Coming off the success of their undefeated road trip, the Portland Trail Blazers (11-2), easily one of the hottest teams in the league were in for a dogfight on Friday when Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls (6-5) made a stop at the Moda Center for their back-to-back after losing last night in Denver.
The blueprint for the Bulls under coach Tom Thibodeau has been suffocating defense and rebound, rebound, rebound. The Bulls for the first half do what they do best and go up by as many as 21 points while LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard can’t find their shot. An explosive third quarter with Wesley Matthews leading the charge brings Portland back from certain death and outduel Chicago in the final period to wrestle out a 98-95 win. Portland’s winning streak continues to ride now at nine games, eleven wins for the season and their 10th win over the Bulls in the last 12 meetings.
The Bulls suffered another damaging loss when Rose went down in the third quarter with a right knee injury and never returned in what no fan of the NBA wanted to see.
It was tough to distinguish which team was coming off the second game of a back-to-back, the Blazers had a day off but Chicago, had lit the fire under themselves and with buckets by Rose and Carlos Boozer put the Bulls on top double digits in a flash. Portland allowed Chicago to shoot 54% from the floor while the usual offensive suspects: Aldridge and Lillard were ice cold, 1-10 for LA and he doesn’t make his first basket till 1:42 remained in the first. The Bulls limited Portland to 4-10 field goals and ate up any rebound imaginable and it was tough for the Blazers to get any open look. Matthews and Batum did much of the scoring but the hole became bigger and bigger once Chicago had fortified themselves into playing their type of game and getting to the foul line. The Blazers were staring at a 21-point lead as the Bulls were harassing everyone into taking tough shots, dropping Portland to 29% shooting. Near the end of the first half, Matthews’ energy and hustle for loose balls tries to get the Moda Center some life, he hits a three to make a 59-44 deficit at break.
What transpires is a 34-12 third quarter from the Blazers, a totally different team hell bent on creating turnovers, rebounding, forcing Chicago outside and shooting the lights out from downtown. Threes from Matthews, Mo Williams, Nic Batum, a second chance rebound from Robin Lopez, Lillard gets Kirk Hinrich on his heels and drains a three in his eye, Aldridge spins and hits a fading jumper. Portland forces 10 turnovers and explodes a 24-5 run. Chicago then loses Rose when it appeared his right knee buckled under him at the rim while chasing Lillard and heads to the locker room for good. The Bulls are at a loss and toss up wild shot attempts and the Blazers are up 78-71 going to the final period.
Chicago settles down and go back to what they do best and what got them going in the first half: rebound the heck out of you and get to the foul line. As free flowing as the offense was for Portland, it became again a bump and grind affair as the both sides traded leads. A tough fading jumper from Matthews and clutch Aldridge free throws late push the Blazers ahead for good. Luol Deng throws a long three-point shot at the buzzer but it clanks off and the Blazers survive.
Who was Hot
- The Dark Knight Rises starring Wesley Matthews: He was on fire for the entire match: 28 points, 4-8 from three on 12-19 shots to lead Portland in scoring. Give that man the game ball.
- Damian Lillard needed the second half to get into his groove and without having Rose chase him around; he finished with 20 points, six assists and 3-5 shooting from deep.
- Robin Lopez was banged inside all night having to fight off Boozer and Joakim Noah. Although he will come away with 13 points he tallied 16 rebounds and could’ve easily had 20 if Noah wasn’t there to battle it out.
- Another solid all-around effort for Nic Batum who was put on duty to guard Rose and disrupt the Bulls offense: 17 points, eight rebounds, three assists, five steals, one block and 5-12 shooting.
- Derrick Rose was having quite the game for himself before he left the game for good. For his effort tonight he finished with 20 points, five rebounds, three assists, two steals on 6-19 shooting and hope the knee injury isn’t too serious. It wouldn’t be fair to him after all the effort he put into rehab. Quite the shame. UPDATE: As of 2:36pm Saturday, reports from ESPN report that Rose has suffered “a right meniscus and will need surgery. He is out indefinitely”. WHY BASKETBALL GODS, WHY MUST YOU PUNISH SUCH A ENTERTAINING PLAYER SUCH AS HE?
- The three saves the Blazers late again: 12-26 to 5-14 by the Bulls.
- Assists: Portland 21 – Chicago 11
- Steals: Portland 11 – Chicago 8 to 14 total turnovers for the Bulls who had about nine in the third quarter alone.
Who Was Cold
- Starting 0-5 from the field, LaMarcus Aldridge was getting double-teamed for most of the night and in turn, rushed his shot and needed the third quarter to find a groove. He was 1-10 in the first quarter from the field and only made three additional field goals to complete with 12 points, six rebounds, four assists, three steals, one block and two game winning free throws at the end to ice the game.
- Chicago out-rebounds Portland 52-39, puts up 44 points in the paint (32 by the Blazers) and has seven more offensive rebounds, and still loses.
Portland for the game shoots just barely above 41% for the game and if this last year, they easily couldn’t stand a chance and that 21-point hole would’ve been about 30 or worse. The Moda Center also announced that tonight’s sold out game of 20,618 is the biggest crowd yet this season and it will surely grow as the Blazers continue this amazing winning streak. The Blazers will be back to work in less than 24 hours however when they travel to Oracle Arena, a somewhat House of Horrors, to face the Golden State Warriors on Saturday.