BEARS 2014 PRE SEASON SCHEDULE
Aug. 7-10 vs. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
Thursday, Aug. 14, 7 p.m. vs. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
Aug. 21-24 at Seattle Seahawks
Aug. 28-29 at Cleveland Browns
Patrick Sharp stepped up late to make sure the Blackhawks got a win in their last regular-season home game.Sharp set up Marian Hossa’s tying goal in the final minute of regulation and then got the game-winner 43 seconds into overtime to lift the Blackhawks to a 3-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night.Jeremy Morin also scored in the Blackhawks’ fourth straight win overall, and their first in overtime this season after seven losses despite leading in the NHL in goal scoring.
“I think we were due,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We’re a pretty good club offensively, but to take this long to get one. … It’s certainly a relief, and a huge two points for us and a nice comeback as well.”
The defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks may need some of that late magic when the playoffs start next week.
“It’s not the type of overtime you see in the playoffs,” Quenneville said, “but going forward, it gets the monkey off our back.”
Sharp scored the winner — and his team-leading 34th goal — on a shot from the slot that struck Montreal goalie Peter Budaj, rolled high off his equipment, ticked off the left post and landed in the net.
“It was at the end of a shift,” Sharp said. “I let go of the shot. Makes up for the ones that hit the post.”
Hossa had tipped in Sharp’s feed from the right corner left to tie the game at 2 with 47.7 seconds left in the third period.
“Michel Handzus made a great pass to me and I just wanted to get it toward the net,” Sharp said. “I saw Hoss’ stick and he put it in.”
The Blackhawks put on a strong, wild finish to win a cautiously played game between Original Six rivals with depleted lineups.
“I don’t think we were especially happy with the way we played the first couple periods, but picked it up there towards the end,” Duncan Keith said. “Their goalie made some big saves, too.”
Corey Crawford finished with 28 saves for the Blackhawks.Dale Weise and Francis Bouillon scored for Montreal, which snapped a two-game win streak and lost for just the third time in its last 13 games. Budaj had 25 saves.The Canadiens were without starting goalie Carey Price and defensemen Andrei Markov and Alexei Emelin, who didn’t make the trip to Chicago so they could rest for the playoffs. Montreal will face Tampa Bay in the opening round, with home ice to be determines.The Blackhawks played their fourth game without star forwards Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. Both are expected to miss the remainder of the regular season, but return for the playoffs.Earlier on Wednesday, Kane said he will be at 100 percent for the postseason despite a brace on his injured left knee.Kane, who was leading the Hawks in scoring when he was hurt in a game against St. Louis on March 19, resumed skating on his own five days ago. On Wednesday, he skated with his teammates for the first time in the hours before the game against Montreal.Canadiens forward Alex Galchenyuk played only two shifts in the first period before suffering a lower-body injury and did not return.The Canadiens won the other game this season between the teams on Jan. 11 in Montreal.All the scoring came after the second period.Weise, who had sat out the last six games with an upper body injury, got the Canadiens on the scoreboard first, completing a 3-on-2 break after taking a feed from Josh Gorges at 7:31 of the third. Gorges was playing for the first time since March 5 after undergoing surgery on his left hand.Morin tied at 10:34 on a low shot from the right circle that slipped between Budaj’s pads.Bouillon put the Canadiens back ahead just 22 seconds later, as his high screened shot from the point slipped past Crawford’s shoulder.
NOTES—Canadiens D Mike Weaver played his 600th NHL game. …Brandon Saad returned after sitting out one game per Quenneville’s choice. … Healthy scratches were D Michal Handzus and D David Rundblad and C Peter Regin, LW Teuvo Teravainen and C Matt Carey.
MINNEAPOLIS—D.J. Augustin’s career was swirling down the drain when the Toronto Raptors waived him in December, and the former No. 9 overall pick seemed destined to join the long list of promising prospects that just never made it in the NBA.Four days later, the Chicago Bulls signed him in an attempt to add some scoring punch to a defense-first team. Augustin has flourished in Chicago, one of the big reasons the surprising Bulls have been able to weather Derrick Rose’s injury and the trade of Luol Deng to stay in the hunt in the Eastern Conference.
