Trail Blazers-Bulls Preview

Portland Trail Blazers Status Check:
Record: 31-36
Division: 6-5
Conference: 18-22
Road Record: 9-25
Last 10 Games: 5-5
Streak: Lost 2
Last game: 102-95 loss to Milwaukee
PPG: 98.3 (13th)
Opponents PPG: 99.7 (19th)
Offensive Rating: 106.6 (10th)
Defensive Rating: 108.2 (24th)
Pace: 91.2 (19th)
Effective Field Goal Percentage: .499 (12th)
Turnover Percentage: .139 (14th)
Defensive Rebound Percentage: .733 (19th)
Offensive Rebound Percentage: .264 (17th)
Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt: .199 (20th)
Opp. eFG%: .506 (21st)
Opp. TO%: .126 (27th)
Opp. FT/FGA: .188 (5th)
Leading scorer: LaMarcus Aldridge (21.1)

Stats from Basketball-Reference

Portland Injury Report:
Victory Claver: out (sprained ankle)
Sasha Pavlovic: out (bruised quadriceps)
Elliot Williams: out (Achilles surgery)

Overview:
Even with a controversial loss against Denver in overtime on Monday, the Bulls have to be happy with the way they’ve responded from an embarrassing and horrible loss at Sacramento.

Chicago lost 119-118 to the Nuggets, but their offense—mostly Nate Robinson—played extremely well, finishing with a 115.5 offensive rating while recording a 53.1 effective field goal percentage. Before that home loss to Denver, the Bulls handled the Warriors in an 18-point victory. The last time the Bulls scored 100 points in back-to-back games was in January, in which they scored 107 and 100 in overtime victories. The last time the Bulls pulled off the feat in regulation games (the Denver game went into overtime, but Chicago scored more than 100 in regulation)? Well you’d have to go back to December, when they followed up a 100-89 win over Boston with a 110-106 victory at the Knicks.

Perhaps it was that blowout loss in Sacramento that kicked the Bulls into gear. Tom Thibodeau and the team seemed upset afterwards, so it’s fair to assume that the loss has put some extra energy in their step. It’s unclear how long the Bulls can run on that anger and embarrassment. Luckily, they have the events at the end of the Denver game to be fueled by now.

“We felt like we got it stolen from us,” Carlos Boozer said following the game. It’s easy to talk about a single missed call because of the time it took place in a game, but there wasn’t just a single missed call in that game. There were calls that went the Bulls way, that perhaps gave them two points or even more, earlier in the contest. So complaining about one call and boiling the loss down to it is a weak excuse. The refs made an incorrect call, by not reviewing Kosta Koufos’ put-back, then learned from that mistake and reviewed Joakim Noah’s. It’s unfortunate that it happened that way, but it’s also wrong to blame the refs for a loss. If Noah would have run Andre Iguodala off of the three point line on the possession before, then the Bulls wouldn’t have been in the situation to need a quick bucket.

No matter how you see it, the Bulls strung together two good games, something they hadn’t done in a while before that.

Nate Robinson scored 20 points against the Warriors and exploded for 34, including 6-8 from deep, against the Nuggets. This was the only time all season that Nate scored more than 20 points in back-to-back contests. He also was the only bright spot against the Kings (other than the final buzzer), going 7-9 from the field for 19 points. Nate is shooting 59.1 percent over his last three games, breaking out of a funk that stretched into early February. He’s going to have his hands full on the defensive end tonight, trying to slow down Rookie of the Year contender Damian Lillard.

It’s amazing what a team can do with a point guard that can score. Just imagine if they had a former MVP to play point…but I won’t get into that (although his return does seem like it’s going to come this season).

Luol Deng, who was slumping in his own right, scored 23 and 21 points over the last two contests. Shockingly an efficient offense keeps you in more games than an inefficient one.

Add in the possibility of Taj Gibson returning, and the Bulls’ prospects are looking so much better than they did just a few days ago. Gibson is expected to play, while Kirk Hinrich will be a game-time decision. But I have gotten to the point with Kirk that I always just assume he will get injured again before the game.

After two straight games against playoff teams, including one against the second hottest team in the NBA, Chicago faces the Trail Blazers, who are on the outside looking in. Portland is three games back of the eighth place Lakers in the Western Conference and has dropped two straight contests.

The Blazers are also a dismal 9-25 on the road this year, giving them a worse road record than New Orleans and an identical one to the Cavaliers. That’s not company you really want.

Their road struggles were on display in Tuesday’s loss at Milwaukee. Despite shooting 50 percent (13-26) from deep, Portland lost, partly because they turned it over 17 times. The Trail Blazers scored a season-low eight points in the second quarter, while allowing 31 in the frame. They mounted a second half comeback, but fell short. LaMarcus Aldridge posted 21 points and 15 boards, and Wesley Matthews tallied 28 points to lead Portland.

According to Stats LLC, the Blazers have hit 49 of 100 from three point range over their last four road games. The Bulls have allowed the fewest three pointers in the league, and the third worst opponent three-point percentage (33.6).

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