Kane gets two as Hawks handle Wild for 5th straight

Patrick Kane is finally on a roll, and so are the Blackhawks.Kane scored two slick goals, Corey Crawford made 27 saves and the Blackhawks beat the Minnesota Wild 4-1 Sunday night for their season-high fifth straight win.Kane, who has seven points in his last four games, connected on a one-timer and a breakaway to give him 14 goals this season and four in the last three games. The flashy forward’s 298th and 299th career goals moved him into fifth place in team history, ahead of Dennis Hull.

”That’s obviously my job, so that’s what I have to do,” Kane said, ”but more than that, you want to improve on your game, on your craft, every day.”

That craft is creating offense, and the 29-year-old star seems like he’s back in form.

”I know his game’s been getting better lately,” coach Joel Quenneville said. ”He’s getting hot. He’s getting the puck a lot. … With his game with the puck, he’s just so hard to defend.”

Ryan Hartman also scored, snapping a 17-game drought dating to Oct. 28. Tommy Wingels added a short-handed empty-netter as the Blackhawks followed up on a 5-1 win at Winnipeg on Thursday with another strong effort against a Central Division rival.

”I think everyone in here knows we can do it,” Crawford said. ”We’ve got a dangerous offense and our D are playing great. It’s been fun hockey.”

Matt Dumba scored at 5:56 of the third, spoiling Crawford’s shutout bid on a screened shot from the right point. The Wild dropped their second straight after a four-game winning streak.Alex Stalock made 42 saves his third straight start in place of Minnesota No. 1 goalie Devan Dubnyk, who is sidelined with a lower-body injury. He helped keep the Wild, who snuffed all six power-plays, close in this one.

”There’s a big difference between two goals and three goals,” Stalock said. ”One more big save it’s a whole different game.”

Dumba, a defenseman, has scored Minnesota’s last three goals to increase his total to six. He scored twice in the Wild’s 3-2 loss at home to Edmonton on Saturday.The Wild have scored just seven goals in their last four games.

”The guys are getting great chances and not getting results,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. ”I think they’re getting frustrated.”

The Wild outshot the Blackhawks 13-9 in the first and had the better chances, but Kane connected at 10:56 for the only goal of the period. Completing a rush and give-and-go with Nick Schmaltz, Kane ripped in a one-timer from the right circle as Stalock slid across the crease.Crawford came up with several sharp saves to preserve the lead, including a close-in stop on Charlie Coyle with 10 seconds left in the first.The Blackhawks dominated in the second, outshooting Minnesota 22-6. After Stalock stopped several prime chances,  the Hawwks took 2-0 lead on Kane’s second goal, capping a breakaway with 4:24 left.Hartman made it 3-0 at 1:41 of third as he picked up the puck along the left boards, plowed to the net and beat Stalock with a high shot on the stick side.Dumba cut it to 3-1 just over 4 minutes later when his drive from the blue line sailed through traffic and over Crawford’s right shoulder.Wingels backhanded in an long empty-netter to complete the scoring with 4 minutes left – and Stalock pulled for an extra attacker during a Minnesota power play.

NOTES—Jan Rutta missed his second game and D Cody Franson missed his fourth, both with injuries. … Slumping LW Richard Panik was a healthy scratch for the third straight game.

Bears(ho-hum)lose to Lions 20-10

DETROIT—Matthew Stafford struck a balance between making plays and avoiding mistakes to keep the Detroit Lions in the playoff picture.Stafford threw two touchdown passes and didn’t have a turnover, helping Detroit beat the Bears 20-10 on Saturday night.

”It’s just trying to be as calculated as you can with those chances that you’re going to take,” he said. ”And, understanding the game situation.”

Detroit (8-6) has won two straight and needs to close the regular season with two more wins to keep its postseason hopes alive.

”We’ve got to win to stay in,” said tight end Eric Ebron, who caught Stafford’s second TD pass. ”If we win, we will hopefully make it to the playoffs. If not, then we get booted.”