”We needed him,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said, ”and he needed us.”
Augustin had another big game Wednesday night, scoring 21 points to lead the Bulls to a 102-87 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.Joakim Noah added 15 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists for his fourth triple-double, moving into a tie with Indiana’s Lance Stephenson for the most in the NBA this season. Kirk Hinrich scored 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting and the Bulls hit 11 of 21 3-pointers to stay right on Toronto’s heels for the third seed in the Eastern Conference.
”We wouldn’t be in this position without D.J.,” Noah said. ”His passing ability, his scoring ability, just the way he plays the game. … I feel like I have really good chemistry with him and I think the rest of this team feels that way, too. We’re going to need him down the stretch.”
Kevin Love had 17 points and 10 rebounds for the Timberwolves. But he hyperextended his right elbow in the first half and only made 7 of 20 shots, including 2 of 8 3-pointers. Ricky Rubio added 15 points and six assists, but the Wolves were just 4 for 17 from long distance.
”I should’ve made a lot of those open shots that I missed,” said Love, who also had a large bloody scratch on his chest after getting tied up with Carlos Boozer. ”Yeah it was bothering me a little bit. But that’s no excuse for the poor shooting.”
The Bulls entered the night with the same record as Toronto, with the tiebreaker going to the Raptors and only five games to play before the playoffs begin. The schedule certainly favors the Raptors, who beat the 76ers on Wednesday night and finish the season with two games against the Knicks and one each against the Pistons and Bucks.Thanks to the raggedy East, the Bulls don’t have it much tougher with the Pistons, Knicks and Magic coming up before the season finale at playoff-bound Charlotte. That made this game against short-handed Timberwolves a crucial one.The Timberwolves played without Nikola Pekovic (right foot), Chase Budinger (right ankle), Kevin Martin (right heel), Shabazz Muhammad (right knee) and J.J. Barea (back and neck), leaving them with only 10 healthy players, and without three of their better offensive players to go at the tenacious Bulls defense.But even though the Wolves have been eliminated from playoff contention, they’ve put up quite a fight against some of the best teams in the league down the stretch. Last week Minnesota beat Memphis at home and won at Miami. The Wolves then throttled the Spurs at Target Center on Tuesday night and shot 52.6 percent to take a 53-48 lead over the Bulls at halftime.Eventually that Bulls defense started squeezing the Wolves and grinding the game down. The Wolves missed eight of their first 10 shots of the second half and scored only 17 points in the third quarter. They shot 33 percent and managed just 34 points in the second half.
”It looked like we ran out of gas in the second half,” Wolves coach Rick Adelman said.
On the other end, the 3s kept falling. Mike Dunleavy, who had 15 points, hit one to give the Bulls a 65-62 lead they would never relinquish.Augustin hit two more in the fourth to help the Bulls pull away. Even bigger were his 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting in the first half, when the Bulls were struggling to get their offense going.
”I’m just getting a chance to play, period,” Augustin said. ”Just getting an opportunity and trying to make the best of it.”
NOTES—Taj Gibson finished with 13 points and five rebounds. He picked up a technical foul in the fourth quarter for gesturing angrily after not getting a foul call under the basket. … Little-used PG Alexey Shved had nine points and a season-high five assists in 16 minutes for Minnesota. … The Wolves host their former coach and GM Kevin McHale and the Houston Rockets on Friday night in their third home game of the week.
The Blackhawks are taking a more direct approach to generating offense without injured star forwards Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.So far, it’s working.Rookie Jeremy Morin scored and set up Patrick Sharp’s go-ahead goal in the second period, and the injury-depleted Hawks held on to defeat the St. Louis Blues 4-2 on Sunday afternoon for its third straight win.The Blackhawks ground out the victory despite playing without Toews’ powerful skating and Kane’s puck-handling skills for the third game. Forward Brandon Saad was a last-minute scratch.
