Long Story Short: In a thrilling game featuring a little bit of everything--star performances, running, passing, offensive rebounding, improbable shots, and near misses--the Blazers ride Chicago turnovers and rebounding woes, plus the hot hand of LaMarcus Aldridge, until the well runs dry and they fall in overtime.
This game started in fine fashion for the Bulls. Portland's defensive philosophy was simple: collapse down on Derrick Rose, preventing him from scoring in the lane, daring anyone else to produce. Chicago obliged the Blazers by letting their non-Rose players shoot away. In the first quarter they connected from mid-range just fine to the tune of 31 points. Portland, meanwhile, attacked with the pass, spreading the ball around during the early part of the quarter with mixed results. They were kept alive by a couple of foul-drawing drives and LaMarcus Aldridge developing rhythm late but only managed 22 points. As predicted, most of their shots were contested. They had to find a way to beat the defense.
In the middle two periods the Bulls showed them the way...or rather they gift-wrapped it. Portland started getting busy on defense, trapping, diving, waving arms in the passing lane, trying to force turnovers. The Bulls began coughing up the ball like grandma's rancid phlegm. Turnover after turnover allowed the Blazers to run out against zero or one defender rather than five. All of a sudden Portland was pushing 30 points per quarter as well. The open court game suited Jerryd Bayless just fine. (There are few prettier sights on the floor right now than Bayless on the way to the cup. You know that's some good stuff.) Aldridge also ran. When they weren't on the move Portland rode LMA some more plus they garnered a few offensive rebounds and free throws. All of these extra points pushed them over the Bulls in the second period. Chicago continued to allow Portland to bait them into non-Rose shots in that quarter, when they got a shot at all that is. The Blazers were within 1 at the half.
The third period featured more Chicago mistakes, more Blazer run-outs, more free throws, more rebounds, and more torrid LaMarcus Aldridge scoring on Portland's side. The Blazers ran the pick and pop for LMA so much they wore a groove in the floor. But it worked. It looked like they could run away with the momentum. Except the Bulls decided enough was enough on the other end of the court and, when they could get a shot, they went with Rose. This continued throughout the entire half. To the astonishment of absolutely nobody who has watched the Blazers over the last decade, Portland was unable to come up with a defensive solution to a talented, motivated, streaking guard. When Portland switched on screens Rose buried the jumper on the slower defender. Ditto when they went under the screen. When Chicago didn't bother with the pick Rose simply took whatever defender was handy off the dribble. The third period ended in a 28-all tie and Portland remained down by 1.
Chicago took care of the ball and the boards in the fourth period which made Portland work for their shots. The LaMarcus geyser went dry but Miller and Roy opened up smaller fountains and kept the scoring going, if not at its earlier pace. Unable to run Portland settled for halfcourt jumpers but also, in a streak of fortunate timing, hit them. Rose entered the period still on fire but the Blazers, now realizing their fate should he continue to burn, called for a five-alarm response every time he touched it. They threw any available defender at him. Even he had trouble finding the hoop or a shot after that but the secondary cost was a lack of attention on Chicago's other star, Luol Deng. Still recovering from injury, Deng looked a little slow for most of the game. That didn't stop him from hitting the open jumpers that Rose's new defenders left him. And so the period went, back and forth, different players from each team stepping up and draining shots, mostly from the perimeter. The Blazers kept rotating defenders on Rose late, sending in Bayless, Fernandez, and Batum to bother him. That didn't stop him from making a layup with 2:00 left to put Chicago up 3. Roy converted a treacherous layup, the Bulls hit a free throw, then Roy hit a short jumper with 16 seconds left to tie the game at 103. The Bulls had the last possession and you'll never guess who got it. Fortunately Portland finally found a guy who could shadow and bother D-Rose, at least for one play. LaMarcus Aldridge switched off on him, followed him down the lane, and forced him to put up the winning layup a shade high. It bounced around the cylinder and rolled off. We were off to overtime.
