The Portland Trail Blazers came out red-hot, only to fall flat on their face late in a 111-108 loss to the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday night in Portland. The loss is the team’s third in the last four games, as they fall to 3-4 on the young season. CJ McCollum led Portland with a game-high 26 points, but couldn’t connect down the stretch as the Bulls battled back from an early 20-point deficit.
Zach LaVine’s step-back three put Chicago up four with 10 seconds remaining, and Carmelo Anthony’s potential game-tying shot rimmed off to give the home team a disappointing defeat against a team not expected to make the playoffs.
The Blazers came out sharp, connecting on their first four three-point attempts to jump out to an early lead. Wendell Carter Jr. picked up two quick fouls for the Bulls, who struggled mightily on the offensive end as the Blazer lead reached double-digits by the midway point of the frame. A third foul sent Carter to the bench with 4:30 remaining, testing Chicago’s limited depth, as a number of players missed the game due to COVID protocol.
The Bulls went just 8-26 from the field, including a paltry 2-10 from beyond the arc, as the Blazers held a 39-21 advantage after the first 12 minutes of action. Damian Lillard scored 13 in the period for Portland, who hit a season-high eight three-pointers over the stretch.
The Bulls started to find their three-point rhythm in the second, methodically chipping away at the lead with Portland’s reserves in the game. Chicago embarked on a 13-0 run to pull within seven at the 4:30 mark. After going ice cold for much of the quarter, the Blazers were able to stop the bleeding in the final minutes to limp into the half with a 54-45 advantage despite scoring just 15 points in the frame.
LaVine, defended primarily by Derrick Jones Jr., went just 2-8 from the field in the first half, but got his teammates involved with a season-high eight assists.
The Bulls started to attack the rim in the opening minutes of the second half while McCollum carried Portland’s offense. LaVine connected on back-to-back triples around the midway point, but the Blazers offense continued to hum with contributions across the board—perhaps most importantly from an aggressive Jusuf Nurkic. An Anthony transition three put the Blazers up 12 at the three-minute mark, forcing the Bulls to call time out.
Chicago responded after the break with an 11-3 run—including eight points from Garret Temple alone—to pull the score within four at 85-81 entering the game’s final stretch. The Bulls finished with 36 points in the period.
The Bulls took advantage of a porous Portland defense in the first couple minutes of the fourth, pulling with a single point. Coach Terry Stotts turned to the little-used Harry Giles in place of Enes Kanter at center with just under ten minutes remaining. The big man provided a spark off the bench defensively, but the Blazers’ offense struggled to connect. The Bulls jumped in front for the first time in the game with six minutes remaining.
The lead went back-and-forth over the next few minutes until Chicago went on a 6-0 run to go up 106-100 at the two-minute mark. The Blazers pulled back within a single possession after Lillard was fouled on a three-point attempt. After a couple of defensive stops, Lillard earned another pair of free-throws to pull Portland within one point with just thirty seconds remaining.
In the ensuing Bulls possession, LaVine drilled that step-back three off of a Thaddeus Young screen to give Chicago the 109-105 lead with 10.7 seconds left. Lillard responded with a quick triple of his own. After Coby White hit two free-throws at the other end, Portland had a final chance to tie the game with 4.7 seconds on the clock. Anthony clanked a turn-around three off the iron and the Bulls held on for the 111-108 victory.
Early Sizzle, Late Fizzle
Portland got out to an impressive start, going 8-15 from three-point land in the first quarter, seemingly putting the game away early. Unfortunately, the offense fell flat shortly after, allowing the Bulls a chance to claw their way back despite LaVine having a horrendous first half shooting the ball. As the Blazers’ offense went stagnant, Chicago was able to hang around long enough until their second-half shots starting falling, after which Portland could never regain momentum.
The questionable defensive pairing of Anthony and Kanter was made more questionable by the duo’s lack of production on the offensive end. Adding to the woes were Nurkic’s continued struggles; he finished just 6-15 from the field despite some promising moments. McCollum was hot-and-cold, and struggled to find a rhythm when the Blazers badly needed buckets down the stretch. Lillard finished just 6-17 from the field.
Seven Bulls players finished in double-figures, led by White’s 21. Otto Porter was able to take advantage of his match-up against Anthony, going for 19 points and shooting 4-7 from distance. LaVine had 18, saving his best for last, while Chicago got meaningful contributions from rookie Patrick Williams, Temple, and Carter—despite his early foul trouble. Given the fact that the team is playing without their second-leading scorer, Lauri Markkanen, they needed their role players to step up—and they did.
The Blazers get their first look at Anthony Edwards, the first overall pick in the 2020 draft, as they host the Minnesota Timberwolves on Thursday night.