Bulls beat Sixers, stay in 7th Playoff spot with three games left.

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PHILADELPHIA—Jimmy Butler had 19 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists and helped give the Bulls playoff hopes a needed boost in the 102-90 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday night.The Bulls, Miami and Indiana entered the night with 38-40 records and in a three-way tie for seventh in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Butler had his fourth career triple-double.Rajon Rondo sat out with a sprained right wrist and Dwyane Wade missed another game with a fractured right elbow. Wade, who scrimmaged on Wednesday for the first time since he was injured on March 15, could return as early as Saturday’s game at Brooklyn. Wade, who averaged 18.6 points in his first season with his hometown team, had been ruled out for the season. But Wade was worked hard at joining the team minus any serious setbacks.Rondo was hurt Tuesday night in a loss to New York.With Rondo and Wade sidelined, the Bulls still cruised against the lowly Sixers. Jerian Grant scored 15 points starting for Rondo, Nikola Mirotic scored 22 and the Bulls took a 14-point lead in the first half.Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot led the Sixers with 18 points.The Bulls wasted a major opportunity when they lost to New York and could not afford a second straight road defeat to an Eastern Conference also-ran. The Bulls, who hold a tiebreaker over the Heat and the Pacers, improved to 7-4 since they lost Wade.The Sixers gave up 141 points Tuesday against Brooklyn and their defense was only slightly better against the Bulls. The Bulls seemed on the brink of missing the postseason for a second straight year just a few weeks ago. Mirotic hit his fifth 3 of the game late in the fourth to make it 97-82 and the Bulls firmed up a playoff spot with two key cogs set to return. Butler earned his 10th assist on Mirotic’s sixth three to clinch his fourth career triple-double.

NOTES—The Bulls have won 13 of 14 against the Sixers. … The Bulls have defeated the Sixers seven straight times in Philadelphia. … Michael Carter-Williams, 2013-14 NBA Rookie of the Year with the 76ers, received mostly boos when he checked in off the bench….The Bulls are at Brooklyn Saturday, and play their two final games at home.including Wednesday night vs the same Nets.

Hawks give up two shorties & 3-0 lead, lose to lowly Avs in OT.

DENVER—The good news: The Blackhawks can afford a collapse like this. No harm done.Still, with the playoffs around the corner, the best team in the West wants to be clicking on all cylinders. This wasn’t exactly what they had in mind.Defenseman Erik Johnson went coast-to-coast to score at 1:57 of overtime and the Colorado Avalanche rallied from a three-goal deficit to beat the Blackhawks 4-3 on Tuesday night.Johnson grabbed the puck near his goal, took advantage of a line change by the Blackhawks to cruise up the ice and beat goaltender Scott Darling with a nifty shot. It was Johnson’s second goal of the season after missing a chunk of the season with the broken leg he suffered on Dec. 3.

”We didn’t play the way we’d like to,” Joel Quenneville said. ”We’ll move forward.”

The Blackhawks are tuning up for the postseason with nothing left to play for in the regular season.They’ve already captured the Central Division and locked up the top seed in the Western Conference. The real goal is to get some key players rest. Defenseman Duncan Keith got the night off Tuesday.Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog had short-handed goals for the last-place Avalanche, who won for just the second time in 10 games. Mikhail Grigorenko tied it up early in the third period off a pass from Duchene.

”They’re the best team in the West, a great team, and it’s fun to get a win,” Johnson said.

Artemi Panarin, Ryan Hartman and Marcus Kruger scored in the second period for the Blackhawks to stake them to a 3-0 lead. It wouldn’t last as they remain stuck on a franchise record-tying 24 road wins.Darling was at his best with his team a man down late in the third, stopping one point-blank shot after another. He couldn’t come up with the save on the OT shot by Johnson, who skated by Marian Hossa near the Avalanche goal, saw open ice and was off to the races.

