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.

 

Rose returns, but Bulls let 15 point lead get away, Magic win 105-103.

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ORLANDO—The Orlando Magic spoiled Derrick Rose’s return from his latest knee injury.Victor Oladipo had 23 points and scored on a layup with 1.5 seconds left to give the Magic a 105-103 victory over the Bulls on Wednesday night.Rose started and played for the first time in more than a month since undergoing surgery on his right knee. But working on a minutes restriction, the point guard was 3 of 9 from the field and finished with nine points in 19 minutes.

”I felt all right,” Rose said. ”I think it was about right. It’ll get better the more I play, but I’m getting better every week. It’ll take some time, but I’ll get there.”

The Bulls had a final chance with 1.5 seconds remaining, but an inbounds pass by Mike Dunleavy to Pau Gasol at the rim sailed out of bounds.Nik Vucevic added 22 points in the Magic’s third straight win.

”There’s no playoff but we’re trying to treat every game like a playoff game,” Oladipo said. ”There’s teams that we’re playing that are playoff seeds, but we’re trying to get better too.”

Jimmy Butler had 19 points. Gasol, Taj Gibson and Nikola Mirotic each added 15.Rose was in his first action since Feb. 23 – a span of 20 games. He underwent a minor operation on his right knee on Feb. 27- the latest in a string of knee issues for the former league MVP.A torn meniscus in his right knee sidelined Rose most of last season. He also tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the 2012 playoff opener.The plan was to ease Rose back into action by playing just 20 minutes on Wednesday. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau stuck pretty close to that, with Rose logging 19:24 in total.He tried to make the most of it, and came out firing early on, connecting on two of his first four field goals. Rose played just shy of 13 minutes in the first half, scoring on a pair of jumpers, including a 3-pointer, along with an assist and two turnovers.But he went cold after that, missing his next six shots.Orlando took advantage, and climbed out of a 15-point, first-half hole to regain the lead 77-75.Rose finally broke the drought, dropping in a fast break layup that put the Bulls back in front 71-68, before reaching his minutes limit and going to the bench for the final time with 5:34 left in the third quarter.

”The shots I put up, I thought they were good shots before I shot it. I’m more concerned with us losing more than anything,” Rose said.

The Bulls kept the momentum, and capitalized on some late Magic miscues to end the period on a 12-2 spurt, and take an 87-79 lead into the fourth.But Orlando didn’t go away, and tied it at 96 on a layup by Evan Fournier.A 3-pointer by Mirotic briefly put back up 99-96. Oladipo responded with a floater and 3-pointer to nudge the Magic up in front 101-99.Out of a timeout, Gasol got free in the lane for a layup and was fouled. He missed his ensuing free throw, leading to a jumper by Orlando’s Aaron Gordon.Aaron Brooks turned it over the Bulls’ next trip down the floor, but Fournier came up short on a jumper.A scramble for a rebound after a Bulls miss went out of bounds. A replay review gave it back to the Bulls with 11.5 seconds to play. Gasol was then fouled by Gordon and connected on both free throws to set up Oladipo’s layup.Rose said the hardest part was watching from the bench late in the game.

”Very hard. At the same time, it’s all about patience. I’m going to have my turn,” Rose said. ”Right now while I’m not playing, I’m just trying to learning a little more and seeing how they’re playing. The only thing I can do is just sit back and watch and learn.”

NOTES—Kirk Hinrich returned after missing last two games with a hyperextended left knee…..Orlando connected on their first 19 free throws….Wednesday marked just the 20th time this season that the Bulls lineup of Rose, Butler, Joakim Noah, Gasol and Mike Dunleavy started together. ”That’s all you can do is try to build some continuity,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said…..Bulls are at Miami on Thursday night.

Suddenly punchless Hawks, fall to Wild 2-1 in Regular Season Home finale

When the Minnesota Wild visited in January, they appeared to be headed for the bottom of the NHL.Now they’re gearing up for the postseason.Devan Dubnyk made 32 saves, and the Wild clinched a playoff spot with a 2-1 victory over the now offensless Blackhawks on Tuesday night.Mikael Granlund and Jason Zucker scored in the third period for Minnesota, which was coming off a 2-0 home loss to Winnipeg on Monday night. It was Zucker’s first game since he broke his collarbone in the first period of a 5-3 victory over Vancouver on Feb. 9.

”I just wanted to get out there and help the team any way possible,” Zucker said. ”It’s a great feeling, it’s always great to help out in any way.”

It was quite a turnaround from Minnesota’s previous visit to Chicago on Jan. 11, when it lost 4-1 in the fifth game of a six-game slide. That losing streak dropped the Wild to 18-19-5, but a trade for Dubnyk helped them turn their season around.

