The Chicago Bulls bounced back after a tough loss against the Golden State Warriors with a tight win over the Portland Trail Blazers. Chicago was able to hold off a late rally by Portland, including a clutch defensive effort by Joakim Noah on the last possession of the game where he played great defense on a last ditch three-point effort.
Even though he lost his starting spot to Nikola Mirotic at the beginning of the season, credit Noah for taking the benching the right way and continuing to be a high energy player and continuing to crash the boards for Chicago. But if there was something that still needs work, it's his offense. Noah's offensive game has been atrocious this season as he has been non existent on that side of the court as he has shown no confidence in his offensive game in anyway.
But the Bulls are moving on just fine without his offense. Jimmy Butler put up 22 points against Portland as he continues to show that he is the best player on this team right now. Pau Gasol had another double-double and Derrick Rose put up 17 points in his return back from injury.
Chicago will now look to take on the Indiana Pacers, who are right underneath the Bulls in the standings in the East. As the number three seed with a record with of 9-5, the Pacers have bounced back from a tough season last year. Indiana struggled without Paul George last year and the forwards return has given the Pacers new life. George is averaging 25.9 points per game, which is good for fourth in the NBA right now, and is returning back to the form that we saw before his horrific leg injury last year. He will likely be matched up against Jimmy Butler, making for a good matchup to watch as two of the best players in the NBA square off.
Chicago will still be out with Aaron Brooks as he is still recovering from a hamstring injury he suffered against the Phoenix Suns last week. Kirk Hinrich and E'Twaun Moore are still in line for more minutes as Brooks continues to recover. Mike Dunleavy is still out for the Bulls as he continues to recover from a back injury.
In an Eastern Conference where it looks like the Central Division is the strongest, this is a huge game. Chicago and Indiana are second and third respectively in the conference and the winner is going to be the second seed behind the Cleveland Cavaliers. Both Chicago and Indiana will have to keep pace with Cleveland as the season goes on and both are teams that can push the Cavs in the playoffs. This will be one of the primary matchups in the season so far.