Watching the Bulls these days invokes feelings of “when will it end?!” every time they suit up and the final score goes in the other team’s favor. That's been commonplace of late and on Thursday, the Portland Trailblazers had no problem handing Chicago their sixth loss in the last eight games, winning 99-89 at the United Center.
While the Bulls are trying to hold on to the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference, the Blazers aren’t even in the Western Conference playoff conversation, which makes the loss increasingly painful for a team trying to build momentum heading into the postseason. And things don’t get any easier for Chicago as they host the second-seed Indiana Pacers at the United Center on Saturday night.
However, if anything good did come out of Thursday night’s game, it was the return of Kirk Hinrich and Taj Gibson to the lineup as both have missed a number of games due to injury.
In his first game back since spraining the MCL in his right knee, Taj Gibson (14 points, nine rebounds) played like he hadn’t missed any time at all, which is certainly a great sign. The reserve forward shot 50 percent from the field in the game. Joakim Noah (18 points, six rebounds, three assists) was solid offensively even though his rebound output was much lower than usual. Carlos Boozer (16 points, 11 rebounds) played well, as did Nate Robinson (eight points, nine rebounds) who didn’t shoot well (4-12 from the field) but did put down his second dunk of the season (first at the United Center), a vicious one-hand tomahawk jam straight down the middle of the lane. Jimmy Butler (12 points, four rebounds) also had a solid game, including being on the business end of some nice alley-oop passes. Chicago had a huge advantage scoring in the paint as they were +24 (54-30) against Portland, and on the break where they were +13 (22-9). Chicago also did a great job protecting the ball as they turned it over just eight times on the night. The Bulls dominated the bench scoring to the tune of 41-16.
After playing relatively well in the first quarter, the second and third quarters really killed the Bulls and that’s essentially where the game was lost. Portland outscored Chicago 32-16 and shot 58 percent from the field in the second quarter, and in the third, the Trailblazers outscored the Bulls 28-16 and shot 58 percent from the field. Chicago shot 41 percent and 28 percent in the third and fourth quarters, respectively.
The Bulls shot just 44 percent from the field in the game and were 4-14 from the three-point line (29 percent), and their trademark defense was nowhere to be found. Kirk Hinrich (two points, three assists) as he shot just 1-7 from the field and had a difficult time containing Portland’s fabulous rookie point guard, Damian Lillard (24 points, seven assists). Marco Belinelli (seven points, four rebounds) also struggled offensively, shooting just 3-10 from the field, as did Luol Deng (five points) who shot just 2-7 and was a non-factor in the contest.
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