”I was able to pick it up. There’s so much room in 3-on-3,” Johnson said. ”I tried to make a move to the net and luckily it went in.”

Hartman scored his 19th goal of the season, one away from becoming the seventh Chicago player to reach 20. That sort of scoring balance could come in handy.

”We can have guys up and down the lineup scoring goals,” he said. ”Close games it can really help and it can put you far into the playoffs.”

Patrick Kane had an assist for his 88th point of the season as he tries to keep pace with Connor McDavid of Edmonton in the scoring race. Kane was playing with a fat lip that required three stitches inside his mouth and seven on the outside, courtesy of being hit by an errant puck during pregame warmups in their previous game.The Avalanche finished with a season-high 51 shots, but couldn’t seem to get anything past Darling – except when the Blackhawks were on the power play.Duchene scored off a pass from Matt Nieto for a short-handed goal. Landeskog followed 4:15 later with another. They entered the game with three short-handed goals all season and none at home.

”It’s just when the puck decides to go in, it goes in,” Duchene said. ”When it doesn’t, it doesn’t.”

Colorado recently called up center Rocco Grimaldi and defenseman Duncan Siemens from San Antonio of the American Hockey League. Siemens was the 11th overall pick in 2011 and played in his second career game – both against the Blackhawks. He also saw action in the season finale on April 11, 2015.

NOTES—Niklas Hjalmarsson didn’t make the trip to Denver. ”He’s back home with some family matters,” Quenneville said. … C Artem Anisimov missed his 11th game, but has resumed skating. … Darling made a career-high 47 saves. … Duchene had a goal and two assists…..The Blackhawks are at Anaheim on Thursday night for the second of three straight road games to finish the regular season.They then close out the Regular Season at Los Angeles Saturday evening.

Butler drop’s 39 on Pelicans as Bulls win 4th straight.

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NEW ORLEANS—Jimmy Butler scored 39 points and the Bulls sustained their playoff push with a 117-110 victory over the recently resurgent New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday.Butler made 14 of 26 shots, including all three of his 3-point shots, to help the Bulls win for the fifth time in six games.The Bulls took over the 7th seed since Miami and Indiana both lost.Butler’s final points came on a step-back jumper with 20 seconds left stem a late Pelicans run.Bobby Portis scored 21 points and Joffrey Lauvergne 15 for the Bulls, while Rajon Rondo added 10 points, nine assists, nine rebounds and three steals.Anthony Davis had 30 points and 11 rebounds for New Orleans, while DeMarcus Cousins added 26 points and 18 rebounds.

Backup Goalie carries Bruins past Hawks 3-2, one day after Western Conference top seed clinched.

Backup goalie Anton Khudobin made 41 saves and the Boston Bruins held off the Blackhawks 3-2 on Sunday for their fifth straight victory.Ryan Spooner, Patrice Bergeron and Kevan Miller scored for the Bruins, who jumped over idle Toronto and Ottawa into second place in the Atlantic Division. Boston began the day in wild-card position, four points ahead of Tampa Bay for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.Artemi Panarin extended his goal-scoring streak to four games with his 29th. Jordin Tootoo also scored for the Blackhawks, who got 26 saves from Corey Crawford in their final regular-season home game.The Blackhawks clinched first place in the Central Division and Western Conference on Saturday when Minnesota lost at Nashville. The Hawks are assured of home-ice advantage through the first three playoff rounds.Khudobin was sharp as the Bruins rested No. 1 goalie Tuukka Rask in their final regular-season road game.Boston led 2-0 after the first period despite being outshot 16-11.Spooner opened the scoring 6:34 in by deflecting Zdeno Chara’s bouncing shot from the left point for his 12th goal.The Blackhawks turned up the pressure later in the period, but Khudobin made a series of close-in saves – including dandies on Marian Hossa and Panarin – to keep the Hawks off the board.Bergeron fired in his 21st goal on a power play from beyond the top of the right circle to make it 2-0. He beat Crawford high to the stick side after taking a pass from Brad Marchand, who had stolen the puck at center ice.Panarin cut it to 2-1 with 1:48 left in the second on the Blackhawks’ 25th shot to cap a fluky play that withstood a video review.Brent Seabrook fired from the right point, but the drive went wide and bounded of the back boards. At the same time, Blackhawks forward Richard Panik slid into the net behind Khudobin, who had ranged out for Seabrook’s shot.Panarin fired the loose puck from just left of the net, but the shot struck Panik – who was curled up in the net – and bounced out. Panarin then popped in the rebound before Khudobin could recover, with Panik still in the net.Panik was awarded an assist on the play.Miller extended Boston’s lead to 3-1 at 9:15 of the third on a nice move and quick shot from the left circle that sailed past Crawford’s glove.Tootoo trimmed it to 3-2 just 25 seconds later when he was left alone in the crease and slid John Hayden’s centering pass between Khudobin’s pads.Khudobin was tested in the final 1:33 with Crawford on the bench for an extra attacker.