“We’ve simplified our game quite a bit,” said Sharp, who scored his team-leading 33rd goal. “We’re not trying to make as many plays offensively. We’re battling hard.Usually when you battle hard individually and as a team, good things happen. We’ve raised our battle level lately, but we’re just keeping things simple. Getting pucks in, getting pucks out.”
And some younger players, such as Morin, are getting more ice time and showing just how deep the defending Stanley Cup champion Hawks are.
“I’m just taking it day by day every time I’m in the lineup, trying to make the most of it,” Morin said. “We’re comfortable out there.I’m just playing the game right now and letting things come.”
Marcus Kruger and Ben Smith also scored for the Hawks, who closed to one point behind Colorado for second place in the Central Division and home ice in the first round of the playoffs. The Blackhawks have three games left. The Avalanche, who host Pittsburgh on Sunday night, have five games left.Toews sat out his third game with an injury suffered last Sunday when he was drilled by Pittsburgh defenseman Brooks Orpik. Kane, who has resumed skating, missed his ninth with a lower-body injury suffered against the Blues on March 19.Toews and Kane are expected to return for the start of the playoffs. Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Sobotka connected for St. Louis, which lost its second straight and remained two points behind idle Boston for the NHL’s overall point lead and race for the Presidents’ Trophy.Both the Blues and Bruins have four games remaining.Corey Crawford made 21 saves and St. Louis’ Brian Elliott made 31.The Blues skated without two of their top forwards, including leading goal scorer Alexander Steen, who missed his third game with an upper-body injury. Vladimir Tarasenko has been sidelined since mid-March with a hand injury.The Blues, who were shut out by Colorado on Saturday, have scored two goals or fewer in eight of their past 10 games.St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock said his team is looking a “little bit tired” and needs to “find a way to re-energize” and start skating, buzzing and shooting again in the offensive zone.The Hawks dominated territorially in the chippy first period and outshot the Blues 11-3, but trailed 1-0 after 20 minutes.Schwartz’s power-play goal at 1:57 of the first opened the scoring. After taking Brenden Morrow’s pass, Schwartz fired from the left circle, but his shot hit traffic in front of the net and bounded back to him. His second shot got through the screen and beat Crawford low.Crawford made a pad save on Patrik Berglund’s short-handed breakaway attempt midway through the first.Elliott stopped several prime Hawk chances in the final minutes of the first as the Hawks turned up the pressure. With 1:30 to go, he blocked a point-blank short-handed shot by Marian Hossa, who rocketed in alone past Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo.Morin tied it at 1 at 8:34 of the second, when he drove to the net and pushed in a rebound of Bryan Bickell’s shot. Bickell had picked off a pass at center ice before cruising back into the Blues’ zone and firing from the left circle.Sharp put the Hawks ahead 2-1 with 27 seconds left in the second when he completed a 2-on-1 break with Morin. Morin carried the puck down the right side, then passed to Sharp who fired a shot past Elliott’s stick side from the left circle.Kruger made it 3-1 just 56 seconds into the third. Elliott got a piece of Joakim Nordstrom’s shot from the right wing, but the puck trickled to the left goal post. Kruger punched it in.Sobotka cut it to 3-2 with 2:02 left when his flipping shot from the left wing knuckled under Crawford’s glove. Smith scored into an empty net with 3.3 seconds left.
NOTES—Johnny Oduya sat out his third game with a lower-body injury. Healthy scratches for the Hawks who host Montreal in their Regular Season Home finale Wednesday night at 6:30pm
WASHINGTON—If the Bulls and Washington Wizards meet in the first round of the playoffs, the Bulls will have a nice little blueprint to follow.The Bulls dominated from the get-go Saturday night and never trailed in a 96-78 win over the Wizards, avenging two losses from earlier in the season and providing perhaps a psychological edge if these teams are cranking up for a seven-game series in a couple of weeks.
