Bulls go cold at wrong time, fall to Wizards 101-99 in OT, head to DC down two games to none.

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Bradley Beal came on strong late in regulation to finish with 26 points, Nene scored six of his 17 in overtime and the Washington Wizards beat the Bulls 101-99 Tuesday to take a 2-0 lead in their first-round series.Washington rallied from 10 down in the fourth quarter after blowing a 17-point first-quarter lead.Nene scored the first six points in overtime after being held in check by Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah in regulation, and the Wizards hung on after Kirk Hinrich failed to convert at the foul line in the closing seconds.Noah had just hit two free throws when Beal missed a jumper with 18 seconds left. Jimmy Butler got the rebound and called time.Hinrich, a 76-percent free throw shooter this season, had a chance to tie it after getting fouled by Nene on a drive with 2.4 seconds left. But his first attempt hit the rim. He deliberately missed the second, and Trevor Ariza grabbed the rebound to seal the win for Washington.D.J. Augustin led the Bulls with 25 points. Taj Gibson had 22 points and 10 rebounds. Noah added 20 points and 12 boards, but the Bulls will have to dig themselves out of a huge hole after dropping two at home.John Wall had 16 points and seven assists for Washington.The Bulls appeared to be in good shape up 87-77 five minutes into the fourth and were still leading 91-85 when Beal, quiet in the second half, shot the Wizards back into the game.He nailed a 3-pointer that made it 91-88 and added a floater to make it a one-point game. Then, with a chance to put Washington ahead, he hit 1 of 2 free throws with 52.9 seconds left to tie it at 91.Both teams had opportunities to win it in the closing seconds but couldn’t convert.Augustin threw up an air ball, setting off a scramble that led to a jump ball between Gibson and Nene. Beal controlled the tip, but after a timeout, he missed an 18-footer along the baseline as time expired.The Bulls were trailing 64-61 with just under six minutes left in the third when they went on an 8-1 run for their first lead of the game.Mike Dunleavy Jr. put them ahead 65-64 with a jumper, and he capped that spurt with a layup that made it a four-point game with about four minutes left in the quarter.The Bulls were leading 87-77 after a driving layup by Noah and two free throws by Butler with 6:59 left regulation.

NOTES—This was the first time in the Bulls 48 year history that the Bulls started a Series with Home Court advantage and lost the first two games, thus heading on the ROAD down two games to none……Dikembe Mutombo presented the Defensive Player of the Year award to Noah, who hoisted the trophy above his head to loud cheers before the game. … Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau had high praise for San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich and Phoenix’s Jeff Hornacek after they took the top two spots in the Coach of the Year vote. As for the guy who finished third? ”He’s terrible,” he joked. Thibodeau, of course, took the third spot after guiding the Bulls to 48 wins. It might have been his best coaching job yet, with another knee injury curtailing Derrick Rose’s comeback and Luol Deng getting traded away. ”I don’t really look at it that way,” Thibodeau said. ”To me, I have a great group of guys that I work with every day.” … Wizards coach Randy Wittman on Noah being selected Defensive Player of the Year: ”He’s had a great year for them. Well deserved. He’s the heart and soul of their team, and it’s a well-deserved award.”

Crawford shut’s out Blues, Hawks win 2-0.

Chicago goalie Corey Crawford, with ample help from his defensemen, denies Chris Porter on a scoring chance in the last period. (USATSI)  Corey Crawford, with ample help from his defensemen, denies Chris Porter on a scoring chance in the last period. (USATSI)

Corey Crawford was there every time. Slap shots, wristers, backhands and tips, he stopped each one of them.The Blackhawks needed a rebound game from their goaltender, and he delivered in a big way.Crawford made 34 saves in his third career postseason shutout, and the Blackhawks got back into their playoff series with the St. Louis Blues with a 2-0 victory in Game 3 on Monday night.

“I’m just going shot by shot,” Crawford said. “It’s all I could do the whole game was worry about the next one and focus on the next shot and stop that. I don’t want anything else going through my mind through that hockey game.”

Jonathan Toews and Marcus Kruger scored as the defending Stanley Cup champions bounced back after a pair of overtime losses in St. Louis. Toews’ 21st postseason goal was only the second score by a Blackhawks forward in the series.

“Three games in a row. It’s been a very intense series and extremely close,” Joel Quenneville said.

