Portland Trail Blazers (9-8) vs. Chicago Bulls (7-10)
The Blazers play their second of a six game road trip, this time against the Bulls in Chicago at the United Center. The Blazers will be looking to snap a two game skid after losing to the Thunder and the Rockets in their last two games. The Bulls are coming off of an extended break after a game against the Grizzlies was postponed.
Saturday, January 30 - 5:00 p.m. PT
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW, League Pass, or see games all season on fuboTV, follow on ESPN+, or the ESPN/Disney Bundle*
Blazers injuries: Zach Collins (out), Jusuf Nurkic (out), CJ McCollum (out), Derrick Jones Jr. (out)
Bulls injuries: Wendell Carter Jr. (out), Adam Mokoka (out)
SBN Affiliate: Blog a Bull
*Blazer’s Edge receives a commission when you subscribe through these links.
What To Watch For
- Damian Lillard. So far this year Damian Lillard has averaged 32.5 points and 8.3 assists without CJ McCollum in the lineup. Lillard’s continued dominance seems necessary for the Blazers to be able to keep up with the West’s elite in the playoff race. Lillard has cemented himself as a top ten player and scorer in the league over the last two seasons, and the Blazers need him to continue to be that level of player if they want to survive the duration of McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic’s injuries.
- Secondary Guard Scoring. Both the Trail Blazers and the Bulls have an elite level scoring guard in Lillard and Zach LaVine, but both teams have secondary guard play that is somewhat inconsistent. The Blazers’ Gary Trent Jr. and Anfernee Simons both have the ability to have big scoring nights but have also under performed in some games as well. The Blazers have been relying on other guys to step up during the absence of many starters over the last couple of weeks. For the Bulls, Coby White has the potential to score at a high level. So far this year, White has been averaging 15.4 points per game with four games with 20+ points, including a 36 point game. All three of Trent Jr., Simons, and White have the potential to swing the game in their teams’ favor with their scoring.
- Three Point Shooting. The Trail Blazers have relied on the three point shot heavily this season, currently sitting second in three pointers attempted per game at 42.4. The difference between games the Blazers win and lose can be seen in their three point percentage, as Portland shoots 40.2% from three compared to 34.2% from three in losses. The Blazers are missing their highest volume three point scorer this year with McCollum’s absence, but they have continued to rely on the three, and how well they shoot it could swing the game to or against them.
What Others Are Saying
Doug Thonus of Blog A Bull talks about Markkanen’s fit at one of the two big men positions, questioning which position benifits the team more.
Lauri Markkanen now doesn’t really fit the mold of the power forward position. Players such as Otto Porter, traditionally a small forward, now often play up at power forward as lineups continue to shrink. As teams make this shift more frequently, the penalty for lack of size shrinks and the penalty for lack of speed grows. To the point where the terms ‘small’ forward and ‘power’ forward are trending towards obsolescence as teams are viewing those positions as largely interchangeable.
Markkanen lacks the defensive versatility to defend multiple positions, effectively switch, or play strong help defense. On offense, his shooting is no longer a huge strength relative to playing a big wing in that position, and he also lacks the ball handling and passing skills more common in those configurations.
Andrew Miller of Pippen Ain’t Easy commented on the Bulls’ addition of guard Tomas Satoransky this off season, and how Satoransky’s improvements have helped the Bulls.
What’s most improved about Sato’s game this season compared to last (outside of the shooting percentage from downtown) are his defensive stats. Sato is one of the Bulls team leaders so far this season in defensive box plus/minus rating, currently sitting at 1.1. His defensive rating is also one of the four best on the team at this point in time.
He’s also sitting with career bests in both steal percentage (2.8) and block percentage (0.8).
Elias Schuster of Bleacher Nation talks about the improvement Zach Lavine has shown this year, establishing himself as a top tier scorer in the NBA.
LaVine has already taken his game up a level, but he can jump even further in the right direction if he simply limits his turnovers. In the Bulls last two games, he has turned the ball over a combined 13 times. He is averaging a team and career-high 4.3 TOV per game, which ranks 4th-highest in the league. As we talked about in bullets the other day, it’s hard to be too frustrated by this stat with all the other good things he is doing on the court, but it’s just a fact that turnovers have cost this team several wins this season. I love watching this improved LaVine, but this is an area where he is still hurting the team.