”We’re a different team than we were then,” forward Zach Parise said. ”We’re playing just better as a group and from goaltending out, we’re just playing a better team game.”

Bryan Bickell scored his 14th goal and Corey Crawford had 28 stops for the Blackhawks (48-26-6), who have lost two in a row after a four-game winning streak. They remained three points back of Central Division-leading St. Louis after the Blues and second-place Nashville also lost.The Hawks visit St. Louis on Thursday and then closes out the regular season with a trip to Colorado to face the Avalanche on Saturday night.

”You want to have good habits and good hockey going into the playoffs,” Bickell said. ”You don’t want to go in on a little losing streak like these two games that we are right now. We just need to bounce back in St. Louis.”

Crawford and Dubnyk were locked in a scoreless duel before Granlund went to his backhand to collect his eighth goal at 9:30, stopping a 14-game drought. Zucker then scored on a 2-on-1 rush with Chris Stewart with 6:46 remaining.With Crawford on the bench for a sixth attacker, Bickell scored on a shot from the left circle at 18:12. But Minnesota (45-27-8) held on for its 11th consecutive road win, extending a franchise record.

”It’s national beer day, so I want to make sure that I honor that on the plane ride to Nashville,” coach Mike Yeo said with a grin.

The Wild face the Predators on Thursday, and then close the season at St. Louis on Saturday.Andrew Shaw had two of the best opportunities for the Hawks in their home finale. His second-period backhand trickled behind Dubnyk, but defenseman Jared Spurgeon swept the puck away. Shaw had a look at an open net while the game was still scoreless in the third, but he swung and missed while he was being tied up by Wild defenseman Ryan Suter.

”I know that we got away from what made us, the game, for the first 40 minutes, knowing that there’s no plays to be had,” Joel Quenneville said. ”We’ve played them two playoff series in a row and third period we all of a sudden thought we could and they get the benefit of playing in our end.”

Zucker was shaken up after tangling with Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook and going hard into the boards in the third, but quickly returned to the ice. Zucker, who was expected to miss three months, played about 16 minutes in his return.The Blackhawks are hoping for a similar recovery for Patrick Kane, who had surgery on Feb. 25 to repair a broken left collarbone. The original timeline for Kane’s return was three months, but the dynamic winger is skating with the team again and appears to be ramping up his activity.

”He’s progressing real well,” Quenneville said. ”I know that every day it seems like he’s getting a little stronger.”

NOTES—Brad Richards, D Kimmo Timonen and F Daniel Carcillo were scratched with injuries. Quenneville said Richards will miss the final three-games of the regular season, but should be ready for the playoffs. … Blackhawks F Kyle Baun played 13 1/2 minutes in his NHL debut.

Duke wins 5th National Title 68-63 over Wisconsin

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INDIANAPOLIS—Over a matter of mere minutes, the youngsters at Duke grew into salty old pros.Call them freshmen. But please, do not call them kids.Led by Tyus Jones and Jahlil Okafor, Duke’s talented group of potential one-and-doners played like veterans down the stretch, outscoring Wisconsin by 14 points over the final 13 minutes Monday night to grit out a 68-63 victory for the program’s fifth national title.

”It shows a lot about their confidence,” said Quinn Cook, Duke’s only senior starter.

Okafor, the likely first pick in the NBA draft if he decides to leave, got outplayed by Badgers senior center Frank Kaminsky most of the night but came through big when the pressure was highest.The 6-foot-11 freshman made two straight buckets over Kaminsky, sandwiched between a pair of 3-pointers from Jones, to help the Blue Devils (35-4) turn a one-time nine-point deficit into an eight-point lead with 1:22 left.A furious Wisconsin rally ensued, but it came up short. Then, it was Okafor on the bottom of a rowdy dog pile – a scene reminiscent of the last time the Final Four was Indianapolis, back in 2010 when Duke edged out Butler in another scintillating final. The Blue Devils also took one here in 1991 – the Grant Hill, Christian Laettner squad.

”It was heaven,” coach Mike Krzyzewski said of the stadium where he’s now 4-0 in Final Fours. ”It was really divine.”

Krzyzewski now has five titles, alone in second place on the all-time list, behind only John Wooden.Coach K did it with a collection of All-Americans – many of whom won’t be around too long.There’s Okafor, his buddy, Jones – who finished with 23 points and was named MVP – and another freshman, Justise Winslow. All might be playing at an NBA arena near you next season.Grayson Allen? He’ll be back.The most overlooked of Krzyzewski’s first-year players stepped up with Okafor on the bench for much of the second half in foul trouble. Allen, the slam-dunk champion at the high school McDonald’s All-American contest last year, scored 16 points – 12 above his average – including eight straight for Duke after Wisconsin (36-4) had gone up by nine.