Ryan Miller shook off another slow start and finished with 23 saves, but Toews’ shot at 4:10 of the first went through the goaltender’s legs and was the only score for most of the game.

“It’s not a good goal. We’ll leave it at that,” Miller said.

It was quite a turnaround for Crawford, who was upset with his play after Saturday’s 4-3 loss. Barret Jackman’s winning goal in Game 2 went through Crawford, prompting the goaltender to say he had to play better for the Hawks to win.Quenneville met with Crawford on Sunday, and he responded with one of the best games of his career.

“We have a lot of one-on-one meetings throughout the season, but we get ramped up at playoff time,” said Quenneville, a former NHL defenseman. “I generally stay away from the goalies. We chatted. Basically I was commending him on accepting that responsibility (for the loss).”

Crawford drew chants of “Co-rey! Co-rey from the capacity crowd at the United Center. He was helped by a sound performance by Duncan Keith and Hawk’s defensemen, who stepped up without the suspended Brent Seabrook.The Blackhawks killed three St. Louis power plays, while the Blues’ penalty-kill unit went 4 for 4, including a 5-on-3 disadvantage in the second.

“We knew this was going to be a long series, but we really played hard, we really played well,” St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock said. “We did a lot of the things we needed to do to win the hockey game, but you’ve got to give their goaler credit. He was good, especially late.”

The Blues, who scored tying goals late in regulation in each of the first two games, pulled Miller with 57 seconds left, but the Blackhawks held on. Kruger stuffed home an empty-netter in the final seconds.Game 4 is Wednesday night at 8:30.Each team was without a key contributor after Seabrook wiped out Blues center David Backes with a big hit in Game 2. The five-minute major and game misconduct penalty for Seabrook led to Vladimir Tarasenko’s tying power-play goal with 6.4 seconds left.Seabrook was suspended for three games by the NHL, putting Sheldon Brookbank in the lineup for the first time in the series. Playing with Keith, Brookbank turned in a solid performance in his 19th career playoff game.While Backes was out with an injury, center Patrik Berglund returned for the Blues after missing three games. Berglund, who had 14 goals and 18 assists this season, skated behind the net for a nice wraparound opportunity in the first period, but was turned away by Nick Leddy.Seabrook’s hit on Backes, and at least one knee-on-knee blow by Bryan Bickell, increased the tension between Central Division rivals. But Game 3 was surprisingly civil, with each team wary of another penalty that could swing the series. There was a lot of chirping from each side, and that was about it.Looking for a spark, Quenneville put Toews, Patrick Kane and Bickell on the same line for the start of Game 3. The trio had a lot of success in the Blackhawks’ run to the title last year.The move worked.Toews connected from the top of the left point in the first, beating Miller with a shot that took an unusual bounce. Bickell also created a couple of quality chances with some slick passing.

“If that’s how it’s going to go in, then we’re doing a good job of taking care of the clean chances and the easier ones for them,” said Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who was right in front of Toews on the goal. “We just have to keep going.

NOTES—Blues F Vladimir Sobotka went to the locker room after he took a power-play shot off his right arm in the second, but he returned later in the period. … The announced attendance of 22,112 was the 268th consecutive sellout for the Blackhawks, counting the playoffs.

Wizards outscore Bulls 30-18 in fourth quarter to steal game one 102-93.