Whether the Bears (4-10) win another game this season or not, they may end up giving coach John Fox the boot.The Bears have lost six of seven, sealing a third season with double-digit losses in three years under its embattled coach.Stafford threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to TJ Jones to put Detroit up 13-0 with 6:10 left in the first half after Fox chose to punt on fourth-and-1 from the Bear 45.

”We were thinking about field position,” Fox said. ”It’s not a no-lose situation because if we don’t make it, they’ve got the ball at our 45. Like I said, you could go for it, but you have to know that it can come back and bite you.”

Stafford was 25 of 33 for 237 yards and didn’t throw an interception for the first time since Week 11. His 8-yard pass to Ebron gave Detroit a 20-3 lead early in the third quarter after Darius Slay’s first of two interceptions .Mitchell Trubisky had season highs in completions (31), attempts (46), yards passing (314) and interceptions (three) including one to safety Quandre Diggs in the end zone early in the fourth quarter.

”We have complete confidence in Mitch,” Fox said. ”And, we know that he’s going to have better days.”

Trubisky threw a 9-yard TD pass to Benny Cunningham to make it 20-10 with 2:32 left. After Fox chose not to try an onside kick, the Bears got the ball back 25 seconds later on their 6 and moved the ball to the Detroit 25 before Slay’s second interception ended their comeback hopes.

Lions receiver Marin Jones had three catches for 85 yards, including a 58-yard catch in which he raced across the field and leaped in front of safety Eddie Jackson to set up the TD pass to TJ Jones.

”When I saw him out of the corner of my eye, I didn’t think he was as close as he was,” Jackson said. ”By the time I jumped, he was on to me already.”

Marvin Jones has single-season, career-high 18 catches of 20-plus yards this season.The Bears ran for just 43 yards on 15 carries after having a season-high 232 yards rushing in last week’s 33-7 win at Cincinnati, forcing them to throw a lot with Trubisky.

Northwestern rallies past DePaul despite 33 by Strus

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Northwestern reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history last season and won memorable games along the way.Yet coach Chris Collins described his team’s 62-60 win over DePaul on Saturday as one of his more gratifying victories based on obstacles the Wildcats had to overcome.Vic Law, already battling an illness, missed nearly half the game due to a head injury. The Wildcats battled foul problems, and Bryant McIntosh shot 2 for 17.

”This was one of my proudest wins during my tenure at Northwestern,” Collins said. ”There was a lot going against us today. First and foremost was DePaul’s play.”

Scottie Lindsey scored 25 points and made two big baskets in the final 1:36 to rally Northwestern.Law added nine points for the Wildcats (8-4), who have won three straight.Max Strus scored a career-high 33 for the Blue Demons (6-5), who saw their five-game win streak snapped.Strus was voted the Waldo Fisher-Frank McGrath Award winner as the game’s MVP by the Media.The Wildcats overcame 18 turnovers and 40 percent shooting from the field after winning their first two games of the week by a combined 99 points over Chicago State and Valparaiso.NU took its first lead since 16-14 on Isiah Brown’s 3-pointer with 12:04 left for a 44-43 edge. Lindsey’s 3 extended the Wildcats’ lead to 51-47 during a 20-8 run.Strus hit a 3 to pull DePaul within a point with 3:44 remaining. Jordan Ash scored after a turnover to stretch the Wildcats’ lead to 57-54.Lindsey nailed a jumper with 1:36 left and a 3 for a five-point edge with 55 seconds remaining.
”My team needed me to hit shots and close the game, so that’s what I did,” Lindsey said.

Strus made three free throws with 35 seconds left to pull DePaul within two before Northwestern turned the ball over. Eli Cain – who shot 1 for 10 – missed a driving layup at the buzzer for the Blue Demons.
”We wanted to get the ball in (Strus’) hands,” DePaul coach Dave Leitao said. ”For reasons, I’ve got to look at the film whether he was open or not open, whatever the case may be, he didn’t get it.”

