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Blazers Win One For Nurkic

Portland easily defeats the dreadful Chicago Bulls 118-98, behind a group effort.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Chicago Bulls Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Playing their first game since the devastating season-ending injury to Jusuf Nurkic, the Portland Trail Blazers used an inspired effort to beat an extremely short-handed Chicago Bulls team by a final score of 118-98. In the process, Portland picked up it’s fifth straight victory, also having won eight of their last nine games. Seth Curry led the charge, scoring 20 points off the Blazers bench, while Shaquille Harrison scored 21 for the Bulls.

After a lethargic start, the Blazers got things rolling towards the end of the first quarter, and the team turned up the heat from there—jumping out to a double-digit lead that they never relinquished. The Bulls stumbled out of the gate—going just 6-25 in the first quarter—and were never able to get any kind of rhythm going.

Missing Players

Portland, in addition to playing without Nurkic, also played their fourth consecutive game without CJ McCollum, who did not make the road trip. The Bulls, however, were even more shorthanded than that. In fact, they had almost as many injured players as they did active participants in this one—playing without pretty much all of their key pieces.

Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and Otto Porter Jr. all sat out the contest, among others. Outside of Robin Lopez, the Bulls’ starting lineup looked interchangeable with your average G League lineup—and it showed during the game.

Group Effort

While clearly playing an inferior opponent, you have to like the fact that so many Blazers stepped up their game on the offensive end. In fact, all 13 players that suited up made at least one field goal on the night, and six players scored in double-figures. Additionally, Portland racked up an impressive 30 assists on 43 made field goals, with Damian Lillard dishing out seven dimes and Evan Turner recording eight of his own. Enes Kanter was the go-to guy early on, and scored 13 points on 6-8 shooting, in addition to six rebounds. Curry was locked-in through-out the night, going 8-11 from the field and 5-7 from distance.

Perhaps most encouraging, however, was the scoring of Rodney Hood and Zach Collins—as both players figure to play huge roles down the stretch and into the playoffs. Hood, who has been very streaky during his time in Portland, scored 15 points on 6-10 shooting for the night. Collins, who’s defensive exploits are well documented, looked good on both ends of the court on Wednesday. He knocked down a couple of threes, scored 13 points, and pulled off this impressive sequence early in the second quarter:

The Other Guys

Lillard kept his double-digit scoring streak alive (barely) with 11 points, but was clearly looking to get his teammates involved more than look for his own shot.

Al-Farouq Aminu had a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds on an efficient 5-7 shooting in 23 minutes.

Maurice Harkless had an off-night shooting, going 1-8 from the field.

Jake Layman scored eight points on 2-3 shooting, and also had two steals.

While Meyers Leonard struggled to connect (going 0-3), the fact that he didn’t look especially hesitant to shoot despite not playing for the better part of two months is certainly an encouraging sign. He played 18 minutes off the bench.

Anfernee Simons scored a career-high nine points on 4-5 shooting, registering six minutes of action.

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The Blazers continue their road trip on Friday night against the Atlanta Hawks.