”It was fun to watch my teammates do what they do,” Okafor said. ”They have my back the entire season, and it was no different tonight.”

This was a savvy, calm, collected comeback against the team that wrote the book on that all season. Wisconsin kept its cool two nights earlier in an upset over undefeated Kentucky and looked like it would close the deal when it turned a 31-all halftime tie into a 48-39 lead after Kaminsky made a layup with 13:23 left.Then, suddenly, Duke looked like veterans and Wisconsin looked like kids.The Blue Devils took the lead for good with 4:08 left when Jones made a 3, then fell hard to the ground while tangled up with Bronson Koenig. Dick Vitale’s call: ”You cannot be serious!”

On Duke’s next possession, Kaminsky tried to wrap an arm around Okafor in the paint, but the big fella powered his way through it for the bucket and the foul. He missed the free throw, but a different point was made: Kaminsky had 21 points and 12 rebounds to Okafor’s 10 and three, yet down the stretch, ”Frank the Tank” struggled to get a good look and Okafor helped win the game.

”He got in some foul trouble, but because of his positive attitude, he made some big plays down the stretch,” Jones said.

In the seconds leading to Okafor’s first basket, Winslow appeared to step on the baseline. But the whistle never blew and he delivered it to Okafor for the score.That, and the foul count, had the Wisconsin Twitterverse fuming about some calls. The Badgers got whistled for only two fouls in the first half, but the count in the second half was Badgers 13, Blue Devils 6. Duke shot 20 free throws to Wisconsin’s 10.

”There was more body contact in this game than any game we played all year, and I just feel sorry for my guys that all of the sudden a game was like that,” Badgers coach Bo Ryan said.

Even though Kaminsky schooled Okafor to draw both his third and fourth fouls early in the second half, Wisconsin couldn’t pull away from an aggressive Duke defense that allowed only 55 points a game in the five contests leading to the final.Wisconsin shot 41 percent – 7 points under its season average.”Shots just weren’t falling, and they were getting to the line, and when the tide changes like that, it’s kind of hard to get back in the flow,” said Badgers forward Sam

Dekker.Nigel Hayes had 13 points and Dekker, the key guy down the stretch against Kentucky, had a very quiet 12 for the Badgers, who were trying to bring their first title back to Madison since 1941. Dekker used his shirt to dab away tears during postgame interviews – a much different scene than the loose, fun-loving media sessions the Badgers put on all tournament.For Duke, it was all smiles. The Blue Devils are taking another trophy home to the Cameron Crazies.

”All these guys have become students of the game, and they share knowledge,” Krzyzewski said.

This was not a dominant, wire-to-wire effort the likes of which some of the Duke title teams have enjoyed in seasons past.Kentucky and its quest for perfection stole the headlines this season. So, playing in relative shadows down on Tobacco Road was this group, which actually might have more one-and-dones than coach John Calipari does at Kentucky. Calipari was in the building, by the way – honored for his induction into the Naismith Hall of Fame. He got booed heavily.In the end, it was all confetti and cheers. And it’s not Calipari’s team, but Krzyzewski’s, that will end up in the history books.

Irving and Smith carry load, LeBron gets triple-double-Cavs beat Bulls.

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CLEVELAND—Kyrie Irving heard LeBron James scream to shoot, so he shot.Buzzer. Swish.His prayer was answered, and it wasn’t the only one for the Cavaliers on Sunday.Irving casually dropped a 52-foot 3-pointer, J.R. Smith made eight 3s – highlighted by a desperation one to end the first half – and James recorded his first triple-double with the Cavs in five years as Cleveland won its 18th straight at home, 99-94 over the Bulls.The Cavs made 16 3-pointers, three as time was draining from either the game or shot clock.

”I’ve been doing this a long time,” Cleveland coach David Blatt said, shaking his head. ”I’ve never seen three like that in one game.”

The Bulls haven’t either.

”The basketball gods were on their side today,” Joakim Noah said.

Irving scored 27 points, but it was his dramatic shot in the third quarter that helped the Cavs move closer to a Central Division title and securing the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.With the Cavs leading 70-60, Irving caught the inbounds pass thinking there were still 22 seconds left on the 24-shot clock. James, who was setting a screen, yelled to Irving and his long shot hit nothing but net.

”It was a crazy play,” he said. ”Luckily it went in. There was no skill there. I was just throwing it up at the rim and hopefully it goes in.”

Both Irving and James had similar reactions, shrugging and throwing their hands in the air. It was that kind of game for the Cavs, who attempted 37 3-pointers, three of them in nearly hopeless situations.