Bruce Weber’s unemployment didn’t last long. The former Illinois coach, who was let go by U of I Athletic Director Mike Thomas a few weeks ago, has been hired to replace Frank Martin at Kansas State. Weber will be introduced Saturday at 3 p.m. in Manhattan, Kansas. Weber was 210-101 in his tenure at Illinois and 103-54 in five seasons at Southern Illinois. He replaces Frank Martin, who left for South Carolina after leading the Wildcats to four NCAA tournament appearances in five seasons. Weber’s best Illini team was in 2004-05 when they lost only one Regular Season game before winning the Big Ten Tournament,and advanced to the NCAA Championship Game,where they lost by five to North Carolina. Weber gets a five year contract at K-State.
Luol Deng understands it might not mean much if the Bulls are still banged up once the playoffs roll around. Even so, he has a good feeling as the postseason approaches.A run to the Eastern Conference finals whetted their appetite. Now, they’re looking for more, but there’s still work to be done before they can really get down to business. Games like this are just another step, another obstacle, and they keep finding ways to clear them.Deng scored 20 points, Joakim Noah added 19 points and 12 rebounds, and the Bulls beat the Detroit Pistons 83-71 on Friday night.The Bulls scored the final eight points after the Pistons closed within four with just under 5 minutes left and came away with their 14th straight win against Detroit. In the process, they improved their league-best record to 42-11, even though star Derrick Rose and Richard Hamilton remained sidelined by injuries.Deng came through again after scoring 22 in in a lopsided win over Atlanta on Wednesday and Noah was his usual relentless self, helping the Bulls win again despite all its bumps and bruises. Rose missed his ninth straight game because of a right groin injury, but the Bulls improved to 14-5 without the defending league MVP. Hamilton has barely been able to get on the court because of a variety of injuries after signing with the Bulls.He was hoping to return from a sprained right shoulder against his former team, but he sat out this 13th consecutive game after participating in the morning shootaround and going through warmups. Whether he or Rose plays Sunday at Oklahoma City remains to be seen, although coach Tom Thibodeau said Hamilton is “real close.”
“I just thought another day would be good,” he said. “I talked to him before the game. I was not quite comfortable with him playing yet.”
The Pistons were hardly a picture of health with Rodney Stuckey (sore left hamstring) and Ben Gordon (sore right groin). Austin Daye started at shooting guard and finished with 11 points.Brandon Knight scored 16 points, and Tayshaun Prince had 14 after tying a season high with 29 in an 87-75 win over Cleveland on Wednesday. Greg Monroe added 14 points and 10 rebounds, but the Pistons remained winless against the Bulls since beating them at the Palace of Auburn Hills in December 2008. They were dominated 53-37 on the boards and got outscored 38-24 in the paint. They shot just under 37 percent for the game. They didn’t even attempt a free throw until Jason Maxiell made 1 of 2 midway through the third, and they were 6 of 7 for the game. All that helps explain why they managed just 10 points in two of the four quarters and failed to crack 80 for the fourth time in five games.The Bulls appeared to be in good shape after an 8-0 run to start the fourth quarter made it 73-61, but the Pistons weren’t finished.They cut it to 75-71 on Knight’s jumper with 4:50 left, but didn’t score again after that. C.J. Watson then hit two free throws, and Noah fed Boozer for a basket after rebounding a missed 3 by Kyle Korver, making it an eight-point game with just under four minutes left. A tip-in and dunk by Noah over the final 1:15 rounded out the scoring and preserved the win for the Bulls.
NOTES—Thibodeau dismissed an ESPN.com report that he’s “dismayed” the Bulls haven’t given him a contract extension. “I don’t know where that’s coming from,” he said. “I’m not worried about any of that stuff. I’m under contract. I’m fine with everything here.” The Bulls hold an option on him for next year, and they probably would like to keep him, considering what he’s accomplished in two seasons….Pistons coach Lawrence Frank couldn’t resist taking a playful jab at the Bulls when asked before the game about Stuckey and Gordon. “They’re both day-by-day,” he said. “What has Derrick Rose been a game time decision for two weeks?” Stuckey was injured in the first quarter against Cleveland on Wednesday. Gordon missed his second straight game…..The Bulls have won 12 straight at home against the Pistons since a loss on Feb. 24, 2006.
