Desjardins entered the lineup after they were healthy scratches for the first two games.The Blackhawks acquired Vermette and Desjardins in a pair of trades right before the deadline, but the veterans had struggled with the Blackhawks. Given another chance in the playoffs, Desjardins responded with his best game since the March 2 trade with San Jose.Desjardins’ first playoff goal in three years gave the Home team a 1-0 lead at 14:48 of the first. He also keyed a long stretch in the Nashville zone in the second that Seabrook finished with a hard wrist shot from the high slot, making it 4-2 with 7:19 left in the period.

”I was kind of waiting, ready,” Desjardins said. ”Been working hard. I was just working hard, and fortunate to get in the game tonight.”

Weber left in the second period of Game 2 after he was checked into the boards by Saad. In addition to his responsibilities on Nashville’s top defensive pairing, the captain is a key part of the Predators’ special teams.

”Certainly we’d rather have Shea, but that’s not an option,” coach Peter Laviolette said.

Without Weber on the ice, the Hawks top line helped the Blackhawks grab control in the second.Hossa made a nice drop pass to Toews for the center’s second goal of the series just 36 seconds into the period, giving the Hawks a 2-1 lead. After Ekholm responded for Nashville just 22 seconds later, Saad took the puck from Predators forward Colin Wilson and beat Rinne with a perfectly placed shot off the inside of the left post at 3:38.

”Speed kills, and I thought at times they had some really good jump out of their zone,” Predators forward Craig Smith said. ”We’ve got to control that with our third forward and communication.”

Toews then picked up an assist with a nice pass on Seabrook’s 13th career playoff goal. The captain has a team-high five points in the series.

NOTES—With Weber out, D Victor Bartley made his first appearance of the series. … To make room for Vermette and Desjardins, the Blackhawks put Joakim Nordstrom and Teuvo Teravainen on the inactive list.

Bulls draw first blood in first Playoff Series with Bucks in 25 years.

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Derrick Rose had 23 points and seven assists in his first postseason game in three years, Jimmy Butler scored 25 points, and the Bulls opened the playoffs with a 103-91 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night.Rose was at his fearless best, driving hard to the rim in the early going, and mixed in three 3-pointers in the second half. He shot 9 of 16 and got serenaded with ”MVP! MVP!” chants.It was quite a night for a superstar point guard making his first playoff appearance since he tore a knee ligament in the 2012 playoff opener against Philadelphia.The Bulls host Game 2 on Monday.Khris Middleton scored 18 points and Zaza Pachulia had 15, but Michael Carter Williams finishing with nine on 4-of-13 shooting as the sixth-seeded Bucks came up short after jumping from 15 wins to 41 this season.Butler showed the form that made him an All-Star for the first time this season. He was 8 of 14 and had six assists.Aaron Brooks provided a spark off the bench with 13 points, and the Bulls opened the series on a winning note after fighting through injuries to finish 50-32.They led by nine at halftime and hung on after the Bucks pulled within three points early in the third quarter.The Bulls won despite committing 19 turnovers. They outrebounded Milwaukee 52-41, with Pau Gasol grabbing 13 and Joakim Noah and rookie Nikola Mirotic 11 apiece.The Bulls believe they are poised to make a run now that they finally have Rose playing in the postseason. The last time they had him for the duration of the playoffs, he capped an MVP season by leading them to the Eastern Conference finals in 2011. The Bulls lost to Miami, and what happened after that is well documented.The Bulls earned the No. 1 seed for the second straight year in 2012, only to have Rose tear his ACL late in a lopsided playoff-opening win over Philadelphia. The Bulls lost in the first round to the 76ers and had its championship hopes placed on hold, with Rose sitting out a year and having his comeback get cut short last season by a torn meniscus in his right knee.This was a good start.The Bulls took a 60-51 lead to the locker room after getting 17 points from Butler and 12 from Rose.The star point guard headed to the sideline to a loud ovation with 1:37 left after throwing down a hard two-handed off a feed from Butler in transition and then scoring on a neat reverse layup that brought the bench to its feet.The Bucks pulled within three early in the third, but the Bulls answered with a 15-7 run. Rose hit three 3-pointers during that stretch, including one that made it 77-66 with 4:33 left in the quarter.