Strus set his previous career high of 24 on Dec. 9 against UIC.

”He’s in such good shape. He just runs,” Collins said of Strus, comparing his spirit to former Duke player J.J. Redick.

The Blue Demons made just 9 of 24 free throws (37.5 percent).

”They just don’t tell the whole story of the game,” Leitao said.
The Wildcats are playing four area teams (including Chicago State, Valpo and Lewis) in nine days before hitting the road to play Oklahoma on Dec. 22. The Blue Demons have already faced three Big Ten teams this season, losing 82-73 to Illinois and 73-51 to No. 2 Michigan State. DePaul begins Big East play against top-ranked Villanova on Dec. 27.Collins said Law was ”doing fine” and conscious after suffering a head injury one minute into the second half.Collins admired DePaul’s new, 10,000-seat Wintrust Arena. Attendance was 7,001.

”It’s a great atmosphere,” he said. ”It gets me excited for our future, what we’ve got coming next year, gets me a little jealous.”

NU’s Welsh-Ryan Arena is undergoing a $110 million renovation.DePaul leads the all-time series 20-13, but Northwestern is 10-7 against the Blue Demons since 1987.

Illini fall to N.Mexico St at United Center

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Chris Jans considered Saturday night’s game at the United Center a test of whether New Mexico State was ready for a step up in class.The coach was happy with the result.AJ Harris had the game-winning 3-point play, Zach Lofton scored 23 points and New Mexico State rallied late for a 74-69 win over Illinois after losing a 15-point lead.

”We talked about what an opportunity on a big stage to kind of show what these kids are all about,” Jans said. ”I thought they did it. To be able to come in here – basically a road game – and be able to pull out a victory when it looked bleak at times, any coach in America would be proud of his guys.”

With the score tied at 69 in the final minute, Illinois had the ball coming out of a timeout with a chance to take the lead. But the Aggies came up with a steal and Harris converted on the fastbreak while being fouled. He hit the free throw with 29.2 seconds to go to make it 72-69.Harris had 16 points on 7-for-8 shooting.Eli Chuha had 11 points and hit a pair of free throws with three seconds left to seal the win.Leron Black had 17 points and Te-Jon Lucas added 14 for Illinois (8-5).

”It’s the same chapter; we’ve seen it before,” Illini coach Brad Underwood said. ”We shot ourselves in the foot again.I gotta to do a better job. There’s no doubt about that. And get guys to execute in the game. That’s on me. Guys have got to make better plays. We’ll find a way to get that done.”

New Mexico State (9-2) led by as many as 15 points in the first half before Illinois opened the second half with a 13-1 run for a tie at 39.The Illini led 48-43 with just under 10 minutes to play before the Aggies rallied.

”This win means a lot,” Harris said. ”It’s a big win for us.”

The matchup was a tribute to former coach Lou Henson, who is the winningest coach at both schools. Henson led New Mexico State – his alma mater – to the Final Four in 1970. He also led Illinois to the Final Four in 1989.Henson, 85, was hospitalized earlier in the week and had to cancel plans to attend the game.

”We’re all praying for him,” Jans said. ”Everybody was a little disappointed he wasn’t able to attend the game, but it was a fun night to honor him.”

Cats rout Valpo, DePaul next

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ROSEMONT—Northwestern has rediscovered its winning ways and everyone seems convinced Texas Tech provided the necessary motivation.Coming off the school’s first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance and a preseason top-25 ranking, the Wildcats may have fallen a little too in love with themselves early in the season. But their joyride ended with a 36-point loss to Texas Tech at the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off on Nov. 19.Since then, Northwestern has rededicated itself and it’s evident. Led by Vic Law’s 18 points, an 84-50 thrashing of Valparaiso on Thursday night is the latest evidence of a turnaround for the Wildcats, who have won three of four games.