Their two-goal lead in the third period evaporated quickly and the Blackhawks found themselves in a shootout against a goalie who had already made 37 saves in St. Louis’ Jaroslav Halak. Needing a win to get closer to a playoff berth against the team with the most points in the NHL, the Hawks turned to Dave Bolland. Bolland, 0 for 3 in shootouts this season,and 0-7 lifetime, before Thursday, responded with a nice fake before scoring the only goal in the shootout Thursday as the Blackhawks edged the Blues 4-3.
“You’ve got 20,000 fans screaming,” Bolland said. “You’re thinking of so many moves in your head. For me, it was go down and whatever came to my head, try to put it in. You’re not really sure. Should I shoot? Should I deke? Should I just bury my head and put it through him. Halak’s a good goalie.”
After Bolland — the Blackhawks’ fourth skater — scored, St. Louis’ Patrick Berglund hit the goalpost, sealing the victory. Kris Russell’s long slap shot through traffic was tipped in by David Perron with 1:32 left in regulation to tie the game, rallying the Blues after the Hawks had taken a 3-1 lead early in the final period.”I still think it’s big point for us this time of year and we’ll take it. The way we played at the point when it was 3-1, I’m not sure that we’d get one [point], but we battled back and finally got one,” Perron said. I don’t think we should have gone to overtime,” said Corey Crawford, who had 17 saves in regulation and overtime. “I was sleeping a little bit on their second goal … Just forget about it and find a way to win that one.”
The Blackhawks needed a victory and for Phoenix to lose to San Jose in regulation later Thursday night to clinch their fourth straight trip to the postseason. But they’ll have to wait another day because the Coyotes beat the Sharks 2-0. The Blues, who have a league-leading 106 points, could have clinched the Central Division title with a victory. That also has been delayed. It was the second straight game between the Blackhawks and the Blues at the United Center to go to a shootout. And the Hawks won them both. Bryan Bickell had the first goal in the first, followed very quickly by a score from the Blues’ Alexander Steen.After Andrew Brunette’s rebound goal put the Blackhawks in front 2-1 at 4:15 of the third, Patrick Sharp scored at 8:40 for a 3-1 lead. But 55 seconds later, the Blues’ Jason Arnott poked the puck in past Crawford to make it a one-goal game. Halak stopped a shot attempt from the side by Marian Hossa and, after Kane couldn’t get control of the puck with a St. Louis player in the net, Brunette knocked it in. Sharp made a steal and then scored on a break after a pass from Viktor Stalberg for a two-goal advantage. But Arnott scored unassisted from close-in on the left side.Bickell’s shot from above the left circle deflected off Halak and into the net for a 1-0 lead. But just nine seconds later, Steen took a long diagonal pass, skated past defenseman Nick Leddy and fired a rising shot past Crawford to tie it.
NOTES—Jonathan Toews missed his 18th straight game because of a concussion. Toews skated again Thursday and said he’s close to being cleared for contact. “We’ll see where we are at next week, I guess,” Toews said. ” But right now, like I said, I’m feeling great.”….The Hawks won four of six from the Blues this Regular Season….Since Phoenix beat San Jose 2-0,the Hawks are still two points away from clinching a Playoff birth.
CHAMPAIGN—Fresh out of Taylor University in Indiana, John Groce once taught math at a small-town high school while helping coach four basketball teams.That hectic pace might be easy compared to the work that awaits him at Illinois.Groce was introduced Thursday as the Illini’s new coach, just days removed from leading Ohio University to the Sweet 16, the Bobcats’ deepest NCAA tournament run in nearly 50 years. He will be taking over a team that has missed the tournament three of the last five years.With his wife and two young sons nearby, the 40-year-old Groce said he sees nothing but potential at Illinois.
“I thought to myself, `Illinois, why not? Why can’t we become the standard for excellence among those Big Ten teams competing for championships, earning the right to do that?’ And by doing that you become a player on the national stage,” he said. “The answer was, we can.”
“If you don’t have thick skin in this profession, you’re in trouble,” he said. “There’s going to be skeptics.”