NOTES—This was the first Playoff Game between and Bulls and Bucks in 25 years….Had he stayed healthy, this would have been quite a homecoming for Jabari Parker. Instead, the Chicago product was an observer as the Bucks opened the playoffs against the Bulls. ”He’s here with us for the playoff experience mentally, being able to go through different film sessions, and also being able to be on the floor with his teammates, being able to pass to do different drills is good for him mentally and physically,” coach Jason Kidd. A season-ending knee injury limited Parker to 25 games after being drafted with the second pick. He averaged 12.3 points and was a candidate for Rookie of the Year before he went down….Kirk Hinrich (left knee) sat out after missing the final two regular-season games.

Crawford,Hawks shelled by Preds 6-2, Darling to start game three Sunday

NASHVILLE—Getting the first victory in three weeks is nice. Beating the Blackhawks to avoid an 0-2 deficit before hitting the road is much, much sweeter.Craig Smith scored the first two playoff goals of his career and added an assist, and the Nashville Predators beat the Blackhawks 6-2 on Friday night to tie their Western Conference opening-round playoff series at a game apiece. It also was their first victory since clinching a postseason berth on March 28, and they did it in style with a postseason franchise-high six goals.Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne, who was in net for six of the seven games in the skid, called it a big win.

”It feels great. Winning is a lot of fun, and at this point of the season, it’s a high stakes and it’s a big game and we come out like that,” Rinne said. ”It’s fun to play at home. Obviously, second game at home and big, big, big tying game for us.”

Rinne made 24 saves for the win and even had an assist. Filip Forsberg had a goal and an assist, and Colin Wilson, Roman Josi and Mike Santorelli each scored a goal. Nashville lost captain Shea Weber to a lower-body injury nearly midway through the second period.Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane scored for the Hawks, who are chasing their third Stanley Cup trophy in six years. Corey Crawford, yanked after one period in Game 1, gave up three goals in 2 minutes, 19 seconds in the third period as Nashville turned a tight game into a rout late with the fastest three-goal spurt in the franchise’s playoff history.

”They stole some home ice here,” Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. ”We’ve got to go back into Chicago and get it back.”

Game 3 is Sunday in the United Center, and coach Joel Quennville has to decide whether to stick with Crawford or go with Scott Darling, who made all 42 saves in winning Game 1.With NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman in the stands, he got to see another packed arena in Nashville with Predators fans keeping the Chicago faithful way outnumbered.The Predators felt like they only needed to make a few tweaks to their game after outshooting and outhitting the Hawks in Game 1. They jumped on the Blackhawks from the start, picking up their first man-advantage 61 seconds into the game. Wilson, who scored two goals Wednesday night, roofed a wrister over Crawford’s shoulder for the power-play goal.The Hawks managed only one shot midway through the first, but managed to tie it at 1 when Sharp lifted the puck over a sprawling Rinne at 16:13. But Josi scored on a wrister with 3.6 seconds left in the period for a 2-1 lead.On the ensuing faceoff, the teams scrapped, with roughing penalties handed out to Andrew Shaw and Bryan Bickell and Paul Gaustad and Taylor Beck of Nashville. Gaustad hadn’t been out of the box long when he drew a double-minor for high-sticking Michal Rozsival, catching him with his stick after pushing him away.Gaustad is one of Nashville’s big penalty killers, and he got help from Rinne getting just enough of Sharp’s slap shot late to deflect it off the crossbar.Replay showed six Blackhawks on the ice during a line change when Kane managed to get the puck alone and tie it with his wrister from the left circle slipping under Rinne’s glove midway through the period. Laviolette yelled at officials over the missed call and said it was a big moment in the game.Then, Weber apparently got hurt when he was checked at the boards by Brandon Saad, knocking the 6-foot-4 defenseman to the ice. Weber went to the bench and went straight to the locker room favoring his right leg. The Predators had no update on his status after the game.The Predators took the lead for good at 14:54 on a wrister by Smith from in front a few minutes later.Nashville thought it padded its lead in the final minutes of the third when Calle Jarnkrok scored, but officials waved it off immediately for Predators forward Mike Santorelli cross-checking Crawford from behind to the ice.Forsberg got the scoring started with his first career playoff goal unassisted from the edge of the crease at 12:41 of the third. Smith followed with his second on a breakaway, then Santorelli scored at 15:00, keeping fans on their feet celebrating.