”Sometimes you have to get beat in order to rediscover kind of what makes you good,” NU coach Chris Collins said. ”You never like to go through that. It’s not fun. For our guys, maybe because of the heightened expectations coming into the year, it was a lot more publicized than maybe it would be in the past. But we had to go through that.I’m really proud of the way our guys have come together and hopefully we can keep making strides.”

Coming off the biggest win in program history, the Wildcats (7-4) rode Law’s early hot hand and a stifling team defensive effort to a second straight decisive victory. Northwestern, which beat Chicago State by 65 points on Monday after a seven-day layoff, went on runs of 17-1 and 20-2 for its third win in four games. Law connected on his first four 3-point tries and the Wildcats finished 12-for-22 from behind the arc.

”I think we got comfortable,” Gavin Skelly, who had 12 points and 10 rebounds off the bench, said. ”Coach says we got fat. We went to the tournament for the first time. Everyone’s telling you how great you are, how awesome you are. You kind of get a little lazy.We thought we were doing all right and then Texas Tech exposed us.”

Valparaiso, which was without leading scorer Tevonn Walker for a second straight game because of illness, was out of sorts on the offensive end.The Crusaders (8-3) didn’t make a basket for 8 minutes, 21 seconds in the first half and endured a similar stretch for the first 6:53 of the second half. By the time they scored, they trailed 62-28 en route to their third straight loss.Without Walker’s 16-point scoring average, Valparaiso (8-3) couldn’t keep up. After a Derrik Smits jumper got them within 13-10 at the 15:30-mark, the Crusaders continually turned the ball over and didn’t make another basket until they were down by 18. Joe Burton scored 16 points for Valparaiso, which finished with 21 turnovers and attempted 22 fewer shots than Northwestern.

”We’re young, we’re turning the ball a ton,” Valparaiso coach Matt Lottich said. ”We’ve just got to be better. We’ve got to execute better. And we’ve got to compete better.”

It was the third straight away from home for the Crusaders, who are on a six-game road trip. VU, which has played better than .500 basketball on the road in four of the past five seasons, continues its trip with two games in California next week. The Crusaders, who fell to 1-3 away, won’t play their only home game of the month until Dec. 31.Normally an average team from behind the line, the Wildcats couldn’t miss early on, making seven of their first eight 3-point tries. Northwestern entered the contest shooting 35 percent from 3, which was ranked 172nd out of 351 Division 1 teams. But Law hit his first four 3-pointers for the Wildcats, who finished 12 for 22.The Wildcats have played outstanding defense ever since Texas Tech. After surrendering 78.4 points per contest and allowing opponents to shoot 49 percent in their first five games, they have limited the opposition to 54.2 points and 39 percent shooting.

”It was eye opening,” Law said of the loss.

NU senior guard Bryant McIntosh continued his ascent among all-time Big Ten assists leaders with five more on Thursday. McIntosh’s fourth assist moved him into 12th-place in conference history ahead of Iowa’s Jeff Horner, who finished with 612.Northwestern plays DePaul on Saturday.

Hawks jump on Jets, win 4th straight

WINNIPEG–Corey Crawford thought it was the best game the Blackhawks have played all season. Patrick Kane and Nick Schmaltz agreed.The trio played a big role Thursday night as the Blackhawks extended their season-high winning streak to four with a 5-1 victory over the Winnipeg Jets.

Kane and Schmaltz each had a goal and an assist. Vinnie Hinostroza, Tommy Wingels and Michal Kempny also scored for the Blackhawks (16-11-5), and Crawford made 27 saves in the first of five meetings this season between the Central Division foes.Crawford described it as his team’s ”best effort” and ”best overall game” this season.

”We just played everything great,” he said. ”Our (defensemen) were solid. We didn’t give up that many chances, a lot of stuff to the outside.Guys were blocking shots, a lot of great plays offensively. That’s definitely a big win for us.”

