Tuesday night’s Chicago Bulls and Portland Trail Blazers went from a game that seemed it would be a large serving of garbage time basketball to a very competitive game that literally came down to the last possession , as the Bulls were able to get a quality win on the road , without four vital players, including Lauri Markkanen, 111-108.
In the first quarter Portland came out and went right to work, shooting 56% in the period , including 8-15 from three point land, to build an 18-point lead. They would increase the lead to as much as twenty at 47-27. From that point the Bulls offense seemed to find a bit of a rhythm and the Blazers missed nine consecutive field goal attempts with a few turnover sprinkled in and Chicago worked their way back into the game, cutting the lead to single digits at 54-45 heading into halftime.
The Bulls used a hot shooting third quarter ( 13-21 FG, including 4-5 3P) to remain within striking distance. This, combined with the Blazers going ice cold from the floor , shooting just 30.4% in the third quarter and nine consecutive possessions in the fourth quarter in which Portland made one pass or less before taking a shot, paved the way for Chicago to take their first lead in the ballgame at 97-96. The teams would swap the lead four times over next four minutes before the Bulls took the lead for good at 102-100. Zach LaVine hit a three to push the lead to 106-100. Damian Lillard hit a three of his own to draw the Blazers within three, but Carmelo Anthony, who was 4-6 from downtown, missed a last second three that would have tied the game.
For the Bulls , who actually looked like a competent basketball team; it is amazing what having an actual coach can do for a ball club. The fact that Denzel Valentino’s sneakers touch the court more than in pregame warmups and halftime proves that Billy Donovan is light years ahead of Jim Boylan as a tactician and an evaluator of talent. Valantine will likely never be a star but he has previously shown that he can be a playmaker and a solid contributor. The Bulls will continue their west coast swing when they take on the Sacramento Kings Wednesday night.
The Blazers will return to action Thursday when the Minnesota Timberwolves pay a visit to the Moda Center, which will give them just enough time to watch the film and fix the mistakes they made in the Bulls game. The Blazers became overly infatuated with the isolation game, which often lead to the “offense” stagnating, and allowed Chicago to get back in the ball game. Damian Lillard got off to a strong start, going 5-9 for 15 points in the first half, but struggled in the second half, going 1-8 for nine points, with his only field goal of the half coming with less than a minute to go in the fourth quarter. He and CJ McCollum are absolutely brilliant ( CJ had 26 points on 10/21 from the field, but coach Terry Stots and the Blazer coaching staff must devise ways to get them easier shots so they aren’t go one-on-one quite so much.