Chicago Bulls (18-32) at Portland Trail Blazers (28-22)
9 p.m., CDT; NBC Sports Chicago
Lauri Markkanen will not play tonight because of a personal matter. If you are up on your Finnish gossip mags it could mean that Lauri is expecting a child.
A day after almost becoming a New Orleans Pelican, Nikola Mirotic has now been effectively shut down by the team. Weirdly, Paul Zipser is getting the start .
Point guard Kris Dunn didn’t travel with the Bulls to Portland, interestingly due to ‘being ill’ and perhaps not lingering concussion symptoms. But Dunn also hasn’t practiced since that concussion he sustained against the Golden State Warriors on Jan. 17. The Bulls are 1-4 since Dunn went out with that injury.
University of Illinois product Myers Leonard is questionable for the the Trail Blazers .
The Last Time:
No Damian Lillard, no problem. Without their star guard, the other star guard CJ McCollum poured in 32 points on New Years Day to will the Trail Blazers to a 124-120 overtime win over the Bulls.
Chicago blew a six-point lead with 2:30 left to play in regulation and succumbed to the Trail Blazers in overtime despite Dunn and Markkanen combining for 41 points on 16-for-32 from the field.
No Dunn, no Markkanen, no Mirotic, .... and still no Cameron Payne. Uh oh.
Plus, Damian Lillard is back. The thought of Jerian Grant and Ryan Arcidiacono trying to guard Lilliard in the absence of Dunn is sickening. It could be a long night for the Bulls, and because it’s a West Coast game we’ll need to lose sleep in order to watch it.
The Trail Blazers have taken advantage of a lull in their schedule to win six of their last seven games, and have vaulted all the way up to sixth in the Western Conference standings.
In that stretch of games, the Trail Blazers are second in the NBA with a 113.2 offensive rating and second in the NBA with a 8.1 net rating. Also in that stretch, Lillard and McCollum have averaged over 49 points between them.
The Trail Blazers have six players that have shot at or above league average (36.2 percent) from 3-point range while attempting at least one 3-point field goal per game. Portland is third in the NBA with a 38 percent 3-point field goal percentage, but is only 22nd in the NBA in 3-point attempts per game.
While the Blazers have played some of their best basketball of the season in the last two weeks, the Bulls have slumped. After looking like they could make a run at a playoff spot at the end of December, the Bulls are 5-9 in January and have now lost four games in a row. They suddenly find themselves firmly back in the tank race, with the seventh-worst record in the league but only 3.5 games outside of having the worst record in the league.
For the injury-depleted Bulls, it’s worth noting that Antonio Blakeney is in Portland. The LSU product has averaged 33.7 points per game in 22 games in the G League. Where does he fit on this team? Blakeney doesn’t project as a point guard because he doesn’t distribute, so there isn’t an obvious role for him. However, those G League numbers are head turning, and it will be cool to see him get an opportunity tonight.
The Bulls have historically been awful on West Coast trips (they are 1-8 this season in road games against Western Conference teams), and expect that record to only get worse for a team that will play without two of its better players tonight.