NOTES—Darling WILL start game three Sunda at the United Center…..Weber is out for game three for Nashville….The Predators now are 3-7 in Game 2s in their playoff history. … Crawford is 13-11 in first-round games. … Sharp has 39 playoff goals in his career, and Kane scored his 38th. … Forsberg became the youngest in Nashville playoff history to score a goal at 20 years, 247 days.

BULLS VS BUCKS PLAYOFF HISTORY:

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1974 Bucks swept Western Conerence Finals 4-0.

1985 Bucks won Eastern Conf Qtr-Finals 3-1.

1990 Bulls won Eastern Conf Qtr-Finals 3-1.

At Milwaukee Arena: Bucks 4-0.
At Chicago Stadium: Series tied 3-3.
At Bradley Center: Series tied 1-1.
At United Center:This will be first Bulls-Bucks Playoff Games in the U.C.

Crawford to start game two vs Preds

NASHVILLE—The Blackhawks are going back to Corey Crawford.Coach Joel Quenneville announced on Thursday afternoon that he is going back to his starting goalie for Game 2 of their Western Conference playoff series against the Nashville Predators after pulling him 20 minutes into their Game 1 win.Crawford was benched on Wednesday night after giving up three goals, including one off of a bad turnover behind the net that resulted in an easy goal for Viktor Stalberg, only to watch as backup Scott Darling stopped all 42 shots he faced in more than 67 minutes of action in what Quenneville called one of the best relief performances he has ever seen from a goalie.While he was shutting down Nashville’s offense, the Blackhawks rallied from the three goal deficit, scoring four consecutive goals, to win in double overtime thanks to a Duncan Keith goal.Quenneville said on Thursday that the decision to go back to Crawford was an easy one because he has been the Blackhawks’ strength all season. And he’s not wrong. In 56 regular season appearances Crawford recorded a .924 save percentage, sixth best in the NHL, for a Blackhawks team that allowed the second fewest goals in the NHL even though they allowed the 22nd most shots per game (30.2).When asked about the decision to pull Crawford on Wednesday Quenneville said it was a combination of not liking the way his team was playing and not liking the goals against.In 57 career playoff appearances Crawford has a .919 save percentage was the Blackhawks’ starting goalie when they won the Stanley Cup during the 2012-13 season.

Hawks take game one 4-3 in 2OT after spotting Preds 3-0 lead.

NASHVILLE—The Blackhawks could not have started worse giving up three goals on the first 12 shots, forcing coach Joel Quenneville to yank goalie Corey Crawford.Scott Darling came off the bench and made his postseason debut a game to remember.Darling stopped all 42 shots he faced, and Duncan Keith scored at 7:49 of double overtime helping the Blackhawks rally and beat the Nashville Predators 4-3 Wednesday night.

”It was a great opportunity for him, and he seized the moment …” Quenneville said of Darling. ”That was one of the greatest relief performances you’re going to see.”

The Blackhawks finished only two points back of Nashville in the Central Division, and they grabbed home-ice advantage back despite benching Crawford after the first period. Darling had played only 14 NHL games, but he stopped every subsequent shot as Nashville took 54 – a franchise record for the playoffs.Not bad for someone who split this season between the Blackhawks and Rockford in the American Hockey League. But Darling went 9-4-0 during the season, and he posted a 1.95 goals against average.

”You just kind of get thrown into it,” Darling said. ”It was exciting and nerve-wracking, but once I got going, I felt good.”

Keith ended the game with his one-timer from the blue line. Jonathan Toews had a goal and an assist, and Niklas Hjalmarsson, Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews each scored for the Hawks. Patrick Kane also had two assists in his return after missing 21 games with a broken collarbone.Keith credited Marian Hossa with getting a bank pass back to him before trying to put the puck on net as quickly as possible. His shot beat Pekka Rinne on the glove side.

”I don’t know if the goalie was able to see it very well,” Keith said. ”I think we had some guys going to the net and maybe helped out on the screen. I just want to get it on net. I was lucky that it went in. It was nice to get the game over with.”

