The Chicago Bulls bounced back from a tough loss against the undefeated Golden State Warriors to improve to 9-4 on the season. The Bulls won 93-88 over the Portland Trail Blazers to end their three game Western Conference road trip. It was a game where the Bulls were the favorites and meant to win against a one-dimensional Portland squad.
With Derrick Rose back and healthy, coach Fred Hoiberg's starting lineup was Rose(G), Jimmy Butler(G), Tony Snell(F), Nikola Mirotic(F), and Pau Gasol(C). Guard Aaron Brooks did not play today because of a sore hamstring.
Rose proved to be a big help as he lifted the team to a victory. In his last meeting against Portland on December 12th of last year, he racked up 31 points in a 115-106 home win. This time the versatile guard added 17 points and led the team in assists with six. With Rose, the Bulls addressed the their major problems as he added depth and explosiveness to the squad.
When he is being aggressive and getting shots in the paint, he is at his most effective. Butler also had a huge impact on the game, leading the team with 22 points and solid defense throughout the game. Another double-double was in order for Gasol, as he played valuable minutes with 12 point and 14 rebounds.
The Bulls were in front with the lead the entire game, and it was only until the end did where the Blazers had a chance to get in front. Portland star Damian Lillard has been averaging 25.5 points and 7.1 assists a game. With Rose matched up on him, he scored 19 points with 10 rebounds but only shot 4 of 22 from the field.
Chicago came out focused at the Moda Center going up 13-2 in the beginning of the game. Snell energetic play lifted the team in the start. Rose demonstrated great defense against Lillard from the start. He did not shy away from squaring him up and making sure he did not get any uncontested shots.
Center Joakim Noah left his imprint on the game making two straight jump hooks to give the Bulls a 27-19 lead. The former University of Florida star then followed it up with high effort in order to grab a rebound. Coach Hoiberg took advantage of Portland's small lineup consistently while switching rotations in the game.
Lillard tried to carry most of the load but was unable to get much going. Rose showed off his trademark slashing layup in the paint, blowing past a few defenders to give the Bulls a 37-27 lead in the 2nd quarter. He also showed off his passing skills with an incredible no-look pass to Mirotic for the score on a breakaway, went up 43-32. To end the half, Butler knocked down a half court shot at the buzzer to go up 48-39.
The second half proved to be a closer affair as Portland went on a 7-0 run to cut the game within two. The Bulls were able to maintain composure and continually answer back with scores of their own as their opponents were more determined. Butler came up with a nice steal and a coast-to coast-layup. After some good defensive play, the 3rd quarter ended with the Bulls up 71-63.
In the fourth, the game back very close as the Trailblazers kept inching their way back in. Gasol kept the team in front as he hit a fadeaway jumper as the shot clock expired to go up 80-76. Things got testy with Butler and Mason Plumlee getting in to a scuffle, and the heated argument landed Plumlee a flagrant foul and Butler a technical.
With time expiring in the game, the Bulls locked in on defense making Portland have to foul to stay in the game. Butler made two clutch free throws to keep the Bulls up by three. Joakim Noah ended the game with impressive defense on C.J. McCollum forcing him to take a tough shot that resulted in a miss. The Bulls managed to stay disciplined and ride out the lead throughout the game.
The important road win keeps the Bulls near the top of the Eastern Conference standings as they go on to host the Indiana Pacers next. Overall, not a perfect game but the Bulls showed resiliency and a commanding attitude as they secured the win.