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Nene dominated with 24 points, Trevor Ariza scored 18, and the Washington Wizards rallied from 13 down to beat the Bulls 102-93 in their playoff opener on Sunday night.John Wall scored 16 in his postseason debut. Marcin Gortat added 15 points and 13 rebounds, and the fifth-seeded Wizards pulled out the victory even though they looked like they were ready to be blown out.They cut a 13-point deficit to one in the third and trailed by three going into the fourth, before outscoring the Bulls 18-6 over the final six minutes to come out on top in their first playoff appearance since 2008.Game 2 is Tuesday.Gortat’s layup started the decisive run, and Trevor Ariza gave the Wizards an 88-87 lead when he hit a pair of free throws with 4:17 remaining. Jimmy Butler tied it with one of his own, but a layup by Gortat and basket by Nene made it 92-88, and Washington hung on after  Joakim Noah cut it to two on a tip-in with 2:11 left.Gortat hit two free throws and added a jumper with 34 seconds left to make it a six-point game, and the Wizards took the early lead in the best-of-seven series.Nene dominated from the start and hit 11 of 17 shots. Andre Miller came on strong down the stretch to finish with 10 points, and the Wizards pulled this one out even though Wall and Bradley Beal (13 points) combined to shoot just 7 of 25.Kirk Hinrich and D.J. Augustin each scored 16 points, and Butler had 15. Taj Gibson added 12 points, Mike Dunleavy Jr. and Carlos Boozer each scored 11, and Noah added 10 points and 10 assists. But after posting more wins since Jan. 1 than any other Eastern Conference team, the Bulls find themselves in a hole.They led by 13 early in the third and were up 69-57 midway through the quarter when the Wizards went on a 13-2 run to make it a one-point game.Ariza’s 3-pointer cut it to 71-70 with 3:32 remaining. Noah answered with a layup and Gibson hit two free throws to make it a five-point game, but a basket by Miller made it a three-point game going into the fourth.The Bulls overcame a 14-point first half by Nene and took a 54-48 lead to the locker room after a strong second quarter.Augustin drove for a three-point play with just over a minute left to finish the first-half scoring and start a 13-3 run that stretched into the third quarter.Gibson blocked a driving Wall with about 24 seconds left in the half, and the Bulls continued to pour it on after the break.Dunleavy, who missed all five shots in the first two quarters, heated up in a big way in the third. He started the quarter with a 3-pointer and kept it going after Ariza hit one of his own.Butler answered with a layup and a 3, and Hinrich capped the run with a driving reverse layup to make it 64-51 with 9:50 left in the third.

NOTES—The Bulls and Washington are meeting for the third time in the playoffs. The Bulls swept a first-round matchup, 3-0, on the way to their fifth championship in 1997(the final three games that Washington was known as the Bullets), and then as the Wizards, the knocked off  the Bulls 4-2 in the first round in 2005-after the Bulls had won the first two games of that series….Hinrich is the only player on either current roster who also played in that 2005 series.

Seabrook suspended three games by NHL for hit on Backes.

Brent Seabrook has been suspended three games for his hit to the head of Blues captainDavid Backes in St. Louis on Saturday.Seabrook came in hard on the forecheck, lining up Backes for a hit with the Hawks on the power play. However when he came in on the hit the puck was already well gone off the stick of Backes and he was in a dangerous position. The result was a booming hit with the principal point of contact being Seabrook’s shoulder right to the face of Backes. There’s not much dispute, though; it was a bad hit. What’s interesting, though, is to hear the explanation from the NHL above. There is no talk about the contact to the head in the discipline, just mentions of the hit being examples of interference and charging. No matter what way you get there, though, the result is the same: a bad hit worthy of a three-game suspension. Backes was severely dazed — we can all assume what he suffered on the hit — and had to leave the game. Seabrook, meanwhile, earned a five-minute major and a game misconduct. The hit from Seabrook already cost the Blackhawks huge in one game as the Blues scored on the man advantage with 6.4 seconds left to force overtime and then won it in the extra period to go up 2-0 in the series. Now it’s going to cost them big in the next three games* (*if necessary).Seabrook played all 82 games this season and had 7 goals with 34 assists while averaging 22:16 per game as one of the Blackhawks’ most important defensemen. Clearly it’s a pretty massive loss for them. Of course the Blues potentially missing Backes for a few games is massive for them too but it has the Blackhawks in a really precarious spot now heading to the United Center.

Hawks blow another late lead, Blues win 4-3 in OT for two-nothing series lead. Seabrook faces suspension.

The Blues get to celebrate another overtime goal as they put the defending Stanley Cup champions in a big hole.  (USATSI) The Blues get to celebrate another overtime goal as they put the defending Stanley Cup champions in a big hole. (USATSI)

ST. LOUIS—Vladimir Tarasenko and St. Louis were in trouble Saturday before a vicious hit by Brent Seabrook provided an opening for the Blues.That little crack was all St. Louis needed to put another dent in the Blackhawks’ bid for a second straight Stanley Cup title.Seabrook’s blow to the head of David Backes led to a 6-on-4 power play for St. Louis that ended with Tarasenko’s tying goal with 6.4 seconds left in regulation, and low-scoring defenseman Barret Jackman ended the game with a drive through traffic, giving the Blues their second straight 4-3 overtime victory over the Blackhawks and a 2-0 series lead.

“Those seeing-eye shots, I couldn’t believe it went in,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said.
St. Louis took the opener in triple-overtime and fought off a Chicago rally in a game that began less than 39 hours later.Game 3 is Monday night in the United Center.