Colin Wilson scored twice and Viktor Stalberg had a goal, all in the first period for the Predators.Game 2 is Friday night in Nashville.The Hawks came in leading the NHL with 57 postseason wins dating back to 2009 with two Stanley Cup titles – and just missed playing for another last year, losing the Western Conference finals in seven games. So falling behind 0-3 after the first period was no big deal for the Blackhawks.Nashville was playing its first postseason game since 2012 and had a standing room only crowd. The Predators missed their first division title with a late-season skid and came into the playoffs in an 0-4-2 slide. The Hawks lost their last four regular-season games.Both teams looked ready for the postseason, though the Blackhawks didn’t get going until the second period.The Predators got a nice boost from a crowd filled with Nashville fans after the team limited early ticket sales to this game to local stores and the box office. That kept the inside of the arena painted gold, with very few of the Blackhawks faithful who usually take advantage of the short flight from Chicago on hand.Nashville forced Crawford out with three goals on 12 shots in the first period.Wilson, who snapped a 15-game goal drought, scored first with a wrister and then tipping a shot by Seth Jones. Stalberg, waived twice by Nashville this season, spending much of the season in Milwaukee, scored on a wraparound late in the first period when Crawford got caught at the end boards playing the puck.Darling was helped by facing only four shots in the second period as the Hawks answered with three goals – two with a man advantage. Hjalmarsson scored on a snap shot on 4-on-4, then Sharp scored on a slap shot just 11 seconds after getting a 5-on-3.Then 17 seconds after Mattias Ekholm went to the box for cross checking, Toews tied it from close range.Darling got the Hawks to overtime with a handful of big saves in the third period, stopping Ryan Ellis and then Roman Josi by sticking his right leg out to the post. He had several more stops in the overtimes, and officials missed Keith pulling Taylor Beck down by grabbing the back of his pants in the first overtime.

NOTES—The Hawks and Quenneville are 10-7 in the first game of a playoff series. … The Predators finished without center Mike Fisher, who left with a lower-body injury after playing 25 seconds of the second period. … Both the Blackhawks and Nashville managed three goals each on their last 25 power plays of the regular season; the Blackhawks had two with the Predators one in this game. … Nashville is 2-6 all-time in overtime in the playoffs.

Bulls wake up, beat Hawks 91-85, will face Bucks in Playoffs for first time in 25 years.

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The Bulls looked as if they were on their way to a lopsided loss. Aaron Brooks had other ideas.Brooks scored 23 points and the Bulls rallied from 18 down to beat the Atlanta Hawks 91-85 on Wednesday night in the regular-season finale.The Bulls locked up the third seed in the Eastern Conference and a first-round matchup against the Milwaukee Bucks with their fourth straight win.The Hawks, who won a franchise-record 60 games and earned the top seed, matched a season high with their third straight loss. They will play Brooklyn in the first round.

”We have to want it more than anybody else,” Pau Gasol said. ”The resiliency that we have, we’ve got to turn it into a determination and understand that every game in the playoffs is critical.”

The Bulls showed it during the regular season, overcoming injuries to just about every key player. They hit the 50-win mark for the 16th time in franchise history by pulling out a game that seemed to be slipping away.Brooks carried the Bulls in the second half with Derrick Rose sitting out the second half because of a sore left knee. He scored nine in the third quarter and pulled the Bulls back into it after Atlanta went up by 18.Jimmy Butler scored 21. Gasol added 18 points and 13 rebounds for his 54th double-double, and the Bulls prevailed even though Rose scored just two points in 10 minutes. The star point guard insisted the latest knee issue was minor and that he would have played through it had this been a postseason game.Still, any knee problem involving Rose will at least raise a few eyebrows given his history. He tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the 2012 playoff opener and tore the meniscus in his right knee last season, cutting short his comeback a year ago. He recently missed about six weeks following a minor procedure on that knee.

”There was no point in really fighting through it tonight,” he said.