Groce will be paid a base salary of $1.4 million a year and has a five-year contract, a significant upgrade from the $355,000 he was getting this year at Ohio. In all, he spent four seasons at the Mid-American Conference school and was 85-56 overall. This year was his best, with the Bobcats finishing 29-8 and making it to the round of 16 for the first time since 1964.Groce was an assistant with Thad Matta at Butler, Xavier and Ohio State before taking over at Ohio.
“He’s had great mentors,” athletic director Mike Thomas said. “He’s worked side by side with some of the best coaches in the country.”
Ohio administrators this week tried to come up with a big enough raise to keep Groce.
“They did everything they could,” he said, declining to say how much the school offered. Groce said he had a “hard meeting” with players there.
Ohio athletic director Jim Schaus said at a news conference in Athens, Ohio, that Groce set a standard the school plans to improve on, and said a national search for a replacement will start right away.The competition will increase sharply in the Big Ten for Groce. His new team lost 12 of its last 14 on the way to a 17-15 finish and, after a snub by the National Invitation Tournament, missed the postseason entirely, The free fall from the top of the Big Ten and a spot in the Top 25 to ninth place in the conference cost Bruce Weber his job after nine seasons in Champaign.Groce said he met with Illinois players on Thursday, but doesn’t yet know whether he can keep sophomore center Meyers Leonard, an NBA prospect and the biggest talent on the roster, in school. Players who met Groce said they were impressed in a brief meeting.
“We’re all excited to get rolling,” junior Tyler Griffey said. “It’s been, I don’t want to say awkward, (but) a difficult transition.”
Groce will be expected to restore some luster to the Illini, who have tailed off since losing the national title game in 2005 to North Carolina even as expectations remain high. Many of Weber’s critics complained he let Chicago’s best players get away—Derrick Rose chose Memphis, Ohio State landed Evan Turner and Anthony Davis went to Kentucky—and Groce will be expected to do a better job recruiting the basketball hotbed.One of Groce’s Ohio players, D.J. Cooper, is from Chicago, and the coach is credited with helping bring Greg Oden, Mike Conley Jr., and Daequan Cook to Ohio State.
“There’s a lot of people in that city who care about those kids that we’re going have to work at to connect with,” Groce said of Chicago. “We have better connection there maybe than people think.”
Groce arrives during a difficult period for the school.Weber was only one of three high-profile coaches on campus fired over the past four months. Football coach Ron Zook lost his job late last year and women’s basketball coach Jolette Law was fired this spring. Law’s replacement, Wisconsin–Green Bay’s Matt Bollant, was hired on Wednesday.When Thomas hired Tim Beckman to replace Zook, two university trustees declined to vote in favor of a contract for him because the school has never had a black head football or basketball coach. The trustees, Lawrence Oliver II and James Montgomery, are both black but have since said they could support a white head basketball coach as long as they believed the hiring process gave black coaches a fair chance.Then, last week, university President Michael Hogan resigned under pressure after tensions with faculty.
ATLANTA—Home or away, with or without Derrick Rose, the Bulls just keep on winning. Luol Deng scored 22 points and led a flurry of 3-pointers as the NBA-leading Bulls took another game on the road, blowing out the Atlanta Hawks 98-77 on Wednesday night. Deng was 5 of 8 from beyond the arc and the Bulls finished 9 of 16 overall to improve their NBA-best record away from home to 21-6 and their overall mark to 41-11, even while missing Rose for the eighth straight game with a shoulder injury.The Bulls haven’t missed a beat, winning six times without their MVP. The Hawks scored the final six points of the half, then started the third quarter on a 10-2 run to get to 56-52.It was all Bulls from there. They ripped off 20 of the next 26 points and a hefty contingent of Bullsfans turned Atlanta’s arena into the United Center South, breaking out the “Let’s Go Bulls!” chant.Atlanta’s frustration boiled over midway through the fourth quarter. The Bulls took off on another fast break, leaving Joe Johnson as the only man back against three Chicago players. Carlos Boozer flipped a behind-the-back pass to Taj Gibson, who was tackled — football style — by Johnson, both players going down in the middle of the lane. Amazingly, Johnson wasn’t even called for a flagrant foul, but the Bulls were hardly flustered. The final minutes were nothing more than a highlight show by the road team, plus a chance for Bulls fans to chant for little-used Brian Scalabrine to get in the game. He checked in with a little over a minute remaining.Deng had plenty of help. Boozer scored 20 points, Gibson added 19, while Joakim Noah and John Lucas chipped in with 10 apiece. Josh Smith led Atlanta with 19 points, but he had only six in the second half.