Corey Crawford tossed his equipment around in the locker room before meeting with reporters. He said he was screened a bit on the game-winner, adding, “I had my pads together, but there was a little space there and it just kind of squeezed through.” Addressing the tying goal, Crawford said: “It’s frustrating, but whatever. I’m not going to cry about it. We’ve just got to work harder.”

Jackman is the longest-tenured Blues player in a career dating to 2002, and totaled three goals and 15 points in the regular season. He has two career playoff goals, both in overtime and both giving the Blues a 2-0 series lead, also stunning the Kings in the first round in 2012 — although the Kings recovered to take four straight.

“We were taking some big hits and kept our composure,” Jackman said. “And in the end, one squeaks in.”

St. Louis rallied after Seabrook received a five-minute major and game misconduct penalty for his hit on Backes that could lead to a suspension for one of the Hawks top defensemen. The Blues captain had to be helped off the ice, went straight to the locker room and did not return for the extra period.

“I have no thoughts on the hit, that’s up the league,” Hitchcock said. “How do you think he is? Not great. Let the league deal with it.”

Seabrook said he wasn’t trying to hurt Backes.  “I feel bad seeing a guy like that on the ice,” Seabrook said. “I’ve been there myself. I wasn’t trying to target his head or do anything like that.”

Blackhawks coach Joel Quennevillle didn’t want to comment on the hit until he had taken a closer look. At the time, he was worried about the game situation.
“We’re almost through it and I was like `Oh, my God,’” Quenneville said. “I was more worried about killing the major.”

Instead of retaliating, the Blues stuck up for Backes by sticking to the game plan.Shattenkirk said repercussions from the hit are “not for us to focus on.We really have to keep just pushing forward,” he added. “Whatever happens, just keep a positive mindset, a clear mind.”

Tarasenko’s second goal of the series was a wrist shot that banged off the right post and in. Kevin Shattenkirk had a goal and two assists for the Blues, who also got a goal from Chris Porter.Duncan Keith, Seabrook and Michael Rozsival scored in a span of five shots to put the Blackhawks up 3-2 early in the third. But Seabrook’s penalty proved costly and the Blackhawks got no help from a power play that went 0 for 4 and is 0 for 9 since Seabrook scored on their first chance in Game 1.Tarasenko made the most of the Blues’ 6-on-4 advantage after pulling goalie Ryan Miller.Keith’s goal late in the second ended a scoring drought of 119 minutes and 27 seconds for the Blackhawks since a three-goal first period in Game 1. Before the Hawk’s rally, Miller stopped 53 consecutive shots.A Blues checking forward started the scoring for the second straight game. Porter had one assist in 22 regular-season games.St. Louis made playing to the whistle pay off, capitalizing on a late flurry when Shattenkirk’s slap shot from just inside the blue line beat an out-of-position Crawford with 1.8 seconds to go in the first.

NOTES—Quenneville and Falcons offensive line coach Mike Tice are co-owners of a thoroughbred, Midnight Hawk, that was the prohibitive favorite but lost by a nose in the Illinois Derby on Saturday. … Shattenkirk had a career-best 10 goals in the regular season. … Porter, a ninth-round pick of the Blackhawks in 2003, scored his first goal since April 7, 2013, at Detroit. … Alexander Steen, who got the game-winner in triple-overtime in Game 1, is among five Blues players with two overtime playoff goals. The others: Brett Hull, Pierre Turgeon, Scott Young and Mark Reeds.

Blues steal game one from Hawks 4-3 in Triple OT







ST. LOUIS—This was one that the Blackhawks let slip away,but at least it’s only one game.The St. Louis Blues went the distance, and then some, to get the jump on the defending Stanley Cup champions.Alexander Steen scored at 26 seconds of the third overtime to cap the longest playoff game in franchise history and give the Blues a 4-3 victory over the Hawks in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series on Thursday night.Steen beat Corey Crawford off a pair of short passes from Steve Ott and David Backes to end the marathon. Blues coach Ken Hitchcock greeted reporters for the postgame news conference with a hearty “Good morning”.

“It’s big. We want to start this series off on a good note,” Steen said. “Especially at home in front of our fans.”

Ryan Miller made 39 saves and blanked the Blackhawks after Patrick Kane scored on a breakaway to put the Visitors up 3-2 late in the first period.Jaden Schwartz tied it with 1:45 to go in regulation to send the game into overtime.Alex Pietrangelo logged 44 minutes, 8 seconds of ice time. Two Blackhawks, Duncan Keith and Niklas Hjalmarsson, played more than 40 minutes.