NOTES—Artem Anisimov missed his 10th game (leg injury), but coach Joel Quenneville said he expected the 22-goal scorer to resume skating on Monday. … Spooner’s goal was his first since March 4, a span that saw him miss three games with a concussion. . Boston forward Frank Vatrano missed his third game with an upper-body injury and forward Jimmy Hayes sat out after sustaining a lower-body injury Saturday against Florida. . Sean Kuraly was recalled from Providence of the AHL to take Hayes’ spot. . The Blackhawks have a chance to break their franchise record of 112 points, set in 2009-10 when they went on to win the first of three Stanley Cup titles in six seasons…..The Hawks are at Colorado on Tuesday night to start a three-game trip that wraps up the regular season. The Hawks have 24 road wins, matching the team record.

Butler and Rondo carry Bulls to last second win over Atlanta to move into three way tie for last two Playoff births.

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Jimmy Butler scored 33 points and hit two free throws with 2.1 seconds left to lift the Bulls to a 106-104 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday.Butler scored the Bulls’ final nine points. His free throws gave the Bulls a two-point lead and capped a 15-4 run.Tim Hardaway Jr. then missed a 3-pointer for Atlanta as time expired, giving the Bulls their third straight win. That put them in a tie with Miami and Indiana for the final two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. The sixth-place Hawks, who had won two straight after dropping seven in a row, trail Milwaukee by a game.Rajon Rondo had a season-high 25 points and added 11 rebounds. Denzel Valentine scored 13 points as the Bulls stopped a seven-game losing streak to Atlanta.Dennis Schroder led the Hawks with 29 points while Hardaway scored 20.Atlanta was leading 100-91 with less than five minutes to go when the Bulls went on their big run.Valentine hit a pair of 3-pointers to start it, and Butler took over from there. He tied it at 102-all when he connected from long range with 1:59 left.Schroder pulled up for the go-ahead jumper after Butler’s baseline shot hit the front of the rim to give the Hawks a 104-102 lead with 35 seconds left. Butler immediately answered with a driving layup to tie it again.After a timeout, Schroder lost his dribble out of bounds with 25 seconds left. Butler then got fouled by Kent Bazemore as he attempted a jumper with 2.1 seconds remaining and hit both free throws as the crowd chanted ”MVP! MVP!” Hardaway’s 3 after a timeout then hit the back of the rim as time expired.

The Bulls hit 12 3-pointers, their sixth straight game with at least 10….The Bulls visit New Orleans on Sunday.

