Team Records: Portland (46-27) at Chicago (40-31)
Game Info: 5 p.m., TV on CSNNW, Radio on 620 AM
Vegas Line: Chicago -4.5
Refs: Joe Crawford, Mark Ayotte, Leon Wood
The Skinny: Fresh off a needed road win in Atlanta Thursday the Blazers look to close out their five-game road trip with a win as they face the improving Bulls on the road. Chicago had sputtered for quite a while after Rose went down for the year (in Portland) but has since found their form once more and are a tough team to beat. Chicago comes in having won three of their last five, including a home win over the Pacers their last time out.
Last Time They Met: The Blazers rallied from a 21-point deficit to overcome the Bulls in a thriller as Wesley’s jumper with 1:37 left put Portland ahead for good. The story of the night, of course, was Derrick Rose going down with a season-ending knee injury in the third quarter.
Projected Bulls Lineup:
PF: Carlos Boozer (Duke, 12th season) – 13.8 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 1.5 APG
SF: Mike Dunleavy Jr. (Duke, 12th season) – 11.1 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 2.3 APG
C: Joakim Noah (Florida, 7th season) – 12.4 PPG, 11.2 RPG, 5.1 APG
SG: Jimmy Butler (Marquette, 3rd season) – 13 PPG, 5 RPG, 2.4 APG
PG: Kirk Hinrich (Kansas, 11th season) – 9 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 3.9 APG
Player to Watch: Jimmy Butler (pictured at right) –Raise your hand if you knew whom the hell Jimmy Butler was before last season? Okay, no one, cool. Inserted into the lineup at the start of last season, Butler has more than proved he is capable of playing at this level. Like almost everyone else on the Bulls he is bet known for his defense, capable of locking down most other players on any given night. However he is a decent offensive player as well. Yes he shoots 39.1% from the field but for a Bulls team that shoots a league-worst 42% that’s not THAT bad. He is more than capable of providing at least some offense on any given night, although it is certainly his defense Chicago will mostly rely on Friday.
Did You Know?: Joakim Noah has three triple-doubles this year, tied for second-most in the league with Steph Curry and one behind Lance Stephenson.
Song of the Day: “Tonight, Tonight” from the Smashing Pumpkins. A great song from one of Chicago’s own favorite bands. Enjoy:
Portland: Out – PF/C Joel Freeland (Knee)
Chicago: Out- PG Derrick Rose (Knee)
Re-Evaluating The Bulls: Thibodeau Knows Defense and Effort
Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau may have his detractors. His teams often bog down on offense and he plays his starters way too much (perhaps leading to injuries to Rose and others). Yet beyond that there is no question that Thibodeau’s teams play good defense and play very hard all the time. The Bulls are not the #1 defensive team in the league, that would be the Pacers, but they are lightyears better than the #3 team (Golden State) and can stay in most games provided they keep the score down. As for effort, to watch the Bulls is to watch a team that fights for everything. If you want to beat them you have to win your share of those effort plays that so often make the difference in close games. The Bulls may not have Rose but thanks to Thibodeau they are far from easy opponents.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They score at least 100 points. The Bulls are not a good offensive team and so if the Blazers can top the century mark, they should be able to prevail.
Chicago wins if: They make Portland attack inside. It is no secret that Portland’s best offensive weapon so far is the 3 point shot. If the Bulls can limit that and make Portland go inside, Chicago should prevail.