The Bulls began a difficult five-game West Coast road trip out in Portland on Wednesday night, and while they hung around for three quarters, the game turned into a laugher for most of the final frame in a 124-112 loss.
There was no road dog mentality in this one, as the Blazers roasted a porous Bulls defense from the opening tip. Portland shot 56.6 percent overall and 11-of-26 on 3-pointers, and this was despite Damian Lillard having a quiet scoring night with 16 points on 4-of-12 shooting. Lillard racked up 10 assists, though, as the Blazers got basically wherever they wanted on the floor, whether it was pick-and-rolls or isolations. Portland suffered from some sloppiness (16 turnovers), but that was the only thing that stopped them on this night. CJ McCollum led the Blazers with 24 points on 10-of-14 shooting.
The Bulls did well to keep up for a good chunk of the game. Zach LaVine, Wendell Carter Jr. and Kris Dunn combined for 25 points on 11-of-17 shooting in the first quarter, and Chicago only trailed by one point after the opening frame, with six turnovers combined from LaVine and Dunn the only real offensive blemish as they looked to push pace and get into their offense much quicker.
But in what was another theme of the night, the Blazers’ bench created separation in the second quarter against a ghastly Bulls bench unit. With Jabari Parker banished out of the rotation yet again, Jim Boylen is rolling with bench units featuring all three of Ryan Arcidiacono, Antonio Blakeney and Shaquille Harrison. Blakeney had his moments scoring the ball in this one (12 points), but those groups predictably struggled against a terrific Blazers reserve group.
Right when it looked like the Blazers may open up a big lead going into halftime, they sputtered to close out the half and the Bulls reeled them in to make it a five-point game. The third quarter featured a lot of layups, a lot of fouls and no defense, and the Bulls trailed by just five points near the end of the frame thanks to a scorching hot stretch by Bobby Portis (13 of his 15 points in the third quarter). However, Zach Collins came up with two huge offensive rebounds to close the quarter, leading to five points and a 10-point Blazers advantage.
The Blazers kept scoring to open the fourth quarter, and soon enough it was a 19-point game as the Bulls just couldn’t keep up. Collins (16/9/4) and Seth Curry (17 points on 7-of-11 shooting) did much of the damage to put the game away as part of a 56-point bench showing.
Meanwhile, LaVine really tailed off, missing his final nine shots to finish with 18 points on 6-of-19 shooting. LaVine got noticeably frustrated on drives to the basket with not many calls, and he started forcing things into traffic and getting himself into trouble.
Carter led the Bulls with 22 points on 7-of-9 shooting, showing off his nice stroke by going 7-of-7 from the charity stripe and even making a corner 3-pointer, his first made triple in over two months.
That corner 3 was off a nice drive-and-kick from Lauri Markkanen, which was unfortunately one of his few offensive highlights of the night. The Blazers did well to make Markkanen uncomfortable and deny him open looks, as the big man finished with just 10 points on 4-of-12 shooting. He missed all three of his 3-pointer attempts badly, marking the first game all season without a 3-point make. He did have three blocks.
Dunn wound up with a solid line of 15 points, seven assists, five rebounds and two steals, but he failed to get to the line again. The point guard actually got up two early-clock 3-pointers in the first quarter and made one of them, but he didn’t take another triple all night. Baby steps.