Blackhawks close in on Division Title and West #1 seed win win over Columbus

Corey Crawford and Artemi Panarin helped the battle-tested Blackhawks win a matchup against another of the NHL’s top teams.Crawford made 32 saves, Panarin had two goals and the Blackhawks beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-1 on Friday night to reach the cusp of clinching the Central Division.Panarin scored in the opening minute, then added an empty-netter with 44 seconds left for his 28th goal of the season. Marian Hossa also scored in the first period for the Hawks, and Patrick Kane assisted on all three goals as the Hawks extended their division lead to nine points over idle Minnesota.The Wild have five games remaining and the Blackhawks have four.The Blackhawks, with 107 points, also leap-frogged over Columbus, with 106, and into second place overall in the league standings behind Washington in the Presidents’ Trophy race.

”It was a good challenge against a team like that, one of the better teams in the league,” Crawford said. ”It was another solid game against a top team.”

The Blackhawks and Crawford played a smart, tidy game to deny the Blue Jackets a chance to gain ground on Washington in the Metropolitan Division.Kane, who reached 750 career points, likes the way his team is tooling up for the playoffs on the heels of an impressive 5-1 win at Pittsburgh on Wednesday.

”Another good team we were facing tonight from the East, so it’s nice to have that measuring stick, see where you stand against that conference,” Kane said.

The Blackhawks also reached 50 wins for just the second time in 90 seasons and have a shot at their team record for points (112) set in 2009-2010 when they went on to win their first of three Stanley Cups in six years.Nick Foligno scored his 25th goal to end an eight-game drought and Sergei Bobrovksy made 21 saves, but the Blue Jackets lost for the second time in two nights. The Blue Jackets have just seven goals in their last five games.

”We didn’t get the result, but as I told you before at this time of the year, I just want just to play the right way,” coach John Tortorella said. ”We played the right way tonight. I don’t have any complaints about our hockey club.”

Bobrovsky got his first regulation loss since Feb. 19 against Nashville. He had been 10-0-2 during the run and entered leading the NHL in wins, goals-against average and save percentage.Coming off a 2-1 overtime loss at Carolina on Thursday night – with backup Joonas Korpisalo in net – the Blue Jackets didn’t arrive at the their hotel in Chicago until about 1:30 p.m. on Friday.The team left Raleigh-Durham International Airport on a chartered jet shortly after Thursday’s game, but the plane was forced to turn back about 30 minutes into the flight because of a faulty generator. The Blue Jackets returned to the hotel they stayed at on Wednesday, then flew to Chicago on Friday.The Hawks took advantage by striking fast.Panarin got a power-play goal 32 seconds in and four seconds after Columbus’ Brandon Dubinsky was sent off for cross-checking Niklas Hjalmarsson.After Jonathan Toews won a faceoff in the Blue Jackets’ zone, Kane slipped the puck to Panarin in the slot.The teams exchanged goals 22 seconds apart during a 4-on-4 late in the first period.Foligno tied it 1-all with 2:45 left, and Hossa’s 26th goal put the Hawks back in front 2-1 moments later. The 38-year-old faked Bobrovsky to the ice, cut across the crease and scored on a slick backhander.

NOTES: Columbus C Lukas Sedlak left in the second period with an upper-body injury and didn’t return. … Blackhawks C Artem Anisimov missed his ninth game (lower body), but coach Joel Quenneville said he hoped the 22-goal scorer would return for the playoffs. … C Vinnie Hinostroza, recalled from Rockford of the AHL on Thursday, was among Hawk scratches. … Tortorella said the team’s flight turnaround was ”very nerve-wracking,” but otherwise joked about the incident before Friday’s game and hoped it might rally his team. ”When you hear the announcement: `It’s an emergency, but we’re OK,’ where do you go with that?” Tortorella said…..The Blackhawks host Boston on Sunday in their final regular-season home game. They closes out the schedule with three road contests.

Niko,Butler lead Bulls past Cavs(again).