Nikolaj Ehlers thwarted Crawford’s shutout bid when he scored a power-play goal at 5:35 of the third period. He has a goal in each of his past four games.The loss ended Winnipeg’s string of seven straight wins at home.Connor Hellebuyck made 25 saves for the Jets (18-9-5). Hellebuyck had been unbeaten in regulation at home this season (11-1-1).The Blackhawks led 3-0 after the first period and 4-0 after two. The Blackhawks scored on their first, second and fifth shots of the game.

”That’s probably the biggest win this year, coming up against maybe the hottest team in the league,” said Kane, who scored his 12th of the season.

Hinostroza got the Blackhawks going when he teamed up on a 2-on-1 with Patrick Sharp to beat Hellebuyck at 1:50 of the first period. Wingels scored after a Jets turnover at 6:08, and Schmaltz made it 3-0 midway through the first.Jets coach Paul Maurice shuffled his lines after going down 3-0, switching Kyle Connor off the first line and bumping Ehlers up from the second.Kane scored the only goal in the second, and Kempny added his first of the season three minutes after Ehlers scored.The Hawks led 23-14 in shots after two.

”I thought our first two periods were great,” Schmaltz said. ”Let them back in, I took a penalty there, but (Crawford) made some really big saves for us. Even though it was 5-1, it could have been tighter than that. He made some unbelievable saves, as always.”

NOTES—Winnipeg forward Matt Hendricks had a goal disallowed because the referee ruled Crawford had the puck under his pad and Hendricks pushed it in….The Hawks host the Minnesota Wild Sunday at 6pm.

Toews ties it and Kane gets winner in OT against Panthers.

Patrick Kane and the Blackhawks found a way to eke out another victory despite another less-than-rousing performance.Kane scored 2:24 into overtime to lift the Blackhawks to their third straight win, 3-2 over the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night.Kane gained a step on Florida’s Mike Matheson, broke in on James Reimer and lifted a shot past the goalie on the stick side for his 11th goal. Kane streaked in after taking a pass from Artem Anisimov, who had stolen the puck from Matheson.

”I just kind of took off when I saw (Anisimov) had the puck,” Kane said ”He made a nice play putting it on my tape. I just had to skate into it and pick a corner.”

The Hawks closed out a perfect homestand against three of the worst teams in the NHL that included two overtime wins.Captain Jonathan Toews tied it at 2 with 6:02 left in the third period, breaking in alone and also beating Reimer on the stick side after a terrific pass from Brandon Saad. It was Toews’ third goal in five games and No. 9 on the season.

”It’s nice to get some confidence and score goals late in games when we’re down a goal or two or it’s 0-0 or 1-1,” Toews said. ”We’ve got to really feed off that momentum.It’s only 30-some games into the season, but it’s huge.”

Toews and Saad each had a goal and an assist, and linemate Alex DeBrincat added two assists.Corey Crawford had 35 stops for the Blackhawks, who had lost five in a row before their win streak.Nick Bjugstad scored in the second for Florida, and Jamie McGinn put the Panthers in front with his fifth of the season 3:53 into the third. Reimer made 25 saves.The Panthers salvaged a point after winning 2-1 in overtime in Detroit on Monday night.The Blackhawks had the better chances in the first and broke through when Saad opened the scoring with 3:11 left in the period.Saad partially fanned on a one-timer at the edge of the crease after taking DeBrincat’s nifty feed from behind the net, but the puck slid in past Reimer’s outstretched left skate.Bjugstad tied it 11:12 into the second when he beat Crawford low on the stick side on a breakaway. Bjugstad got the puck behind the Hawk defense after Aleksander Barkov flipped it from inside the Panthers zone.Anisimov missed on a point-blank chance late in the second, and McGinn scored in the third after the Blackhawks lost control of the puck just inside their blue line.McGinn skated in for a 2-on-1 with Vincent Trochek, and then found himself alone on the left side of the crease after Brent Seabrook fell down. He beat Crawford on the short side, lifting a shot between the goalie’s right shoulder and the left post.