“It’s been pretty remarkable, with all the guys that have gone down, to have the record that we do,” Kyle Korver said. “Obviously, we’d rather have Derrick playing. But guys keep stepping up.”
The Hawks raced to a 13-5 lead, forcing the Bulls to call an early timeout. But Deng and the Bulls turned the tide with their deadly accuracy from beyond the arc.Deng made three straight from long range. Lucas swished a pair. Korver and C.J. Watson also connected. the Bulls outscored the Hawks 33-13 over the first 9 1/2 minutes of the second quarter, storming ahead 54-36.After making their first seven treys, the Bulls finally missed when Lucas’ attempt bounced off the rim just before the buzzer, but the visiting team still went off with a 54-42 lead. The Bulls made 12 of 18 shots in the second period and did its usual stifling job at the defensive end, holding the Hawks to 8-of-21 shooting.Atlanta finished 32 of 80 (40 percent) from the field, looking very much like a weary team playing for the fourth time in five nights. Teague had 13 points and eight assists, while Johnson was held to 12 points — well off his team-leading 19.1 average.Johnson said the grueling schedule wasn’t the only problem.
NOTES—The Bulls were again without Richard Hamilton (shoulder), who missed his 12th straight game but is close to returning…..Korver went off with a bloody forehead in the second quarter after getting whacked inadvertently by Hawks C Zaza Pachulia going for a rebound. Korver was patched up enough to get through the game and was expected to get stitches afterward….The previous night, Pachulia caught teammate Johnson, forcing him to take several stitches in his upper lip…..Rapper Lil Wayne watched the game from a courtside seat…..The Bulls won the season series with the Hawks 3-1…..The Bulls finished with a 45-36 rebounding edge, including 13 at the offensive end.
NEWARK—Martin Brodeur stole a game from the Blackhawks with a little unexpected help Adam Henrique and a surprise participant for the New Jersey Devils in the shootout — Travis Zajac, who returned to the lineup Sunday after missing 37 games with an Achilles’ injury, scored the game-deciding goal and Brodeur made 37 saves and stopped four of five in the shootout to give the Devils to a 2-1 victory over the Blackhawks on Tuesday night.The win gave New Jersey a four-point lead on Ottawa in the race for sixth place in the Eastern Conference with five games left in the regular season.
“I think it was huge,” said Petr Sykora, who scored the Devils’ goal in regulation. “I don’t think it was one of our best games but I think it’s the best two points we got. It’s a cushion right now and we’ll take two points any way we can.”
It was two points the Devils really didn’t deserve, but Brodeur salted them away with a sprawling stop on Andrew Shaw to end the contest
“I felt good,” said Brodeur, who gave up 16 goals in going 0-3-1 in his previous four starts. “I felt right on where I needed to be as far as my angles and controlling rebounds and seeing the puck through traffic. I missed that one when they scored. I don’t even know where it went.”
Brodeur also had help. Henrique slid through the crease with roughly 2:20 to play in regulation to make the save on a rebound attempt by Patrick Sharp with the net open. After Patrik Elias scored against Corey Crawford in the third round of the shootout to give the Devils a 1-0 lead, Sharp tallied to extend it.David Clarkson and Marian Hossa were stopped in round 4 and Devils coach Peter DeBoer called upon Zajac in round five, even though he had only “messed around” in practice on his shootout attempts.
“I knew they wouldn’t have any film on him this year, so I hoped they didn’t have a scouting report,” DeBoer said. He obviously found a way to get it to stick in the net.”
Zajac beat Crawford over the glove with a snap shot.Brodeur then made the goal stand up.
“He has an amazing record in shootouts but I thought he had a remarkable game tonight,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said.