“It was definitely a statement game,” Washington forward Drew Gooden said. “We were going in the mindset of this being a statement game, getting a possible matchup in the first round, and they took it the same way. They wanted to make a statement early.”
And they certainly did, holding the Wizards to 16 points in the first quarter and 10 in the second while building a lead that grew as large as 28 points. At one point, Washington was 0 for 7 from the 3-point line and 0 for 3 from the free throw line for the game, as well as 2 for 13 from the field in the second period.
“They were taking shots they didn’t want to take,” Bulls forward Taj Gibson said.
D.J. Augustin found plenty that he liked, as long as he was behind the arc. He led the Bulls with 25 points, making 6 of 11 3-pointers but only 2 of 8 2-pointers. Joakim Noah had 21 points and 12 rebounds, and Carlos Boozer added 16 points for the Bulls, who have won five straight and are tied with the Toronto Raptors for the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference. Augustin has averaged 19.8 points during the winning streak.Unlike the Wizards, who freely talked about a rematch in the playoffs, the Bulls didn’t want to think that far ahead.
“We lost to these guys at home. We lost to them here. It was just getting this win tonight,” Augustin said. “We’re not looking forward to the playoffs just yet, but we wanted to come out tonight and do it for ourselves.”
John Wall scored 20 points, and Marcin Gortat had 19 for the Wizards, who sit in sixth place in the East. If they hold that spot, they would face the third-seeded team.Several Washington players cited fatigue as an issue on the back end of a back-to-back, but coach Randy Wittman noted that the Bulls played Friday night as well. It also didn’t help that Trevor Ariza played through an illness and went 1 for 9 from the field.
Wittman, however, said his team wasn’t ready for the Bulls’ intensity and aggression.
“You fight aggression with aggression,” Wittman said. “And it was only a one-way fight tonight.”
One likely difference if the teams do meet again: Wizards forward Nene, out with a sprained left knee, is expected back for the playoffs. He played in the two early wins over the Bulls.
“Nene gives us another facilitator,” Wittman said. “And against a team like this you need another one. Nene was another guy that kind of can play like Noah does, up at the top with the ball in his hands. That’s not an excuse why we lost. I’d love to have him back, though.”
The Wizards made a run in the third quarter, scoring more points (35) in the period than they had in the entire first half (26). Wall’s 30-foot bounce pass to Trevor Booker on a fast break led to a dunk that pulled Washington within 11 and brought the crowd to its feet.But Noah took over and quickly squashed the rally. His three-point play started a 12-0 run early in the fourth quarter that put the game away.
“We wanted to throw the first punch tonight, and I think we did a good job with that,” Noah said. “In the beginning of the game, we were the more aggressive team. Usually, the most aggressive team wins.”
NOTES—Noah was naturally less than thrilled that his college, Florida, lost its game in the Final Four. He opened his postgame remarks by saying: “No questions about the Gators, sensitive issue.” … The Wizards finished 3 for 16 from 3-point range. … As the team with the NBA’s only Polish player (Gortat), the Wizards celebrated Polish Heritage Night. Poland’s ambassador to the U.S. made a presentation to Gortat before tipoff.
COLUMBUS—Ben Smith had the closest look and he likened it to mayhem.Antti Raanta had the worst view on the ice and to him it was a thing of beauty.Smith tapped in a rebound with 3.7 seconds left on a wild scrum to give the Blackhawks a 4-3 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night.With time running out, Duncan Keith threw the puck on net and goalie Sergei Bobrovsky blocked it with his arm but it popped out of his reach. While he and two teammates scrambled to get to the loose puck, Smith got a stick on it and pushed it into the net.
“(Keith) is so good at getting pucks through — that first shot almost went in. I don’t think he saw it,” Smith said of Bobrovsky. “It was just kind of a mad scramble in front with people going to the net. Somehow, the puck found its way in.”
When the official pointed to the puck to signify the goal was good, it touched off a wild celebration from a large throng of Hawk fans in the capacity crowd. It also deflated the playoff hopes of the Blue Jackets, not to mention the thousands of their fans in a crowd of 18,695.
