Portland Trail Blazers (11-10) at Chicago Bulls (11-8)
Dec. 5, 2016, 5:00 PST
Watch: CSN NW; Listen: Rip City Radio 620 AM
Blazers injuries: Festus Ezeli (out)
Bulls injuries: Michael Carter-Williams (out), Doug McDermott (out)
SBN Affiliate: Blog a Bull
UPDATE (8:48 am): ESPN’s Marc Spears has indicated on Twitter that Bulls Starting Point Guard Rajon Rondo has been suspended from tonight’s game.
The Bulls say guard Rajon Rondo has been suspended by the Bulls for one game, tonight versus Portland, for conduct detrimental to the team.— Marc J. Spears (@MarcJSpearsESPN) December 5, 2016
Rondo will be replaced by Jerian Grant, which may not be a good thing for the Blazers:
Rondo didn't play in the first game against Portland and Jerian Grant had 18 points and 5 steals as the starting PG— Mike Richman (@mikegrich) December 5, 2016
After defeating the Miami Heat in a low-scoring game (by their standards), the Portland Trail Blazers kick off a five-game road trip in Chicago with a rematch against the Chicago Bulls.
In case you’ve forgotten, the Bulls gored the Blazers on Nov. 15 by 25 points in a game that saw Chicago dominate from the opening tip. This was one of the first games of the season that pointed to a Portland defense that wasn’t merely poor, but terrible.
After struggling to get right defensively over the next two weeks, the Blazers have focused on turning the corner defensively, allowing just a hair over 100 points per game over their last two contests. This may not be notable for a lot of teams, but for Portland, this is progress.
After a hot start, the Bulls have had some troubles of their own, losing four of their last seven after seeing their hot shooting from the 3-point line evaporate as the season rolls along. Missing key reserves Doug McDermott to a concussion and Nikola Mirotic to simply poor play has also put a damper on the Bulls’ output.
However, Chicago still features Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade, and Rajon Rondo. Butler, a nominee for November Eastern Conference Player of the Month, is having a stellar year, putting up more than 25 points, six rebounds, and four assists while getting to the line 10 times a night. Wade is averaging 19 points per game, and Rondo is putting up eight points, seven rebounds, and seven assists.
Former Blazer Robin Lopez and Taj Gibson fill out Chicago’s starting lineup, where they form a solid, if unspectacular front line. Lopez plays his typical solid defense while chipping in 10 points and seven boards a night. Gibson tosses in 12 points and eight rebounds of his own.
Chicago hardly shoots the 3-ball and prefers to have Butler and Wade create on the wings and get to the foul line while occasionally tossing it in to Gibson and Lopez. Rondo will occasionally finish at the rim, but generally prefers to pass out of penetration. He is one of the worst shooting point guards from the perimeter and can be sagged off of, so look for Lillard to continue going underneath every screen that the Bulls set for Rondo.
Tonight’s game will be most notable for marking the probable return of Al-Farouq Aminu, who missed 13 games with a calf injury. Based on the way Butler torched the Blazers in their last match up, Aminu could draw the assignment this game, with Mo Harkless switched on to Gibson.
The Trail Blazers will be eager to not only redeem themselves following the aforementioned beatdown at the hands of the Bulls last month, but will be eager to start their road trip off on the right foot, too. After going a combined 13-for-37 from the floor the last time these two teams met, look for Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum to try getting themselves going early against Chicago’s backcourt. Wade is still a respectable defender in the pick-and-roll, but age is starting to catch up with him. Rondo still has all the tools that made him an elite defender with the Celtics, but only seems to put in the effort when he feels like it.
After winning two straight at home against dinged-up opponents, the Blazers have a chance to beat a solid team on the road tonight. Chicago doesn’t give in lightly, but with their current level of up-and-down play, Portland stands a chance to steal one as long as their defensive execution remains palatable.
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!