Brent Seabrook tied the game midway through the third period. The loss was the second in a row for the Blackhawks after winning five straight. Crawford finished with 21 saves and the Devils were limited to 11 shots over the final 45 minutes.Seabrook tied the game at 8:34 of the third period after the Devils had trouble getting the puck out of their zone. Dave Bolland retrieved the puck above the left circle with a little help from defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson and sent the cross-ice pass that Seabrook ripped past a seemingly screened Brodeur, who was looking for his 119th career shutout.Crawford kept the score tied less than a minute late with a save on Zach Parise after New Jersey won a faceoff.Brodeur nearly gave the game away with less than six minutes to play when his clearing pass up the middle of the ice was intercepted by Marcus Kruger. However, the goaltender gloved his one-on-one snap shot.Sykora, who was demoted to the Devils’ fourth line on Monday, gave the Devils the lead with 4:18 left in the opening period with his 18th goal of the season. It came with nine seconds left on a hooking penalty against Seabrook and resulted when the Hawks got caught on a bad line change.Defenseman Mark Fayne found Henrique at the Blackhawks’ blue line and the rookie sent a pass toward the left side of the crease that a wide-open Sykora deflected past Crawford.The Blackhawks took 23 shots at Brodeur in the opening two periods and the 39-year-old turned them all aside. His best save came early in the second period with a pad stop on a close-in rebound attempt by Viktor Stalberg.For the second straight game, the Blackhawks’ power play was miserable. They had three chances in the first two periods, including a 68-second two-man advantage in the second period, and failed to register a shot.In a 6-1 loss to Nashville on Sunday, the Hawks had four extra-man chances and also failed to get a shot on goal, which shows how much it misses suspended defenseman Duncan Keith and captain Jonathan Toews (concussion).
NOTES—Steve Montador returned to the lineup after missing 22 games with a concussion…..Devils rookie D Adam Larsson was a healthy scratch after recent poor play.
Rookie G Carter Hutton backed up Crawford with Ray Emery back home with an injury…..This was the only game between the teams this season and the first since a Nov. 3, 2010 game in Chicago.
There must all of a sudden be something in the water here at the United Center. Sunday night,the Blackhawks had their worst home effort of the season,and Monday evening, the Bulls got punked by the slumping Denver Nuggets.Ty Lawson tied a season high with 27 points, Arron Afflalo added 22 and Denver shot 50 percent Monday night to beat the Bulls 108-91.Denver, playing its third game in four nights as part of a seven-game road swing, got its first win three games into the trip. Al Harrington added 17 points and Andre Miller chipped in with 12 points and 10 assists for the Nuggets, who are scrapping for a playoff spot in the West.C.J. Watson and John Lucas III scored 17 points each for the Bulls.Derrick Rose sat out his seventh straight game with a groin injury and the Bulls seemed to be out of sync most of the night, especially on defense.The Nuggets led 54-52 at halftime,but started to run the Bulls off the floor in the third quarter,outscoring them 27-16. Denver hammered the Bulls in the paint 54-24 and had a 23-18 edge in fast break points.The Nuggets outrebounded the Bulls 45-32.Denver is now 13-1 against Eastern Conference teams this season while going just 14-22 against the West.
Even with their top point producer sidelined by an injury, the Nashville Predators had plenty of offense. And they had Pekka Rinne in goal Sunday night. That combination helped them rout the Blackhawks 6-1 and move into fourth place in the Western Conference.The victory gave the Predators 96 points, one more than Detroit and four more than the sixth-place Blackhawks, who had their five-game winning streak snapped. It also gave Nashville a 4-0-1 record against the Hawks this season.Nashville’s Martin Erat, who has tied a career high with 57 points, was scratched because of an injury after logging 19 minutes Saturday night in a win over Winnipeg. The Blackhawks played their first game without suspended Duncan Keith who got five games for elbowing Vancouver’s Daniel Sedin in the head in the Blackhawks’ previous game Wednesday night.Matt Halischuk, Andrei Kostitsyn, Patric Hornqvist, Francis Bouillon, Shea Weber and Mike Fisher scored for the Predators, who matched their season high with the six goals. Viktor Stalberg had the Hawks lone score.Halischuk scored from the slot at 6:16 of the first, a goal set up by some nice passing behind the net by Brandon Yip and Paul Gaustad.Later in the period, Kositsyn’s shot from high in the left circle sailed over Corey Crawford’s blocker and into the net, giving the Preds a 2-0 lead.Rinne had 11 first-period saves, three early in the game, and helped turn away two Blackhawks power plays to set the tone. They were was 0 for 4 on the power play without getting off a shot. Hornqvist was credited with a deflection goal on the power play when Weber’s hard shot from the high slot broke the stick of Marian Hossa, went off Alexander Radulov’s skate and trickled past Crawford for a 3-0 lead in the second. The goal was upheld by video replay. And after Bouillon’s long wrister from way out on the left boards eluded a screened Crawford two minutes into the final period to make it 4-0, Crawford was pulled in favor of Ray Emery. Crawford gave up four goals on just 15 shots.