Hitchcock called Miller “a difference-maker.From the second period on, I thought he was great,” Hitchcock said. “Both goalies were outstanding.”

Crawford made 48 saves. The Blackhawks weren’t panicking.

“I think the big thing for us is we have to realize it’s only one game and we’ve got a quick turnaround coming back,” Kane said. “That’s the best part about it, we get right back at it.

Game 2 is Saturday afternoon.

“We’ve got to move ahead,” Joel Quenneville said. “We knew it was going to be a tough series from the start. We almost got through it.”

The Blues’ previous longest overtime game was a 4-3 loss at Detroit in 1984 that extended 37 minutes, 7 seven seconds. The home record for a playoff overtime game was 33:49 of extra time in a 5-4 win over the Hawks on April 20, 1989.St. Louis had to kill off delay-of-game penalties for shooting the puck into the stands in the first two overtimes and Quenneville argued vehemently for a second delay of game that would have given the Blackhawks a 5-on-3 advantage in the first OT. The Blackhawks killed off a holding penalty in the second overtime.Jonathan Toews, like Kane back from a lengthy injury absence, had two assists.Schwartz, Vladimir Tarasenko and Adam Cracknell all scored their first playoff goal for the Blues.The Blackhawks kept the Blues pinned in their own zone for 2:10 during the first overtime, and Maxim Lapierre made the save of the session getting his body on a drive by Kris Versteeg with less than two minutes remaining.Tarasenko was among the best players coming off a 15-game absence because of a broken thumb.Cracknell tapped in a rebound early in the first to end a scoring drought of 148 minutes and 39 seconds for a team that got shut out the last two games of the regular season.Kane scored his 30th career playoff goal after catching the defense napping at the end of a St. Louis power play, beating Miller off a long lead pass from Toews for a 3-2 lead at 18:24 of the first.Miller allowed three goals on just seven shots in the first with defensemen Johnny Oduya and Brent Seabrook also scoring for the Hawks.

“They had a couple of nice shots in the first, but I had to come out and battle,” Miller said. “Luckily I got ahold of a few of them.”

St. Louis’ top line of David Backes, Steen and Ott was a combined minus-5 in the first. Ott was a bit of surprise, considering he was minus-7 during the Blues’ six-game losing streak to end the regular season.Crawford faced just three shots in the second, but needed big saves to thwart Tarasenko and Ott. He made glove saves on drives by Steen and Tarasenko not long before Schwartz got the equalizer.

NOTES—Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, who has the longest consecutive game streak in major sports at 717 games, left in the first overtime and did not return. Hitchcock said Bouwmeester was dehydrated. … Oduya and Seabrook combined for 10 goals in the regular season. Oduya’s goal was first credited to Kris Versteeg on a deflection. … St. Louis got most of its injured players back but key forward T.J. Oshie (head) and Patrik Burglund (shoulder) were scratches. … Kane had two goals and four assists against St. Louis in the regular season and Toews had a goal and three assists.



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GAME            DATE                             LOCATON                                   TIME (CDT)                 NETWORK

Game 1         Sunday, April 20          Washington @ Chicago            6:00 p.m.                       Comcast SportsNet Chicago/TNT

Game 2         Tuesday, April 22        Washington @ Chicago            8:30 p.m.                       Comcast SportsNet Chicago/TNT

Game 3         Friday, April 25            Chicago @ Washington            7:00 p.m.                       Comcast SportsNet Chicago/ESPN

Game 4         Sunday, April 27          Chicago @ Washington            12:00 p.m.                     ABC (Exclusive)

Game 5*        Tuesday, April 29        Washington @ Chicago            TBD                               TBD

Game 6*        Thursday, May 1          Chicago @ Washington            TBD                               TBD

Game 7*        Saturday, May 3           Washington @ Chicago            TBD                               Comcast SportsNet Chicago/TNT

Bulls finish with 91-86 OT loss to Bobcats, open Playoffs Sunday night at UC vs Washington

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CHARLOTTE—The Charlotte Bobcats defeated the Bulls 91-86 in overtime on Wednesday night to finish the season 43-39 and as the seventh seed in the East. Not bad for a team that was a combined 28-120 over the previous two seasons.But now there is the monumental task of beating the two-time defending NBA champions, something the Bobcats haven’t done in the LeBron James era.The Heat are 15-0 against the Bobcats since James signed.