“We came up 3 seconds short,” said Columbus defenseman Dalton Prout, part of the pile of players trying to clear the puck as time sifted away.At the far end of the rink, Raanta, giving front-line netminder Corey Crawford a night off by making 24 saves, flashed a wide smile when Smith’s inside work paid off.
“You can imagine how that feels when there is only 3 seconds on the clock and we score the winning goal,” he said. “The feeling was very, very nice.”
Jeremy Morin, Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa also had goals for the Hawks, while Keith had three assists.The reigning Stanley Cup champions have already locked up their sixth straight playoff appearance. But they had dropped three games in a row and were without superstar forwards Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, both sidelined with injuries, heading into a home game with Minnesota on Thursday night.But a shootout win before the home crowd and then the late victory in Columbus — against a team desperate for points in something akin to playoff conditions — has brightened the picture even more for the Blackhawks.
“You play the right way and you give yourself a chance,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “You get balance and you keep yourself mentally aware of what you need to do, play the team system and everybody complements each other. The last two wins are very exciting from where we were just a couple of days ago.”
Columbus started the night with a tenuous grasp on the second wild-card spot in the East. But with games running out — and opportunities for points slipping away — all of the Blue Jackets realized how costly the late goal could end up being.Derek MacKenzie, Ryan Johansen and Artem Anisimov scored for Columbus and Bobrovsky had 34 saves. The Blue Jackets fell to 0-10-3 in their last 13 meetings with the Blackhawks.Midway through the third with the game tied at 3, Raanta made the stop of the game after Calvert intercepted a pass and zoomed in all alone. Raanta deflected his shot and the game remained tied.Bobrovsky then stopped a blast by Bryan Bickell and smothered Morin’s shot from his knees in the slot with less than 5 minutes remaining.Then came the wild finish after both teams had seemed content to get to overtime with a point.But Smith, at the edge of the goal cage, was able to get to the puck after Prout and Calvert were unable to clear it and Bobrovsky couldn’t fall on it.
NOTES—The Blackhawks return home for games with St. Louis and Montreal before closing out the regular season at Washington and Nashville.
The Bulls have experienced such a turnaround this season that their wins are now being rated.According to some observers, the 102-90 victory over the hapless, short-handed Milwaukee Bucks didn’t rate because the expected lopsided blowout didn’t materialize.The Bulls, who spent much of the first two months of the season below .500, took issue with that assessment.
“Just because they’re the worst team in the league doesn’t mean. nothing, really,” Taj Gibson said. “It’s tough because you’re playing against guys fighting for their jobs, fighting for their livelihoods. They’re going to play hard.”
Jimmy Butler and Kirk Hinrich had 17 points apiece to lead seven players in double figures, and the Bulls, despite some occasional lapses in the fourth quarter, cruised.Carlos Boozer and D.J. Augustin scored 14 points apiece. Gibson added 13, Mike Dunleavy 12 and Joakim Noah had 11 points and 13 rebounds.
“A win’s a win,” Butler said. “Wins are hard to come by in this league. Every team has a roster full of NBA players; there really are no bad teams. You get a win, you’re happy with that.”
The Bulls have won four straight and six of seven, and remained tied with the Toronto Raptors for third in the Eastern Conference. The Bulls (44-32) face Washington, a possible first-round opponent, on Saturday.
“I love the balance of the team,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We had seven guys in double figures again. The shot distribution was pretty even, and that’s important for us.I like the balance of our team. Each night it could be someone different.”
Brandon Knight had 22 points before fouling out with just over two minutes left for Milwaukee. Jeff Adrien added 21 points for the Bucks, who have dropped four straight overall and 12 straight on the road to fall to 14-62 overall.Milwaukee entered the game with just eight healthy players because of injuries and coach Larry Drew decided to play just seven of those until the final 22 seconds of the game.