“That wasn’t our team. That wasn’t me,” said Crawford, who’d won five straight. “Just got to forget about it plain and simple. …. It seemed like everything wasn’t going our way.”
Four minutes later, right after a Hawk power play ended, Stalberg scored from the left circle, ending Rinne’s shutout bid. But 36 seconds later, immediately after a faceoff, Weber rifled in a shot past Emery to restore Nashville’s four-goal lead. Fisher scored with 2:27 left.
NOTES—Former Blackhawks G Ed Belfour was honored by the team. He spent parts of eight seasons with the Hawks during a 20-year NHL career and had a Blackhawks’ franchise-record 43 wins in 1990-91, his first full NHL season. His play helped the Blackhawks make the Stanley Cup finals in 1992. He also played for San Jose, Dallas, Toronto and Florida and was inducted into the Hall of Fame last November. He finished with a 484-320-125 record….The Preds’ Jordin Tootoo, who was involved in a fight with Brandon Bolllig early in the game, didn’t return after the altercation in which he was knocked to the ice…..Jonathan Toews missed his 16th straight game with a concussion.
Lucky? Maybe. Luol Deng’s timing was awful good, too. He grabbed a shot that had been blocked and put it in the basket just before the buzzer sounded Saturday night, rescuing the Bulls and giving them their NBA-leading 40th victory.Teammate C.J. Watson drove for the basket but his shot was partially blocked by Toronto’s James Johnson and Deng was there for the winner. After officials reviewed the play to make sure Deng’s shot beat the buzzer, the Bulls had a 102-101 overtime victory on a night in which they were often outplayed by the 16-win Raptors.
“We’re lucky we had enough time to get the rebound,” Deng said. “When it left my hand it felt good because I saw the light after it left my hand. But then again, you never really know. We waited until they made the decision.”
Johnson, an ex-Bull, had 20 points, eight rebounds and four blocked shots, part of another determined effort by the Raptors, who gave Bulls a scare three nights ago in Canada before losing.
“That’s what happens sometimes,” Johnson said.
“The ball happened to fall short after I blocked it and Luol Deng made a great play. We deserved to win tonight, but they made the game-winning play.”
Carlos Boozer had 24 points and 10 rebounds for the Bulls, Deng added 23 points and 10 rebounds, and Watson had 23 points.Jose Calderon also had 20 points and 10 assists, and Gary Forbes had 12 points and 13 rebounds for the Raptors, but missed two free throws with 6.4 seconds left in overtime.The Bulls are 40-10, but Tom Thibodeau was anything but pleased after the victory. The Bulls had beaten the Raptors 94-82 on Wednesday night in Toronto after trailing by 12 in the second half.
“We hung in but the disappointing thing is that it’s two games in a row,” Thibodeau said. “We found a way to win. … Very fortunate. We were lucky to get that game. They outplayed us from the start. They dominated us. They outrebounded us by 14.”
The Raptors had a 58-44 rebounding edge, were aided by the Bulls horrendous 3-point shooting — 3-for-23 — but were hurt by 20 turnovers.
“You block the shot, there was a scramble. They had nothing going, they get the loose ball and put it in. That’s the microcosm of the season,” Toronto coach Dwane Casey said.
The Bulls were already without Derrick Rose, who sat out his sixth straight game with a groin injury. And then they lost Joakim Noah, when he was ejected with 1:28 left in the opening half after picking up two technical fouls.After he was called for a personal foul under the basket, Noah apparently got one technical for complaining and then a second after throwing the ball in the direction of an official.
“We are short-handed already. We can’t have that,” Thibodeau said.