“It’s going to be a challenge, but it’s the playoffs and anything can happen,” Bobcats guard Kemba Walker said. “It’s not going to be easy. We’re going to go out there and give it all we got just like we have been doing all year.”

The series starts on Sunday.

“It’s going to be a dogfight,”  Al Jefferson said.

The Bulls finished as the No. 4 seed in the East and will face the Washington in the first round after the Wizards leap-frogged the Brooklyn Nets on the final night of the season to grab the fifth spot.

“They are a great transition team with a lot of shooters and size,” Carlos Boozer said. “To make the playoffs you have to be a good team, and they’re a good team.”

After missing a jumper that would have won the game in regulation, Walker scored eight of his 22 points in overtime to help the Bobcats beat the Bulls for the first time this season and finish the regular season with eight wins in their final nine games.Jefferson added 10 points and 18 rebounds for Charlotte, and Chris Douglas-Roberts finished with 13 points after being held scoreless for the first three quarters.Josh McRoberts made a key play in overtime, his block of D.J. Augustin’s 3-point attempt leading to a fast-break layup by Walker that gave the Bobcats an 88-81 lead with 1 minute left.

“This was the type of game we needed going into the playoffs,” Jefferson said. “That’s a playoff team and that’s a playoff game that we played tonight.”

Joakim Noah finished with 14 points and 13 rebounds, Boozer added 14 points and 11 rebounds, and Augustin scored 17 points.The Bulls came in having won 10 of their last 11 against the Bobcats, including five straight in Charlotte by an average of 22 points per game.And it looked early on like this would be another road blowout for Michael Jordan’s former team.The Bobcats started the game cold, missing 21 of their first 29 shots from the field to fall behind 33-23. But Jefferson hit a short jumper and the Bobcats made 11 straight shots to take 43-37 lead at halftime.After a back-and-forth third quarter, the Bulls entered the final period leading 60-59.Every time Chicago attempted to pull away, Douglas-Roberts seemed to have an answer. Two nights after a buzzer-beater to sink the Atlanta Hawks, Douglas-Roberts had 12 points in the fourth period, including a left-handed layup off an offensive rebound with 3:42 left to tie the game at 75.After Taj Gibson missed a jumper with 25 seconds left, Walker had a chance to win the game but missed an open step-back jumper from 18 feet at the buzzer.

“I had a great look at it,” Walker said. “Just missed it.”

Walker’s big overtime helped the Bobcats improve to 20-9 since the All-Star break.

NOTES—The Bulls Playoff opener is Sunday night at 6pm against the Wizards at the United Center. The Bulls last played Washington in the Playoffs in 2005, and lost four games to two after winning the first two games…..Jefferson was taken to the locker room for observations with a left knee contusion midway through the third quarter. He did return to the game and played the entire fourth quarter. … With the win, the Bobcats avoided a season series sweep by the Bulls.

Bulls dispatch Orlando in Regular Season Home finale.

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There’s just one game remaining in the regular season and the NBA playoffs begin on Saturday.The Bulls still don’t know their first-round opponent, but that’s fine with Joakim Noah.

”Whatever happens, happens,” Noah said after the Bulls’ 108-95 victory over the Orlando Magic on Monday. ”Our mentality is just getting ready for the next game, getting ready for Charlotte. We’re going to focus on out next opponent and everything will take care of itself.”

Noah had 18 points and 10 rebounds and eight assists, Mike Dunleavy scored 22 points and the Bulls pulled away late.With one game left in the regular season, the Bulls are fourth in the Eastern Conference playoff race and looking at a first-round matchup with Brooklyn. To catch Toronto and finish third, the Bulls would need to win the season finale at Charlotte on Wednesday and have the Raptors lose at New York.

”The important thing is for us to continue to strive for improvement [and] finish the season as strong as we can and go from there,” Thibodeau said.