The Bulls’ Joakim Noah (left hamstring tendinitis) sat out the game and Taj Gibson exited with a strained left shoulder that he said has been bothering him since the game at Cleveland on April 5. He had a cortisone shot at halftime Wednesday and played just 20 minutes – six in the second half.Gibson expects to be ready for Game 1 on Saturday.Dennis Schroder came off the bench to score 21 points for Atlanta on 9-of-13 shooting. Al Horford added 14 points and seven rebounds. Paul Millsap scored five after missing five games because of a sprained right shoulder.The Bulls were leading 87-85 when Atlanta’s Austin Daye missed a short turnaround jumper with 1:44 left. The Bulls controlled the rebound and Butler hit two free throws. He then stole the ball from Daye and fed Gasol for a running layup that made it 91-85 with 1:16 remaining.Atlanta looked like it was ready to bury the Bulls with a 60-42 lead after scoring the first 11 points of the third quarter. But with Rose watching from the sideline, Brooks pulled the Bulls back into it. He drove for a layup in the closing seconds to cut the Hawks’ lead to 72-70, and the Bulls pulled it out down the stretch.Now, they can turn their attention toward the playoffs. They will likely have all their key players available in the postseason for the first time in years, and despite all their injuries, that was one of their major goals.

”When you have a lot of moving parts, it can get choppy,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. ”We have to hit the ground running. We’re here now. We’ll see.”

NOTES—Kirk Hinrich (left knee) sat out the game. … Mohammed played in his 1,000th game…..Bulls host Milwaukee in Game 1 of the playoffs Saturday….This will be the first time since 1990, and just the fourth time ever that the Bulls and Bucks will meet in a Playoff Series. 1974 Bucks swept Western Conf Finals 4-0, 1985 Bucks won Eastern Conf Qtr-Finals 3-1, 1990 Bulls won Eastern Conf Qtr-Finals 3-1….Atlanta gets Brooklyn in Game 1 of the playoffs Sunday.

Bulls rally from 19 point halftime deficit, hammer Heat in second half.

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MIAMI—Up by 19 at halftime, the Miami Heat were rolling.By game’s end, they were reeling.And their playoff hopes are now, at best, ailing.Miami’s trying season is now on the brink, after the Bulls not only pulled off a staggering comeback but made it look easy.Pau Gasol had 16 points and 15 rebounds, Aaron Brooks and Taj Gibson each added 14 points and the Bulls beat the Heat 89-78 on Thursday night – dealing Miami’s postseason chances a major blow. ”Once we started getting into them, getting rebounds, containing them to one shot, things turned around,” Gasol said. Oh, they turned around, and in a hurry. Miami led 51-32 at the half, winning the second quarter 33-12 after the Bulls worst-shooting opening 24 minutes of the season. ”It was embarrassing,” Bulls center Joakim Noah said. So was the second half – albeit for the other team. The Bulls outscored the Heat 57-27 after intermission, scoring 39 of the first 47 points in the second half. Miami’s huge lead was gone in less than 10 minutes, as the Heat missed their first 12 shots of the third quarter and the freefall never ceased. ”We’re all frustrated,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. ”We’re all embarrassed when you’re in those situations and you can’t stop an avalanche like that.” Mike Dunleavy and Derrick Rose each had 12 for the Bulls, who moved back into the No. 3 spot in the Eastern Conference standings and won despite Jimmy Butler being held out with a calf injury.Hassan Whiteside had 19 points and 16 rebounds for the Heat. Dwyane Wade scored nine points, shooting just 4 for 20. Goran Dragic had 15 points for Miami and Michael Beasley scored 13.The Bulls scored the first 11 points of the second half, then went on a 24-3 run over another 7-minute stretch bridging the third and fourth quarters.By then, the game was gone. So, perhaps, is the season. Miami remained in the No. 10 spot in the Eastern Conference race with three games left, but now almost certainly needs to win out and get plenty of help to get back to the postseason. ”You just keep coming back until they tell you your season is over,” Wade said. ”This team has been through a lot. … A loss, a bad 24 minutes, that’s not going to deter us from coming back and doing our job.” Miami can get to 38 wins. Boston and Brooklyn, the current holders of the No. 7 and No. 8 spots, have 36. ”Still in it,” Wade said. The comeback was such that Rose’s second game of his latest comeback tour almost seemed irrelevant.Rose made three field goals in the entirety of Wednesday’s game at Orlando; he matched that in a 68-second span of the first quarter Thursday, with a step-back, followed by a dunk and a pullup jumper.Those were about the extent of his highlights on Thursday, as he finished 5 for 15 from the field in just over 20 minutes.Then again, the Bulls didn’t seem to need him. ”He’s still finding his rhythm,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. ”It’s not going to happen overnight.” Gasol took 11 shots in the first quarter, the sixth time this season he’s reached double digits in that category in the opening 12 minutes. … Rose has faced Miami 21 times, and made more than half his shots in any of those games only twice….It was the second-largest blown lead for the Heat this season, topped only by the 23-pointer against Philadelphia on Dec. 23. … Dragic appeared in his 500th regular-season game. … Wade sought out Rose for a hug just before tip-off…..Gasol got his league-best 51st double-double of the season, extending his career high in that department. At 34, he’s on pace to become the NBA’s oldest leader in double-doubles since Patrick Ewing did so (also at 34) in the 1996-97 season…..Forever linked by the 2008 draft when they went No. 1 and No. 2, Thursday marked the 10th time – but first in more than four years – that Rose and Beasley appeared in the same game. The last was March 30, 2011….The Bulls host Philadelphia on Saturday.