The Raptors also were thin and used only eight players after beating the Knicks on Friday night. DeMar DeRozan missed the game with an ankle injury and Jerryd Bayless was out with a hip pointer.Calderon hit a go-ahead jumper for Toronto in the extra period before Boozer hit two free throws with 1:19 left for another tie at 100.Johnson, was fouled with 15.2 seconds to go and hit the second of two free throws to give the Raptors a 101-100 lead.With the game tied at 94, the Raptors got off three shots in the closing seconds of regulation and after a wild scramble, the ball was knocked out of bounds and Toronto maintained possession with 3.9 seconds left following a video review.Andrea Bargnani then had a good look at a 3-pointer, but the ball went in and went out, forcing overtime.Watson had a jumper, two free throws and a 3-pointer as the Bulls rallied from seven down in the fourth to tie it at 86 with just under 3 minutes left. Watson, who had 13 points in the fourth quarter, hit a 3 from the right side to give the Bulls a 93-92 lead with 52.6 seconds to go. But Amir Johnson took a lob pass from Calderon and dunked to give the lead right back to Toronto. Watson then hit 1 of 2 from the line to make it 94-all with 32.2 seconds left.
NOTES—DeRozan fell one start short of tying the franchise record. DeRozan, averaging 16.5 points, had started 130 straight games but was injured in the fourth quarter of Friday night’s victory over the Knicks when he scored 30 points. The Raptors’ record for consecutive starts is 131 set by Alvin Williams. Forbes started for DeRozan … Richard Hamilton, who has played only 16 games this season, sat out a 10th straight game with a shoulder injury. … A moment of silence was observed for Lacy J. Banks, the long-time Sun-Times sports journalist who covered the Bulls during their championship years and also was a minister. Banks died this week.
Wiping away the first ten minutes of the game, the Rush put together an impressive fifty minutes of football Thursday night against the Orlando Predators. The Rush went on to win over the Predators 51-49 after a hard fought battle in front of 6,148 fans at the Allstate Arena. An eventful first ten minutes included Predator DB Simeon Castille recovering an opening kickoff fumble by Reggie Gray for a 7-0 lead. The momentum would continue to swing the Predators way as they would up-end four Rush plays inside the four-yard line on the following drive as well as have DB Travis Coleman grab his 19th career AFL interception a possession later which led to a 14-0 Predator advantage.However, the Predators ten minutes of fury was washed away and the Rush offensive line gained momentum as they steadied the pass protection and allowed QB Russ Michna (19-35, 251 yards, 5 TD) to put together eight consecutive scoring drives. The fork in the game came with four seconds remaining in the first half, as DB/KR Kelvin Rodgers would race from his own goal line into the Rush locker room for a 50-yard kickoff return for a touchdown that put the Rush up 34-28 at half. His forced fumble on WR Nate Forse (recovered by LB Kelvin Morris) early in the third quarter spawned another Reggie Gray (10 receptions, 104 yards, 5 TD) touchdown for the largest lead of the night.When Gray was asked about his relationship with Michna he shared, “Our chemistry is second to none. I feel very fortunate to play this game and catch passes from Russ (Michna).”
Despite opening up a 13-point third quarter lead, the Predators continued to be pesky throughout the rest of the game. Orlando wide receivers Nate Forse, T.T. Toliver and Dwayne Eley, Jr. all caught at least one touchdown, while the Predator defense forced the Rush to grind out every scoring drive.
“(Orlando’s) front three were on us all night. We had no idea what kind of defense they would throw at us. I feel that we’re very lucky to get these guys early in the season,” said Rush Head Coach Bob McMillen.
In spite of some long touchdown passes given up by the Rush secondary, the defense front five was relentless all night long, forcing Predator QB Collin Drafts to alter his throwing windows and move around in the pocket to complete passes.Defensive tackle Derek Walker (3 TCK, 1 Sack, 1 INT) helped turn the initial momentum tide with his first quarter interception that led to the first Rush score.With the win, the Rush improve to 2-0 on the season and look ahead to their first game on the road next week in Iowa.
Russell Athletic Offensive Player of the Game – CHI Reggie Gray
Riddell Defensive Player of the Game – CHI Derek Walker
JLS Ironman of the Game – ORL Dwayne Eley, Jr.
AFL Playmaker of the Game – CHI Kelvin Rodgers
Cutters Catch of the Game – CHI Reggie Gray’s 5th TD reception
Spalding Highlight of the Game – CHI Kelvin Rodger’s kick-off return TD
National Guard MVP – CHI Reggie Gray