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Portland Trail Blazers at Chicago Bulls Preview

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After the devastating injury to their big man in the middle, the Trail Blazers try to regroup in Chicago.

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NBA: Chicago Bulls at Portland Trail Blazers Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (46-27) at Chicago Bulls (21-53)

March 27, 2019 - 5:00 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: CJ McCollum (out), Jusuf Nurkic (out)
Bulls injuries: Denzel Valentine (out), Wendell Carter Jr. (out), Chandler Hutchison (out), Kris Dunn (game-time decision), Zach LaVine (game-time decision), Otto Porter Jr. (game-time decision)
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

On Monday, the Portland Trail Blazers suffered a world-class gut punch when center Jusuf Nurkic went down for the rest of the season. On Wednesday, the Trail Blazers will have to regroup without their Bosnian Beast. Portland’s 148-144 double overtime victory over the Brooklyn Nets was about as hollow as it gets.

For the Chicago Bulls, it’s a race to the bottom of the Central Division. They have lost seven of their last ten games, including a 114-83 shellacking at the hands of the Utah Jazz last Saturday. Lauri Markkanen had 18 points for the Bulls, who were undeniably short-handed.

What to watch for

  • The elephant in the room. The biggest question will be who steps in at center for the Blazers. Enes Kanter seems the logical choice, but his questionable skills on defense could leave a lot of holes. Zach Collins brings an edge defensively, but his offensive output leaves much to be desired. Meyers Leonard sort of splits the difference. There is obviously no replacing Nurkic, but Portland will have to figure something out.
  • Abuse the second unit. Speaking of injuries, the Bulls are a walking intensive care unit at this point in the season. They only suited up ten healthy players against Utah, and may go as low as nine versus the Blazers. Their second unit is a cobbled together hodge podge of players. Portland can definitely find an advantage there.
  • Don’t panic. It’s easy to join the chorus of writers calling the Trail Blazers’ season dead in the water. But the Blazers still have Damian Lillard, and the team has come together well this season. Don’t ever count a Lillard-led team out.

What they’re saying

Mark Karantzoulis of Blog A Bull writes that the Bulls are finally starting to trust coach Jim Boylen:

LaVine learning to trust in Boylen was as unlikely as the recent upswing the offense has taken since February. Much has been made about a decrepit offense vaulting from the league-worst troughs of shit it once resided in, to finishing February as a top-five ranked offense.

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune talks about forward Lauri Markkanen and his adjustment in his second season:

Overall, Markkanen is averaging 18.9 points, up 3.7 points from last season, and 9 rebounds, 1.5 more than last season. His shooting percentages of 43.3 percent and 36.2 percent from 3-point range are identical to last season. “I think you make a big jump in your second year in anything. You got that experience. You know what it’s all about now,” Boylen said. “He’s a worker. He cares. He’ll take what he has learned from this year and add to this game.”