“I thought we did a good job fighting back in the second half,” Knight said. “Playing hard. Not backing down.They’re a great team playing great basketball right now. They’re a very solid defensive team. They’re physical. They’re everything you’d want in a team.”
The Bulls’ lead was 27-15 after the first quarter and 51-35 at halftime. The Bucks rallied at the start of the second half and pulled within 63-53 midway through the third quarter. But they weren’t able to trim the deficit to single digits and the Bulls built their advantage back up to 82-62 entering the fourth quarter.The game appeared over, but the Bulls created some suspense by managing to score just three points in the first six minutes of the period to let Milwaukee pull within 85-77. Hinrich finally broke the drought when he hit a 3-pointer with 5:59 left to make it 88-77.
“You have to give them credit,” Thibodeau said. “I thought they played hard throughout the game. They never went away. Even when we got up 20, they kept battling back.
NOTES—The Bulls waived rookie Erik Murphy on Thursday and there have been multiple reports saying they are interested in signing a veteran, possibly former Bull Ronnie Brewer. Murphy had been with the team all season, but only played a total of 62 minutes in 24 games. “It was done more so for roster flexibility,” Thibodeau said. “I thought he did a great job for us, and I thought he had gotten significantly better.”. Bucks C Larry Sanders, currently out with an injury, was suspended for five game on Friday for violating the NBA drug policy.
Jonathan Toews was out. Same for Patrick Kane. Then the Blackhawks blew a lead in the final two minutes.This turned into quite the big victory for the defending Stanley Cup champions.Marian Hossa scored the lone goal in the shootout, and the banged-up Blackhawks stopped a three-game slide with a 3-2 victory against the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night.Corey Crawford made 25 saves through overtime, and then stopped all three Minnesota attempts in the shootout. Hossa connected on the Blackhawks’ second try in the tiebreaker by powering a shot through Ilya Bryzgalov.
“We played the way we had to play,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “Playing it simple, advancing the puck, a check-first mentality.The way we played our last three games, not coming up with anything, it was important we did things the right way,” he added. “Getting two points was what we’re all about. We needed that.”
It was the Hawks first game since Quenneville said Toews would miss the rest of the regular season due to an upper-body injury. The Blackhawks also were without Kane, another star forward who is expected to miss the rest of the regular season because of a lower-body injury.
“It is nice we can do it without them, but they’re a big part of our team for how many years?” forward Bryan Bickell said. “We’re just hoping that when they come back, they’re healthy, and give us a spark. We just need to do what we did tonight through the rest of the games.”
The Blackhawks did get Bickell back from an injury, and he put his team ahead 2-1 early in the third period. But Minnesota’s Erik Haula tied it at 2 with 1:54 left in the third.Hossa’s shot in the tiebreaker lifted the Blackhawks to their first shootout victory since Jan. 19 against Boston. They also improved to 6-8 in shootouts.
“Fun to get two points in an overtime game,” Quenneville said. “It’s something we hadn’t seen in a long time.”
Ben Smith also scored for the Blackhawks.Charlie Coyle also scored for Minnesota, which moved five points ahead of Dallas and Phoenix in the battle for two Western Conference wild-card slots. Bryzgalov stopped 24 shots through overtime.
“That’s a huge point for us,” Minnesota coach Mike Yeo said. “Obviously we would have liked to have gotten two, but when you can get point and you’re not completely on top of things, that’s a good thing.”
Haula scored his fourth goal on a screened shot. He snapped off a shot from the right circle that sailed between the legs of Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson and then deflected in off Crawford’s glove.Coyle scored the only goal of the first on a quirky tip-in.Jared Spurgeon drifted in from the right point and fired. His shot hit Hjalmarsson’s stick, then deflected off the blade of Coyle’s stick and flipped over Crawford’s glove at 14:19.Smith tied it at 2:29 of the second with his 11th goal.Bryzgalov stopped Nick Leddy’s low drive from the left point, and then got his left pad in front of Brandon’s Saad rebound attempt. Smith popped in the loose puck from a scrum in front.Zach Parise, who leads Minnesota with 28 goals, was hit hard from behind in open ice by Brandon Bollig at 8:34 of the second period. After lying face down on the ice for a minute, he was helped to the dressing room by one of the Wild trainers, but returned later in the period.
