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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Chicago Bulls Preview

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The Blazers continue their assault on the Eastern Conference basement with the Bulls in town.

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NBA: Chicago Bulls at Portland Trail Blazers Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (24-17) vs. Chicago Bulls (10-30)

January 9th, 2019 - 7:00 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Mo Harkless (out)
Bulls injuries: Denzel Valentine (out)
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW, NBA League Pass (outside of Portland)
How to stream: YouTube Live TV, Playstation Vue, Hulu Live TV, FuboTV, NBA League Pass (outside of Portland)
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: Blog A Bull

The Trail Blazers continue a merciful home stretch against the Chicago Bulls, with a chance to solidify a playoff hold in the Western Conference.

Portland downed the New York Knicks on Monday with a strong showing from the bench and the red-hot Jusuf Nurkic. Nurkic had 20 points on 7-of-9 shooting in a 111-101 win. Now they face a Bulls squad that they have not lost to since November 15, 2016.

The Bulls are playing for pride and a draft slot at the midway point of the season. They have lost their last four, and five of their last six. Their last game was on Sunday, where the visiting Brooklyn Nets handed them a 117-100 defeat. Zach LaVine continues to shine for the Bulls, but his 27 points were no match for a dominant second half by the Nets.

What to watch for

  • Trap fatigue. Portland is playing back-to-back games against teams well below .500. Despite their records, any NBA team is dangerous any given night. Chicago in particular is nearly full strength again after the return of Lauri Markkanen. If the Blazers take it easy, the Bulls could take advantage.
  • Where did the three go? Portland has slipped in three-point shooting from a year ago (36.6% to 35.4%), and it does not seem to be getting any better. Damian Lillard is 6-of-28 from three over his last four games, and CJ McCollum’s struggles from the arc are well documented. While the team does not live and die by the long ball like some other squads, Chicago’s size in the interior will make the three ball significantly more important.
  • Give some love to Sideshow Rob. Robin Lopez is back in the Rose City, presumably to mangle Blaze. As always it will be a joy to see one of the NBA’s most fun players on the Moda Center court.

What they’re saying

Mark Karantzoulis of Blog A Bull lamented Chicago’s lack of ranged shooting under new head coach Jim Boylen:

The loss against the Nets marked the seventh game this season with 20 or fewer attempts from distance — five of the seven games have come since Jim Boylen was named head coach. For context, only two teams in the league have more games with 20 or fewer attempts from three: the Indiana Pacers and San Antonio Spurs.

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune analyzed the continued connection between the Bulls and the Minnesota Timberwolves through star Zach LaVine:

Zach LaVine played for Tom Thibodeau and Fred Hoiberg, worked out with Ryan Saunders and has the utmost respect for the late Flip Saunders, who drafted LaVine and, in LaVine’s estimation, “might be a Hall of Fame coach one day.” So, yes, the Bulls and Timberwolves franchises continue to be intertwined, even after Monday quieted, at least for now, the Hoiberg-to-Minnesota rumors.

Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times questioned the toughness of the Bulls squad:

But collectively? Let’s just say this Bulls team comes up a bit soft in the toughness department. At least this group is self-aware enough to admit it.