The Blazers stuck another feather in their ever-growing bonnet tonight, beating a good-defending and motivated Chicago Bulls squad. For Timmay's instant quarter-by-quarter recap CLICK HERE.
Portland continued a recent trend in this game, idling for a while, waiting until the engine was warm to hit the gas. Fortunately they didn't wait the entire first half this time, only the first period. Chicago got out to a 30-23 lead, getting any shots they wanted inside. The Blazers fell prey to attempt after attempt at the rim as the Bulls spread the floor and attacked with the quick pass to the bucket. Chicago scored 18 points in the paint in the first period.
The second period saw the Blazers put on a huge run fed by turnovers. They forced 7 from Chicago in the period, countering the Bulls' strength with their own to take a 51-43 lead into the break.
Normally you don't see dramatic halftime shifts from the Blazers unless they're behind but this game was an exception, as Terry Stotts and company worked their intermission magic. In the third period and throughout most of the second half the Blazers adopted a near-Chicago-style attack, spreading the floor and striking with quick cuts and passes to the rim. In theory this has been part of Portland's game plan all year but in practice they haven't executed it well. Apparently the Bulls showed them how it works and the Blazers proved eager pupils. Naturally Portland added in the three-point shot, a wrinkle that Chicago doesn't have in its offense. This, plus a few inidvidual heroics, proved all the edge the Blazers needed.
Two other matters of import: The Bulls played physically in this game and the refs seemed inclined to let the banging go. Not only were the Blazers not rattled, they responded in kind. That's a great sign. Second, Portland rebounded strong throughout the contest. As we said in the preview, the Bulls are no longer the best rebounding team in the league. Still, you expect them to put up a fight on the glass. They know how to do it. The Blazers gave as good as they got in this department as well.
LaMarcus Aldridge started the game outside as usual but most of his shots fell anyway. He mixed up his offense as the game progressed despite his early success. He finished 6-14, 6-8 from the line, with 18 points and 13 big rebounds. He also hit two game-icing free throws late. He all but acknowledged his previous poor performances in that department as he stepped to the line. He was laughing after he made the second.
The fortunes of Nicolas Batum paralleled those of the team tonight. He got beat defensively in that first period. His stroke was working but everything else looked weak. Then he turned it on in the second quarter and never turned it off. His passing in the third period was especially nice. Batum went 6-13 for the evening but that number almost didn't matter because 10 of those 13 shots came from beyond the arc, of which he hit 5. He was a perfect 4-4 at the foul line, had 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and 4 turnovers to accompany his 21 points.
Wesley Matthews tore up the fourth quarter of this game, looking like he was copying Batum's performance against Houston a couple nights back. His defense was spectacular and he was dropping shots like popcorn. He finished 9-15 with 21 points, tying Batum for game-high honors.
Kirk Hinrich made sure Damian Lillard knew he was in this game, keeping a body tight against Portland's rookie and throwing elbow jabs at ever opportunity. Lillard responded pretty well to the beating, not getting rattled and not dropping back. He shot 7-13 for the night, worth 16 points. He had but 3 assists but he also added 3 steals.
J.J. Hickson came out super-active in this game. Maybe he wanted to make up for not playing in the critical minutes of Friday's game by demonstrating his offensive prowess. He did pretty well early and shot 5-8 for the night totaling 10 points. He grabbed only 4 rebounds but he helped keep Chicago off the boards as well, clearing the way for Aldridge to shine.
Ronnie Price showed excellent aggressiveness off the bench tonight, playing 20 minutes, hitting 4-8 shots for 10 points, and dishing 5 assists. This was as confidently as we've seen Price play and he was a difference-maker.
Jared Jeffries didn't have the same statistical impact as Price but he did his usual charge-drawing routine, plus he seemed to love mixing it up with the Bulls. He had 4 rebounds, 4 fouls, and 2 turnovers to accompany his 4 points.
Meyers Leonard followed up his masterful night against Houston by drawing 4 fouls in 9 minutes and getting shoved around by the veteran Bulls front line. He zeroed out the boxscore in 9 minutes except for those fouls and a turnover. Welcome to being a rookie.
Will Barton got a first-half call off the bench and grabbed 3 rebounds in 9 minutes. He also went kamikaze on the offense, floating in an improbable fast-break shot and then freelancing his way through the halfcourt sets. That got him pulled in a mid-possession timeout.
Sasha Pavlovic got the second half wing call and had a couple of steals in 6 minutes of play.
This is a nice little winning streak the Blazers have going. 5-5 is not a bad start for the season. They have an extra day before they play Phoenix on the road. Let's see if they can translate their grit and lessons learned into a road win.
The BOXSCORE for this game.
Blog a Bull will rue not having Aldridge yet again. Also Asik and a couple other guys.
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