“You could see the shift before [Bollig] was targeting guys with a couple of late hits,” Yeo said. “I didn’t like it. It was from behind.”
Bickell, who was sidelined for six games with an upper-body injury, beat Bryzgalov on a rebound of his initial point-blank attempt at 2:45 of the third period.Toews got hurt when he was drilled by Pittsburgh defenseman Brooks Orpik in the second period on Sunday. Kane was injured March 19 against St. Louis and has missed seven consecutive games.Quenneville has said both stars will be ready for the playoffs.
NOTES—Johnny Oduya was a last-minute scratch with a lower-body injury. …Joakim Nordstrom, recalled from Rockford of the AHL on Wednesday, played. … Minnesota F Jake Dowell and G John Curry, both recalled from Iowa of the AHL on Tuesday, were in the lineup. Curry backed up Bryzgalov.
ATLANTA—The Bulls strengthened their hold on home-court advantage in the playoffs, and made it a little tougher for the Atlanta Hawks to extend their season.For that, the Bulls can thank D.J. Augustin.Keeping up his inspired play, Augustin scored 23 points as the Bulls held off slumping Atlanta for a 105-92 victory Wednesday night, bumping the Hawks out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with two weeks left in the season.The Bulls stretched its lead to 2½ games over Brooklyn for home court in the opening round of the playoffs. The Bulls might have lost Derrick Rose to major knee injuries two years in a row, but they are 35-20 since signing Augustin in mid-December.
“He’s saved our season,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “D.J. can beat you a lot of different ways.”
The performance came three days after Augustin scored a career-high 33 points against Boston.
“D-Rose is the face of this team,” Augustin said. “I’m just trying to come in, just trying to help us out, do whatever I can do to help us win and go forward in the playoffs.”
The Bulls took control with a 16-3 run in the second quarter and led the rest of the way, fending off the last of Atlanta’s runs when Jimmy Butler swished a 3-pointer with just over a minute remaining.
“We just want to finish the rest of the season strong,” Augustin said.
The Hawks are heading in the opposite direction, losing for the 21st time in 28 games. This one dropped them slightly behind New York for the eighth playoff seed.The Knicks (33-43) routed Brooklyn 110-81 to climb percentage points ahead of Atlanta (32-42). Cleveland is also in the mix, two games out after beating Orlando. The Hawks host the Cavaliers on Friday night.Paul Millsap led the Hawks with 22 points and 11 rebounds, while Jeff Teague added 21 points. But Kyle Korver, with 12 points, was the only other Atlanta player in double figures.Everyone else went 13 for 32 from the field.The Hawks were up 42-38 with 9 minutes left in the second quarter after Mike Muscala knocked down a couple of free throws.The Bulls took control from there, clamping down defensively and scoring 16 of the next 19 points. The Hawks missed 12 of 13 shots, forced to settle mostly for outside jumpers and botching a couple of easy ones when they did get inside. Augustin capped the spurt with a brilliant hesitation move, freezing the Atlanta defenders before bursting through a gap for an easy layup.The Bulls led 57-49 at the half and never surrendered the advantage.Atlanta made several runs, only to have the Visitors answer every one of them. With the Hawks down 93-87 and in possession, Taj Gibson swatted away Carroll’s driving shot, the Bulls grabbed a loose ball and took off the other way, with Augustin sinking a 3-pointer that led to an Atlanta timeout.It was another trey by Butler that finished off the Hawks — appropriate enough, since the Bulls went 12 of 25 beyond the arc. Augustin was 4 of 8 from long range, while Butler chipped in with three more.In contrast to the Hawks, six players were in double figures for the Bulls, including Butler and Kirk Hinrich with 17 points apiece.Atlanta has eight games left to pull out its seventh consecutive playoff appearance.