NOTES—Denis Malgin took a hard hit from Connor Murphy early in the first and didn’t return. … Blackhawks D Jan Rutta left in the second period with an upper-body injury and is day to day. … Blackhawks LW Patrick Sharp played his 900th NHL game. … Richard Panik was a healthy scratch for the first time this season. Panik has gone 21 games without a goal. … LW Ryan Hartman, a scratch the past two games, returned to the Blackhawks lineup. ..Cody Franson missed his second game with an injury. … Florida RW Evgenii Dadonov returned after missing eight games with an upper-body injury. … Panthers RW Radim Vrbata, who hasn’t scored since netting a hat trick on Oct. 26, sat out….The Blackhawks visit Winnipeg on Wednesday.

NU with most one-sided win ever against Chicago State

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ROSEMONT—Northwestern may want to petition to take another full week off in the future.Vic Law scored 18 points and the Wildcats followed a seven-day layoff with the largest margin of victory in program history, beating Chicago State 96-31 on Monday night.Northwestern (6-4) also established a program record for the fewest points yielded in a half in the shot-clock era as it raced out to a 55-8 lead at halftime. The 31 points allowed marked the second-lowest point total ever given up by a Wildcats team in the shot-clock era. The 65-point differential topped Northwestern’s 101-49 victory over Mississippi Valley State on Dec. 14, 2014.

”We kind of refocused ourselves,” Northwestern coach Chris Collins said. ”The first five games we kind of got away from what made us good (defensively) in the past. It wasn’t like our character was bad or our attitude. We had to get back to work. We had to regain our edge. We had to regain our spirit.”

Apparently, Finals Week did the trick.After splitting a pair of early Big Ten conference meetings, including a Dec. 3 loss at Purdue, the Wildcats didn’t practice until Wednesday so players could take final exams.But instead of looking like a team coming off a long layoff, NU was energized early. Bolstered by torrid 3-point shooting and a swarming defense, the Wildcats scored the first 15 points of the contest and added a 21-0 run before halftime. Northwestern shot 9-for-16 from behind the arc and had assists on 14 of its 16 first-half buckets.Aaron Falzon added 15 points for the Wildcats, who began a stretch of three games in six days with a season-high for points and assists (20).Chicago State (2-11), which had scoreless droughts of 4 minutes, 40 seconds and 6 minutes, 40 seconds, made just 2-of-19 shots and committed 15 turnovers before the half. The 25 turnovers forced by Northwestern also was a season-high.

”We hadn’t played in over a week and we were coming off a loss and hadn’t started the season the (way) we wanted to,” Falzon said. ”So it’s always important to get out to a good start and just playing good basketball.”

Cameron Bowles scored eight points for the Cougars, who were 8-of-40 shooting.The Cougars haven’t shied away from facing experienced competition. Northwestern is one of 13 opponents this season that played in a postseason tourney in the 2016-17 campaign, including six NCAA Tournament schools. The Wildcats defense continued a strong stretch, holding CSU to 20-percent shooting from the field and forcing 25 turnovers. Northwestern entered Monday having yielded 61 points a contest in its previous four games after allowing 78 per in its first five efforts.The 55 points produced by the Wildcats before halftime was the most the school has scored in a half since it dropped 55 on Sacred Heart on Dec. 21, 2015. Northwestern’s 96-point effort was the most it has produced since a 98-59 victory over Rutgers on Feb. 27, 2016.

”They were playing a lot of zone,” Collins said. ”We talked about sharing the ball and getting in the gaps. I thought our guys played very unselfishly.I just thought we played the right way. That’s what you want out of your team.”

Before Monday’s game, Northwestern announced that redshirt first-year forward Rapolas Ivanauskas would miss the rest of the season after undergoing shoulder surgery on Friday. Ivanauskas only appeared in three contests and had played 11 minutes this season. He missed the entire 2016-17 season after undergoing a procedure on the same shoulder.Chicago State hosts Bradley on Saturday.Northwestern hosts Valparaiso on Thursday.