The overtime started off with Luol Deng roasting Portland's coffee beans even more. Joakim Noah also got perky on defense and cleaning the glass. He brought an energy and enthusiasm to the non-scoring parts of the game that neither team had yet mustered. Portland, meanwhile, followed up four points by Roy with a bevy of improbable jump shots, leading the educated observer to go, "AAAARRRRRGGGGHHHHH!!!" Chicago opened up a 5-point lead. Then Chicago started turning over the ball again and Portland scored twice, once on an Aldridge dunk and once on an Aldridge tip off of a Roy missed free throw. All of a sudden it's a 1-point game with 21 seconds left. The Blazers foul Deng and he hits only 1. Blazers down 2 with 20 seconds left. Brandon Roy gets the ball, dribbles out by the three-point arc, diagonal to the right, creates some separation, and lofts the game-winner with a little over 4 seconds left. Except the ball clangs off and rebounds to Flip Murray. Rudy Fernandez streaks by but can't foul Flip, instead waving futilely at the ball in Flip's hands. Luol Deng streaks out followed belatedly by Brandon Roy. Flip flips Deng the ball, Roy's pursuit falls short, Deng lays it in, and that's the ballgame. 115-111 Bulls.
The Blazers played plenty well enough to win this game. They got 50 points in the paint to Chicago's 38, many of those coming off of breaks caused by Chicago's 21 turnovers for 26 Portland points. Portland shot 51.2% as well. They kept the free throws pretty even and didn't fall in love with the three. But Portland lost because Rose and Deng led the Bulls to 57.5% shooting and Noah helped them dominate the boards after their early work had been slipshod. Without Chicago's mistakes the Blazers couldn't find enough ways to foil the defense and so they lost...barely.
What a heck of an offensive night for LaMarcus Aldridge. The guy is feeling it right now. He collected 32 points on 15-23 shooting. The Bulls couldn't stop the jumper, face-up or turn-around. He added 7 boards and played a little bit of good help defense.
Roy shot 8-19 for 23 points with 6 assists. He couldn't handle the Bulls on the defensive end, often getting matched up against Deng, sometimes against Rose. He did get to the foul line himself 8 times, making 6 but missing two critical ones in a row late. The latter one was tipped by Aldridge so the Blazers got the 2 anyway.
Andre Miller played 42 minutes, hit some nice jumpers, missed a couple other ghastly ones late, posted up, drove the lane a little, dished 7 assists, got burned on defense by Rose just like everybody else, and finished with 14 points.
Marcus Camby gave Portland a nice 42 minutes as well with 11 rebounds, 3 blocks, 3 assists, 3 steals, and 9 points. In fact other than his 6 defensive rebounds and 6 shot attempts he utterly refused to have any stat in his line that wasn't a prime number. Unfortunately his teammates still aren't used to rotating over to help him with his initial man when he tries for an opportunity play. Hopefully they'll learn that it's not polite to leave him exposed when he's helping others.
Nicolas Batum started and did alright with 8 points and 2 rebounds in 24 minutes. He helped seal the middle against Rose early but couldn't contain him late.
Despite registered only 3 shots, 3 points, a rebound, and a steal in 21 minutes I though Rudy did fairly well in this game, particularly early on. Like Roy, he took a few turns watching Deng on the defensive end and didn't get entirely overmatched. He also set up the offense a little and looked credible. It was like he was stretching his wings at other positions. He wasn't a decisive factor but he didn't screw up.
Jerryd Bayless played 22 minutes and hit 5-8 shots, many of them layups, also drawing 6 foul shots and hitting 5 for a total of 15 points. Putting a turnover and open floor in front of Jerryd is like putting a corn dog and Mountain Dew can in front of a blogger.
Juwan Howard had a rough 14 minutes, hitting only 1-4 and turning the ball over twice. Martell Webster didn't have a chance to have a rough anything, collecting 2 fouls in 5 minutes, the price of Fernandez and Bayless playing. Dante Cunningham scored 3 in 5 minutes.
As we said pre-game, this loss is certainly the most acceptable potential defeat on the trip. The opponent was good, the black mark was non-conference. As long as Portland wins tomorrow they're set up nicely for an important game in Memphis.
Check out the Rose festival over at BlogaBull.