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Nikola Mirotic tied season highs with 28 points and six 3-pointers, Jimmy Butler scored 25, and the Bulls beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 99-93 on a night when LeBron James moved into seventh place on the NBA’s career scoring list.James moved past Shaquille O’Neal, finishing with 26 points and giving him 28,599 for his career – three more than O’Neal. But the big night by the four-time MVP couldn’t prevent the Cavaliers from matching a season high with their third straight loss.That dropped them a half-game behind Boston for the Eastern Conference lead and left them with a 6-10 record in March.Rajon Rondo added 15 assists, Robin Lopez had 10 points and 11 rebounds, and the ninth-place Bulls moved within a game of Miami and Indiana in the Eastern Conference standings.They also finished 4-0 against Cleveland to complete their first sweep of the Cavaliers since they took all three games during the 2011-12 season.

Hawks wake up, finish road trip with 5-1 rout of Penguins

PITTSBURGH—Patrick Kane darted behind the Pittsburgh Penguins net, seemingly intent on trying to bend a wraparound past Marc-Andre Fleury.Halfway there, the Blackhawks star changed his mind, instead flipping a backhand pass to Artemi Panarin at the left post. Panarin flicked the puck off an unsuspecting Fleury – caught looking the other way – and into the net.Seems nobody can see the Blackhawks coming these days. Not even the defending Stanley Cup champions.Kane’s sleight of hand set the tone for a lopsided 5-1 victory over the short-handed Penguins on Wednesday night. Panarin’s 26th of the season kickstarted a four-goal first period for the Hawks, who moved closer to locking up the Central Division title by winning in regulation in Pittsburgh for the first time in 20 years.Richard Panik, Marcus Kruger and Marian Hossa also scored during the first as the Blackhawks moved nine points clear of second-place Minnesota with five games left in the regular season. Tanner Nero added a breakaway goal in the third. Kane finished with two assists to move past Sidney Crosby for second in the NHL scoring race.

”I think it’s good to know we can play like that, so let’s keep building,” Kane said. ”Let’s try to get this momentum going into the playoffs where we’re firing on all cylinders.”

It looks like the Hawks might already be there. Corey Crawford stopped 31 shots, albeit against a depleted Pittsburgh lineup missing stars Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang. Not that Crawford was complaining.

”Obviously, we scored a bunch of goals, but I thought our game was even better after that,” Crawford said. ”We had some good kills to not give them momentum on their power play. It was a great game, full game for us.”

Marc-Andre Fleury finished with 31 saves but received little help outside of Bryan Rust’s third-period goal. Pittsburgh saw its winless streak reach four games, dimming its chances of catching first-place Washington atop the Metropolitan Division. At this point, securing home ice in the first round might be a challenge.

”We’ve made some mistakes, especially early on in the first period, and in that position it’s a climb,” Crosby said. ”We’ve got to be better. We can look at all the other games, it’s good that we stayed in it, but we’re capable of more.”

Pittsburgh is searching for healthy bodies and momentum with the postseason just two weeks away. Not the Blackhawks, who showcased the speed and creativity that have them looking like the favorite in the wide-open Western Conference and a serious threat to add to the three Cups they’ve captured since 2010.The Penguins started Fleury over Matt Murray, who has struggled recently while Fleury has regained his form since the team opted to hold onto him at the trading deadline. Given a chance to perhaps make serious inroads on Murray’s grasp of the No. 1 spot, Fleury instead spent the first period trying to contend with a seemingly endless series of odd-man rushes that left the Penguins flat-footed and reeling.

”They came out pretty hard,” Fleury said. ”They’re a good team. They have a lot of skill. I wish there could have been more stops to keep us in the game.”

Panik doubled the lead 14:39 into the first when he powered home a shot from the slot past Fleury’s outstretched glove. Kruger’s fourth of the year with 55 seconds left in the first came courtesy of a deft touch pass from Kane. Hossa finished off a 3-on-1 by firing it by Fleury with 16 seconds left, and the Hawks 20 minute clinic was complete.Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan switched up the lines but stuck with Fleury, who settled down, but by then the damage was already done. Sullivan has refused to blame health for his team’s slide even while allowing that players like Malkin and Letang are difficult to replace.

