Coming off their loss to the-team-from-Houston-that-shall-not-be-named on Thursday, the Blazers began a six-game road trip tonight against the Chicago Bulls who were without two of their leading scorers, Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose.
Portland's starters struggled all game, with the exception of Damian Lillard, but the bench came up huge to lead the Blazers to a win over the Chicago Bulls, 103-95.
The Blazers were led by Damian Lillard with 31 points and the second unit with 43 points. The Chicago Bulls were led by a triple-double from Pau Gasol with 22 points, 16 rebounds and 14 assists.
Somebody watched some game tape the other night as the Bulls hounded the Blazers early, making Portland look a lot like the team that ended Thursday's game, missing field goals and turning the ball over like it was charity night in Chicago. Thank goodness for Lillard, who was the only Blazer to hit a field goal in the first 8 minutes before Mason Plumlee finally got in on the act. Lillard scored 11 of Portland's first 12 points and 15 of their 21 first quarter points. Given the large room for improvement the Blazers possessed from there on out, ending the quarter in a tie was a positive.
End of First: Portland 21, Chicago 21
Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg seemed to dare anyone on the Blazers but Lillard to score and Portland responded, getting back to the free-flowing, shared offense we are accustomed to seeing with five different Blazers contributing right away to begin the quarter. The Blazers also amped up their defense, which included an Ed Davis steal off an in-bounds play to push Portland ahead by 11. It didn't hurt that Chicago got 3-point-happy for a spell even though they couldn't hit any. The Blazers' bench should be given all the credit this quarter, infusing energy, defense, and points into the game for a team that sorely needed a shot in the arm. Led by an 11-2 advantage in fastbreak points, Portland took a double-digit lead to the half.
Halftime: Portland 51, Chicago 41
The Blazers tried to keep up the tempo in order to tire the Bulls who played just the other night, but the Bulls are a veteran team and things aren't that easy. Portland's starters were not the trainwreck they were in the first quarter and kept Portland's lead around 10 most of the quarter until about the 5 minute mark, when Chicago begin to chip away. Chicago's E'Twaun Moore exploited the Blazers' guard defense, carving them up for 15 points in the quarter while Pau Gasol turned into an assist machine. Of course, the real test was about to begin, as the Blazers entered the fourth quarter trying to exorcise previously released ghosts of early season's past. The Blazers also put an APB out for CJ McCollum who was 1-for-12 from the floor.
End of Third: Portland 79, Chicago 73
Portland's bench once again seemed to right a teetering ship, led this time by Gerald Henderson and Meyers Leonard, upping the lead back to 11 early. From there it was a seesaw of hot and cold runs by both teams. Ed Davis may have had the block of the game with just over two minutes to go, stifling a sure two points by the Bulls that would have cut the lead to four. The Blazers were able to hold off the Bulls in the final minute and get a crucial opening win to a long road trip.
The Blazers travel south to play the Indiana Pacers tomorrow at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, hoping to win the coveted Best Performance by an NBA Team award. Tip off is at 3 pm. Stay tuned to Blazer's Edge tonight, for extended analysis of this game from Dave Deckard.