Demons have no problem with winless Alabama A & M

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Max Strus had 14 points, Tre’Darius McCallum added 13 and DePaul beat Alabama A&M 83-59 on Monday night.Brandon Cyrus scored 12 and Austin Grandstaff had 11 for the Blue Demons (6-4), who won their fifth straight while keeping the Bulldogs (0-9) winless. DePaul has its longest streak since winning seven straight in the 2012-13 season.DePaul opened the game with a 25-5 run and led by 29 before going into halftime up 48-22. The Blue Demons kept the lead above 20 except once when the Bulldogs made it 53-34 early in the period.DePaul had its largest lead at 76-45 on McCallum’s 3-pointer with 5:32 to go.De’Ederick Petty had 15 of his 21 points in the second half for the Bulldogs (0-9). Arthur Johnson scored 11 of 13 after the break.The Blue Demons host Northwestern Saturday afternoon.

Bulls without Markkanen, beat Irving-less Celtics for third straight win.

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Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis are starting to draw attention for their play together instead of their fight with each other.Mirotic scored 24 points, Portis added a career-high 23 and the Bulls blew out Boston 108-85 on Monday night with Celtics star Kyrie Irving sidelined because of a bruised left quadriceps.Owners of the NBA’s worst record, the Bulls (6-20) built an 18-point lead in the second quarter against the Eastern Conference leaders. And when Boston cut it to 12 in the fourth, the Bulls simply pulled away for their third straight win.Leading the way were two players who made headlines for all the wrong reasons before the season started.Their fight at practice left Mirotic with facial fractures, causing him to miss the first 23 games. Portis served an eight-game suspension.But the two have played well together the past two games.

“We need to give the credit to (coach Fred Hoiberg),” Mirotic said. “Fred is the one who is making us play. He’s the guy who is calling the plays for us and putting us in the right spots to play.”

As for the fight?

“Man, that situation’s over,” Portis said. “Everybody’s talking about that. But that doesn’t matter anymore. We’re just trying to win games.”

Mirotic made his first start of the season with leading scorer Lauri Markkanen sidelined because of back spasms and shot 9 of 14 with eight rebounds. Through three games, the 6-foot-10 forward is averaging 16.3 points.Portis shot 10 of 15 and nailed all three 3-pointers.Al Horford scored 15 for Boston (23-6). Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier added 13 points apiece in the Celtics’ most lopsided loss of the season.

“Sometimes you get your butt kicked. It was simple as that,” coach Brad Stevens said. “Chicago dictated the whole game. They played harder than we did. They played with more presence than we did. They played more competitive than we did. They played with more authority than we did. You’re not going to win many games when you play like that.”

Boston got within 12 in the fourth quarter before Portis hit a 20-footer and Mirotic made a 3 to make it 90-73 with just under eight minutes left. The Bulls remained in control the rest of the way.Mirotic came through with 16 points as the Bulls grabbed a 56-42 halftime lead. Portis scored 15 in the first half.The Bulls wiped out a four-point deficit and led 52-34 after a 24-2 run in the second quarter. Portis scored 10 during that stretch, nailing two 3s, and Mirotic finished it with a short hook.

“It feels like it’s March, but it it’s not,” said Mirotic, who has averaged 16.5 points in March during his career — more than in any other month.

Stevens said he doesn’t expect Irving to be out long, though he added: “Who knows with muscular injuries.” … Stevens also said doctors will re-evaluate F Marcus Morris’ ailing left knee on Tuesday. Morris sat out for the second straight night and the third time in four games. He also missed the first eight games of the season. … Horford had five assists. … Boston’s 85 points were a season low.Markkanen participated in the morning shootaround and got treatment afterward. But coach Fred Hoiberg said the prized rookie’s back continued to tighten. … Kris Dunn had 12 points, his career-high fifth straight game in double digits. … David Nwaba had 13 points and six rebounds.