Chicago Bulls (6-4) at Portland Trail Blazers (7-4)
Nov. 15, 2016, 7:00 PST
Watch: CSN NW, NBA TV; Listen: Rip City Radio 620 AM
Blazers injuries: Festus Ezeli (out), Al-Farouq Aminu (out)
Bulls injuries: Michael Carter-Williams (out), Doug McDermott (out)
SBN Affiliate: Blog a Bull
The Trail Blazers host the Bulls tonight in the Moda Center. Both teams are rested, and playing winning basketball to start the year. This will be Chicago’s first game of a six-game road trip, while Portland is capping off its three-game home stint before embarking on a five-game excursion.
Blazers coach Terry Stotts ignited a fire in the locker room after Portland’s lackluster first half against Denver. That speech led to the Blazers’ most inspired half of basketball so far in the young season, which helped propel them to their fifth win in six games. They will look to carry that momentum into tonight’s game against a worthy Eastern Conference opponent. The Bulls have quickly integrated the new pieces they added over the offseason, as they’ve been victorious in three out of their last four games.
Meyers Leonard will likely make his third consecutive start, as Al-Farouq Aminu is still missing from the lineup. He has performed adequately since joining the starting rotation. Leonard has reached double-digit points in his last two games, but he could face an uphill climb against a stingy Chicago defense.
Along with their defense, the Bulls will look to the wings for an edge over the Trail Blazers. Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler have played well in tandem to open the season. Wade is performing well above his career 3-point percentage, proving you can teach a 34-year-old new tricks. He has cooled off in his recent outings though, going 0-for-6 in his last two games from beyond the arc.
Chicago’s wing duo is capable of hurting opposing teams in multiple ways, but they are most effective when they are able to get to the free throw line. The Bulls currently rank No. 2 overall in team free throw percentage, and Butler is getting to the line frequently to start the 2016-17 campaign.
In a reoccurring theme from last game, the Trail Blazers won’t be receiving any breaks when it comes to rebounding. Despite beating the Nuggets, Portland lost the rebounding margin 59-44. They countered this deficit by limiting their own turnovers and capitalizing on Denver’s carelessness with the ball. Chicago is ranked No. 2 in rebounding, only behind Denver, and they are far more judicious with their possessions.
Limiting turnovers will be crucial for a Trail Blazers team that will likely come out on the wrong end of the rebounding battle. Evan Turner will look to follow up his five-assist and zero-turnover game on Sunday with another solid showing tonight. Portland’s bench is a work in progress, but limiting mistakes is the first hurdle to get past.
Portland’s reserves should do more than just manage the game while Damian Lillard is resting. Chicago’s bench will be without one of its top producers, as Doug McDermott is out due to the NBA’s concussion protocol. The Trail Blazers should be able to outscore a Bulls second unit that lacks reliable firepower.
Given the close nature of the games so far this season, a tight result in tonight’s contest shouldn’t come as no surprise. The Bulls haven’t played since Saturday, so they will be hungry to start their road trip on a positive note. If the Trail Blazers can start the game with the same intensity that they had in the second half against the Nuggets, they should make it a tough night for Chicago.
Blazer’s Edge Night 2017
Want to assist us in sending 2,000+ underprivileged Portland-area kids to a Trail Blazers game this spring? Check out Blazer’s Edge Night 2017 for information on how to get involved, and help spread the word!