The Bulls are so hurt right now that it's easier to draw attention to the players who aren't playing than the ones who actually are. Over the years, this has sadly become commonplace for Bulls fans.
Derrick Rose missed his third-straight game with hamstring tendonitis, which is disconcerting. In a selfish sense, Rose missing tonight's game sucked more than it usually does because I really wanted to watch Rose and Damian Lillard go tit for tat. Instead, we got a surprisingly compelling duel between E'Twaun Moore and Damian Lillard. Toss in a Pau Gasol triple-double and some exciting athleticism from Portland, and this game actually turned out to be fairly entertaining.
The Bulls simply had no answer for Lillard as he led all scorers with 31 points in Portland's 103-95 win. Lillard's clearly an elite scorer, which made Fred Hoiberg's decision to stick Tony Snell on him for the vast majority of the game all the more shocking. I'll just put it like this:
Damian Lillard, guarded by Tony Snell: 12-26, 31 points.
CJ McCollum, guarded by E'Twaun Moore: 1-12, 6 points.
Moore played a hell of a game, overcoming an 0-8 start to finish 9-22 with 22 points. It's apparent that he's a secondary ball handler, at best. But at the very least, Moore's play in Rose's absence has been admirable. If there's been any real positives during this stretch without both Rose and Butler, it's been Moore and Gasol. I mean, Gasol's effectively become the team's point guard over past three games as evidenced by his 26 assists -- including a career-high 14 tonight -- during this stretch.
It's just a sad state of affairs when a competitive, decently entertaining game is something we can applaud the Bulls for. It also puts us in a difficult positions as fans. Are we supposed to reserve judgement with so many key players out? Are we supposed to search for moral victories? Is Hoiberg absolved of criticism? I don't have the answers here, but I just question how much actual analysis can be brought to the table when every rebuttal seemingly becomes "Well, they're injured!"
But I'll try to remain positive: Doug McDermott keeps dunking and it's been pretty cool to see him figure out that he's 6-foot-8 and not 6-foot-2. In all seriousness, McDermott is playing with a newfound aggression. He doesn't seem phased by the consequences of playing poorly anymore, which can be a breakthrough moment in a young player's career.
Ultimately, Portland was just the deeper, more athletic team on this night. They serve as a model of team building that the Bulls could stand to replicate this summer. Guys like Ed Davis and Allen Crabbe are perfect role players. Mason Plumlee is a ball buster, in a good way. Noah Vonleh and Mo Harkless are just 20 and 22, respectively. A lot to like in this Portland team.
As for the Bulls, they hope to get healthy, which is almost always the case. Frankly, it's the same story you've read a million times before.