”The league is just going to challenge you through particular points in your schedule, and we’re going through one right now,” he said.

NOTES—The Blackhawks tied a franchise record with its 24th road win of the season. … The Hawks went 0 for 4 on the power play. The Penguins were 0 for 2. … The Penguins last dropped consecutive games by four goals on Jan. 3 and Jan. 5, 2009. … Pittsburgh’s last four-game winless streak came in Sullivan’s first four games on the job in December, 2015. … Asked if he expects Letang – who has missed 16 games with an injury – to return by the playoffs, Sullivan replied ”yes.”
The Blackhawks have just two home games left. They host Columbus on Friday. The Blue Jackets edged the Hawks 3-2 on Oct. 21.The Hawks host Boston Sunday at 11:35am

Hawks let 4-1 lead get away, fall to Lightning 5-4 in O.T.

TAMPA—Yanni Gourde’s second career goal capped a tremendous comeback by the Tampa Bay Lightning against one of the NHL’s elite teams.Gourde had a breakaway goal 4:25 into overtime and the Lightning rallied from a three-goal deficit to beat the Blackhawks 5-4 on Monday night.Playing in his 13th game this season and 15th overall, Gourde beat Scott Darling after Victor Hedman set up the winner with his third assist of the game.Tampa Bay, which trails Boston by a point for the second Eastern Conference wild card, got two goals from Jonathan Drouin. Ondrej Palat and Anton Stralman also scored, and Andrei Vasilevskiy, who got pulled 14 minutes into the first after allowing three goals on eight shots, returned to start the second and finished with 25 saves.Artemi Panarin, Patrick Kane, Tomas Jurco and Richard Panik scored for the Western Conference-leading Blackhawks, who were coming off a 7-0 loss Saturday night at Florida. Darling stopped 25 shots.

”We had everything going our way there and then we started getting cute in the neutral zone,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. ”We let them get back in the game.”

After the Blackhawks went up 4-1 midway through the second on Panik’s goal, Tampa Bay tied it at 4 on Drouin’s goals and one by Stralman in a 4:39 span.The Blackhawks took a 3-1 lead after the first period on goals by Panarin, Kane and Jurco. Palat, playing in his 300th NHL game, had the Tampa Bay goal.

”We had such a good first period,” Darling said. ”A good start for the second and then they just turned it on. It was pretty impressive.”

Palat and Drouin’s second goal came on power plays after the Hawks were penalized for delay of game after shooting the puck over the glass.The Blackhawks have the 24th ranked short-handed unit in the NHL.Nikita Kucherov had two assists to set a Tampa Bay record for points in a single month with 22. The right wing has four assists and 11 points during a five-game point streak.

NOTES—The Hawks have won just five times in 19 regular season road games against the Lightning. The Blackhawks did win two of three at Tampa Bay in the 2015 Stanley Cup Final. … Jurco stopped a 34-game goal drought, dating to Feb. 18, 2016. … Palat has two goals and eight points in a five-game point streak. … Lightning G Peter Budaj made three saves in the first….The Blackhawks complete the three-game trip Wednesday night at Pittsburgh.

Bulls finally beat Bucks, 109-94

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MILWAUKEE—Nikola Mirotic tied a season high with 28 points, Jimmy Butler had 20 points and a career-high 14 assists, and the Bulls pulled away in the second half for a 109-94 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday.Butler broke his previous career best for assists (12) by the end of a pivotal third quarter, when the Bulls stretched a one-point lead at the half to 91-79 going into the fourth.Butler punctuated the second-half runaway with a backcourt steal off a telegraphed pass by Greg Monroe before strolling the other way for an easy dunk and 17-point lead with 8:55 left.Mirotic hit three 3-pointers in the third quarter, while Rajon Rondo scored 14 of his 18 points in that period.Giannis Antetokounmpo had 22 points and eight rebounds for the Bucks.The Bulls avoided a season sweep at the hands of the Bucks.