The Portland Trail Blazers ended their week the same way it started, facing off against the Chicago Bulls and coming away with a victory. The 107-103 final score gave the Blazers their first three-game winning streak of the season. Four of the five starters scored in double figures — led by Damian Lillard’s 28 and Carmelo Anthony’s 23 — and Hassan Whiteside had a franchise-record 10 blocks along with eight points and 15 rebounds. Zach LaVine led Chicago with 28 points.
The Blazers started slow, falling behind 11-4 on only 2-of-10 shooting to start the game, prompting a Terry Stotts’ timeout. They came out of the timeout energized, scoring on five straight possessions, resulting in a 10-3 run for Portland. Whiteside had a stellar first quarter, blocking four shots and grabbing six boards along with a floater in the key. The energy burst wasn’t quite enough to close the gap, with the Bulls making half their shots and shooting 4-of-7 from three, with Zach LaVine leading the way with eight points. CJ McCollum drew the foul on the 3-point attempt and made the free throws to make it 28-25 Bulls at the end of the first.
McCollum came out hot to start the second quarter, scoring on a quick three and a trademark pull-up jumper from 19 feet to quickly take the lead. That was about all the offense we saw in early minutes of the second, with both teams struggling from the field in the quarter. Chicago at around the 3:30 mark was shooting just 12% from the field. Whiteside came back in and immediately made his impact felt. He was active on the defensive end, recovering from a bad turnover on an inbound by blocking Wendell Carter Jr. on the drive and then again a few seconds later, scoring the bucket with a foul on the other end after the second block. Portland held the Bulls to 19 points in the quarter — most of those coming in the final four minutes — and took the lead going into the half 53-47. Whiteside stood out along with Carmelo Anthony, who had 10 points and seven rebounds.
The Bulls got off to a much better start in the third quarter, with threes from Tomas Satoransky and Lauri Markkanen keeping it within three. The Blazers answered with a 12-1 run, extending their lead to double digits for the first time of the game at 72-60 halfway through the third. Lillard, McCollum, and Rodney Hood combined for 21 of the teams 28 third-quarter points to keep Portland in the lead. But the Bulls never went away. They put together a solid quarter offensively, putting up 31 points and keeping the Blazers uncomfortable. They closed the gap to three points, with Portland leading 81-78 going into the final quarter.
It was back and forth to start the fourth. The two teams traded buckets the first four minutes until another block from Whiteside led to a three for Melo, swinging the momentum in Portland’s favor and giving them a 91-84 lead with 7:26 left in the game. But the Bulls stayed pesky, slowly chipping away at their lead by attacking the paint. The seven-point lead was the largest the Blazers enjoyed in the quarter. But Lillard did what Lillard does, scoring 10 points in the fourth. Anthony also added nine in the quarter while Whiteside defended the rim despite dealing with foul trouble late. Whiteside also had the key putback to give the Blazers a four point lead with eight seconds left, sealing the 107-103 victory for Portland.
Whiteside’s big night
Someone stole Hassan Whiteside’s trashcans on Thursday, and it looks like he took out his frustration with that on the Bulls. Despite the struggles offensively, Whiteside was a monster on defense. He deterred anyone and everyone who tried to attack the rim. He had six blocks in the first half alone and broke the club record with ten blocks tonight. He wasn’t perfect; he got into foul trouble and struggled shooting from the field overall. But his effort on defense was much needed for the Blazers in such a scrappy game.
Melo plays well again
The Carmelo Anthony experiment has been a positive one so far. After a rocky start in his first game against New Orleans, he’s stepped up to provide some much-needed scoring at the forward position. After scoring 25 against Chicago on Monday and 19 against Oklahoma City on Wednesday, he put together a 23-point effort along with 11 boards. It’s not just his scoring that’s helping; he’s grabbing boards with his signature profanity and making the extra pass, such as at the 2:54 mark in the second quarter with a pass to Rodney Hood in the corner for the three. He tied for the highest +/- out of all the starters with McCollum (+10), put up a double-double, and made some big shots in the fourth quarter. Anthony just looks like he’s having fun playing basketball again, and his play in games like this one has been instrumental in keeping the Blazers alive.
Starters came to play
The Blazers did not have a lot of support from their bench, getting only nine points from the pine. It would have been more of a problem if the starters hadn’t performed so well. Anthony, Lillard, and McCollum all finished with more than 20 points, with Hood right behind them with 19. Whiteside couldn’t score but set a single-game record for blocks by a Blazer while adding 15 rebounds. A trend that began against Chicago earlier this week culminated in another win against Chicago, with the starters seemingly finding their rhythm with one another.
The Blazers travel to the Staples Center in Los Angeles to take on (Maybe) Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and the rest of the Clippers on Tuesday.