Team Records: Portland (17-5) at Chicago (13-8)
Game Info: 4 p.m., TV on CSNNW/ESPN, Radio on 620 AM
ESPN Announcers: Mike Tirico and Hubie Brown
Vegas Line: Chicago -2
Refs: Ken Mauer, JT Orr, Scott Wall
The Skinny: The Blazers look to bounce back from Wednesday’s loss as they travel to Chicago to take on the Bulls. For the first time since forever it seems, the Bulls are fully healthy but not doing so well. Chicago is 4-2 in their last six games, with all four winnings coming against lesser opponents.
Last Time They Met: The Blazers led the game wire to wire and cruised to an easy 105-87 win. Lillard led Portland with 21 points in the win.
Projected Bulls Lineup:
PF: Pau Gasol (Spain, 14th season) – 20.1 PPG, 11.9 RPG, 2.1 APG
SF: Mike Dunleavy Jr. (Duke, 13th season) – 10.1 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 2.1 APG
C: Joakim Noah (Florida, 8th season) – 8.9 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 4.5 APG
SG: Jimmy Butler (Marquette, 4th season) – 21.7 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 3.4 APG
PG: Derrick Rose (Memphis, 6th season) – 15.6 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 5.6 APG
Player to Watch: Derrick Rose (pictured at right) – It was all so promising for Rose, he won the MVP, his team was on the rise and looked to make another deep playoff run. Yet, it all came apart in the late stages of a first round game playoff win vs. the Sixers a few years back as Rose went down with a serious injury. Since then, he has not been the same when playing and has spent much more time in rehab than anything else. Rose finally appears to be back, for, let’s hope, good, but has been playing a few steps behind his MVP form. His amazing ability to “spin the joystick” still appears in some plays but he appears understandably more tentative, and his outside shot, which was never a strength, isn’t helping his struggles. Still, even a reduced Rose is a very good player and given some more time and no more injuries Rose should be just fine.
Did You Know?: If the Blazers win Friday they will square the all-time series between Portland and Chicago at 58-58. Portland has beaten the Bulls seven straight times.
Song of the Day: “I Won’t Back Down” by Johnny Cash. In honor of Wesley standing up for Dame when Dunleavy cheap shotted Dame in the team’s first matchup. Enjoy:
Portland: Out – PG CJ McCollum (Finger)
Chicago: Out-SF Doug McDermott (Knee)
Re-Evaluating Chicago: The Injury Bug
Injuries are the great equalizer. They can derail any team’s chances, no matter how well the team is put together. Injuries derailed Portland a few years back, they threatened to derail OKC this year and they certainly have thrown Chicago’s plans off the tracks. Well some might blame Chicago’s training staff, or their coach for playing their starters too many minutes, its mostly pure dumb luck . That injuries tend to happen in bunches to a team at a particular time is not indicative of anything other than a temporary trend. Here’s hoping the Bulls get rid of the injury bug and seize their potential as a championship contender.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They play their game. Playing Chicago is always about which team can control tempo. If the Blazers can make Chicago play the way Portland wants them to, they should win.
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.