“This team is competitive,” Elton Brand said. “There’s no quit in us. We’re going to play it out until the end.”
NOTES—Joakim Noah had 10 points and 10 rebounds. … The Bulls swept the season series 4-0 and now have won six straight against the Hawks since last season. … Thibodeau shrugged off the 200th career victory. “I’ve got a good team,” he said after improving his record to 200-105 in four seasons.
Having been burned by D.J. Augustin the previous night, the Boston Celtics clamped down on the Bulls’ guard in the second game of their home-and-home series.Boston succeeded in limiting Augustin to four points on 1-of-9 shooting, but that didn’t affect the final outcome.Mike Dunleavy had 22 points on 7-for-12 shooting and Augustin handed out 11 assists to help five Bulls score in double figures for a 94-80 win over the Celtics on Monday night.
”From the beginning of the game I knew they were going to do that, adjust to me,” Augustin said. ”I had to do some other things and find my teammates and they did a great job getting open.”
Joakim Noah added 19 points, 11 rebounds and five assists, Jimmy Butler scored 18 points, Carlos Boozer 16 and Taj Gibson had 14 points and 11 rebounds for the Bulls, who pulled away with a 13-0 run at the start of the fourth quarter.The Bulls (42-32) moved into a tie with the Toronto Raptors — who lost at Miami — for third place in the Eastern Conference.
”I think it’s very important,” Dunleavy said of the third seed. ”We want to get as high as we can. Not only with home-court advantage and avoiding the first seed in the second round, if we’re fortunate enough to advance. We just want to get as high as we can.”
The Bulls swept the home-and-home series with the Celtics after winning 107-102 in Boston on Sunday.The Celtics have lost 10 straight on the road to drop to 8-28 away from home. Their last road win was Feb. 10 at Milwaukee.Brandon Bass and Jerryd Bayless scored 18 points apiece for the Celtics.Rajon Rondo didn’t play Monday after getting 17 points and 11 assists Sunday. He is still working his way back to full strength following reconstructive knee surgery and doesn’t play in back-to-back games.
”It wasn’t just the fourth [quarter],” Boston coach Brad Stevens said. ”The first five minutes of the third and the fourth we went into a drought. We looked heavy-legged the whole second half.’That’s no excuse because they played last night, too.”
The game was tight entering the fourth, but the Bulls went on a quick 9-0 run for an 80-70 lead with 9½ minutes to play before Stevens called time out. The stoppage didn’t curb the Bulls’ momentum.Gibson scored on vicious dunk off a nice feed from Butler to make it 82-70 and Noah capped the run of 13 straight with a post move for an 84-70 lead. Noah had six points during the spurt, including an 18-foot jumper before Boston’s timeout.
”They’re a good team,” Bayless said. ”We don’t have a lot of room for error. We made a couple of bad plays in a row and they’re too good and they got on the break and hit their shots. We have to pull it together for longer stretches of time.”
Although Augustin didn’t score in the fourth, he played a big role by dishing out six assists as Boston overplayed him.
”That’s the advantage we have with the finishing group,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. ”The job of those guys is to read what the defense is doing.”
The Bulls are 10 games over .500 for the first time this season.
”I think we’re playing pretty good basketball, but I think we can play better,” Noah said. ”I think the mindset is good. Everybody is working, everybody is in the weight room, everybody is trying to find ways to get better.”
NOTES—Home-and-home series on consecutive games used to be a regular occurrence in the NBA, but are rare these days. ”It’s the same plays, so there’s a tendency for the players to know what’s coming,” Thibodeau said. ”I think it’s good preparation for what’s coming down the road.” … Since he wasn’t playing because of the back-to-back, Rondo spent part of the game working on the TV broadcast back to Boston. … Celtics G Avery Bradley left the game in the first half because of a sore Achilles.. Noah had 13 assists in Sunday’s game, the most ever by a visiting center in Boston. The previous high was 11 by Wilt Chamberlain in 1968.