Kyle O’Quinn led Orlando with 20 points on 9-for-11 shooting, and Andrew Nicholson added 19. Rookie Victor Oladipo was limited to 10 points after scoring a career-high 35 points against the Bulls earlier in the season.Jimmer Fredette had 17 points.With guard D.J. Augustin missing the game to attend the birth of a child, the Bulls’ rotation was a bit off in the first half.Fredette was the first player off the bench and he showed the rust of not playing much since being picked up at the beginning of March.The Bulls led throughout the first half, often by double figures, but the Magic hung around and pulled within 67-64 with just under three minutes left in the third quarter.Dunleavy, though, hit a 3-pointer to stop Orlando’s momentum. Soon after, Fredette capped the third-quarter scoring with a pair of free throws to make it 81-70 heading into the fourth.The Bulls quickly thwarted any hopes of a Magic comeback by opening the final quarter with a 13-7 to make it 94-77 with about seven minutes to go.Fredette had nine points on 4-for-6 shooting in the fourth.

”I didn’t know until I got here,” Fredette said of his increased playing time. ”I was able to step in and help the team get a win.”

With a win in the season finale, the Bulls would get to 49 victories, a feat few thought possible following the injury to Derrick Rose and trade of Luol Deng earlier in the season.

”It feels great to be in this position right now, but we’re definitely not satisfied,” Noah said. ”We want more, we feel like we can do more. It’s a group that’s gone through so much adversity, to be in this position is definitely a blessing. But we’re not satisfied.”

NOTES—The Bulls completed their recent roster shake-up on Monday by signing C Greg Smith and waiving F Toko Shengelia. ”We’re excited that he is with us,” coach Tom Thibodeau said of Smith. ”When he was healthy, he played very well. We feel we’re fortunate to be able to pick him up.” Smith had arthroscopic knee surgery in February and is still rehabbing. He averaged 5.3 points and 4.1 rebounds in 89 games for the Houston Rockets. Shengelia was acquired from the Brooklyn Nets earlier this season for Marquis Teague. Last week, the Bulls signed Ronnie Brewer, Mike James and Lou Amundson to bring their roster to the maximum 15.. Orlando G Jameer Nelson missed his second straight game with a strained left groin. … The Magic finished the year with a 4-37 road record, including 11 straight losses to end the season.

Blackhawks vs Blues in first round starting Thursday in St.Louis.

The Blackhawks will launch the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the team’s sixth consecutive appearance in the postseason, when they face the St. Louis Blues in the best-of-seven First Round series beginning with Game 1 at the Scottrade Center on Thursday, April 17 at 7:00 p.m. and Game 2 on Saturday, April 19 at 2:00 p.m.
Games 3 and 4 will be held at the United Center on Monday, April 21 at 7:30 p.m. and Wednesday, April 23 at 8:30 p.m. If necessary, the Blues will host Game 5 on Friday, April 25 at 7:00 p.m., the Blackhawks will host Game 6 on Sunday, April 27 at 2 p.m. and the Blues will host Game 7 on Tuesday, April 29 (time TBD). All times listed are Central.
The Blackhawks finished the 2013-14 regular season with a 46-21-15 record (107 points) and earned the third seed in the NHL’s Central Division. For the first time since 1992-97, Chicago has reached the Stanley Cup Playoffs for six consecutive seasons.
The Hawks posted a 2-1-2 record against St. Louis during the regular season, including wins in each of the last two meetings between the clubs. This marks the 10th Stanley Cup Playoff matchup between the Hawks and St. Louis, and the first since the 2002 Western Conference Quarterfinals.
Below is a complete game schedule of the Blackhawks First Round series. Game 2 and Game 6 will be televised nationally by NBC, while Game 1, 3, 4, 5 and 7 will air locally on CSN Chicago. The First Round can be heard on WGN AM-720 (Game 1 and 4) and 87.7 FM The Game (Game 2, 3, 5, 6 and 7). All seven contests are available on WGNRadio.com and the WGN Mobile App. The Blackhawks Media Relations Department will release updated practice information each day throughout the series.

Game    Date    Time (CT)    Venue    Local TV
Game 1    Thurs., April 17    7:00 p.m.    Scottrade Center    CSN Chicago
Game 2    Sat., April 19    2:00 p.m.    Scottrade Center    NBC
Game 3    Mon., April 21    7:30 p.m.    United Center    CSN Chicago
Game 4    Wed., April 23    8:30 p.m.    United Center    CSN Chicago
Game 5*    Fri., April 25    7:00 p.m.    Scottrade Center    CSN Chicago
Game 6*    Sun., April 27    2:00 p.m.    United Center    NBC
Game 7*     Tues., April 29    TBD    Scottrade Center    CSN Chicago
Home games in bold. Games 5, 6 and 7 are if necessary.