Blues win Division as Hawks continue goal dry spell.

ST. LOUIS—St. Louis trailed first-place Nashville by nine points in the Central Division on Feb. 24. On Thursday night, the Blues celebrated their first division title since 2011-12.Paul Stastny scored the clincher, Dmitrij Jaskin broke a 16-game scoreless string and Jake Allen made 21 saves in the Blues 2-1 victory over the Blackhawks on Thursday night.The Blues wrapped up the division title and home-ice advantage for the first two rounds of the playoffs when Nashville lost to Minnesota later Thursday night.

”We’ve had that focus all year and it’s led to a lot of success,” captain David Backes said. ”A division championship in this division means a lot.”

Stastny, who put the game away with a third-period goal that pushed the lead to 2-0, said the comeback was the result of hard work.

”We went through some ups and downs and now we’re playing good hockey,” Stastny said. ”We’re peaking at the right time and that’s the most important thing for us.”

St. Louis has 107 points, tied with Anaheim the Western Conference lead, though Anaheim holds the tie-breaker. On Saturday in their final regular-season games, St. Louis has a home game against Minnesota, and Anaheim is at Arizona.

”We’ve come a long ways back to catch Nashville in what looks to be the toughest division in hockey,” St. Louis Ken Hitchcock said. ”Winning the division, getting home ice, any advantage you can get, is going to be really important.”

Jaskin poked in a rebound of a shot by Alex Pietrangelo at 17:10 of the second period to break a scoreless tie. It was the Blues’ first goal in 121 minutes, 58 seconds.The power-play tally was set up when David Rundblad took a double-minor for high-sticking Jori Lehtera. Jaskin’s last goal came March 1 in a 6-5 overtime loss to Vancouver.

”Nice job by (Pietrangelo) getting the shot on net and it was a lucky bounce right to me,” Jaskin said. ”I’ve been waiting for a lucky bounce like that for a long while.”

Andrew Shaw scored for the Hawks, who’ve lost three in a row and are guaranteed of opening the playoffs on the road and will finish third in the division.Stastny converted on a 3-on-1 break off a pass from Jaden Schwartz at 14:05 of the third period for a 2-0 lead.

”There seems to be breakdowns at certain points in the third period that are hurting us,” Jonathan Toews said. ”That was the case tonight when we were down a goal.”

Shaw cut the deficit to 2-1 with his 15th goal of the season with 2:39 remaining.Allen, who improved to 8-2-2 since Feb.1, stopped 38 shots in the Blues’ 2-1 win Sunday in the United Center. His biggest save Thursday came early in the third period when he stopped Bryan Bickell from point-blank range while nursing a 1-0 lead.

”It was pretty cool to close it out at home over the Hawks,” Allen said. ”It was great to be out there with the guys. We’ll celebrate tonight and get back to work tomorrow.”

Corey Crawford made 23 saves and fell to 32-20-5.The Hawks have lost their last three games by 2-1 scores.

”At the end of the day, you’ve got to get your power play working,” Joel Quenneville said. ”We’ve got to get some ugly goals and there’s a price to pay to have success both ways.”

NOTES—The Blues are 7-2 in their last nine home games against the Blackhawks… The Blues had lost four of their previous five home games. … The Hawks close the regular season Saturday at Colorado. … The crowd of 19,751 was the Blues’ 22nd sellout of the season.