Portland Trail Blazers (21-28) vs Chicago Bulls (30-18)
The Portland Trail Blazers take on the Chicago Bulls for their second of a four game road trip. The Blazers come into this contest right on the heels of a win against the Houston Rockets to start the trip and look to improve even more on their road record. The Chicago Bulls are back at home for two games after a brief one game road trip that ended in a loss against the San Antonio Spurs.
Sunday, January 29- 12:30 p.m. PT
How to watch on TV: Root Sports NW, NBA League Pass
Blazers injuries: Damian Lillard (out), Larry Nance Jr. (out), Cody Zeller (out), Nassir Little (out), CJ Elleby (out), Norman Powell (probable), Robert Covington (probable), Dennis Smith Jr. (day-to-day)
Bulls injuries: Patrick Williams (out), Alex Caruso (out), Lonzo Ball (out), Derrick Jones Jr. (out)
SBN Affiliate: Blog A Bull
What To Watch For
- Bulls defense. The Bulls defense this year has been a slightly below average 19th in the league. However, this rating enters the top ten in games Alex Caruso plays. In games without Caruso however, the Bulls sport a 116.0 defensive rating, which would be worst in the league by a full point. After Caruso’s unfortunate injury, the Bulls have gone just 2-2 while playing no teams currently in the playoffs, and only the Toronto Raptors in a play-in position. If the Blazers can exploit a Bulls unit currently playing like the worst defense in the league, they might be able to ride some hot shooting to a win.
- Who gets hot? The Bulls are top five in all three of field goal percentage, three point percentage, and free throw percentage. The Blazers, on the other hand, rank twentieth, seventh, and seventeenth respectively in those same categories. The Blazers make more threes than the Bulls at only a slightly worse percentage. The difference in three point attempts could bridge the gap in efficiency in shooting if the Blazers manage to get hot from behind the arc. Otherwise, it could be an efficient shooting night for the Bulls as they ride their steady diet of twos to a victory.
- Two headed monster. The Bulls sport one of the biggest scoring threat tandems in the league with NBA All-Star starter DeMar DeRozan and probable All-Star reserve Zach LaVine. A Blazers team missing both Nassir Little and Larry Nance is already a bit weak on wing defenders, and with both Norman Powell and Robert Covington listed as probable there is a chance, albeit small, that the already gutted wing loses even more depth. This leaves the question of who will guard DeRozan and LaVine? The Blazers will have to come up with some answers if they don’t want the Bulls’ wings to expose a shaky Blazers defense.
What Others Are Saying
Blog A Bulls’ Paul Steeno talked about the Bulls less than stellar defensive performance in a loss against the San Antonio Spurs.
The Spurs shot 52.6 percent from the field, 43.2 percent from 3-point land and basically got whatever open look they wanted all night long on the offensive end. The Bulls also only forced seven turnovers the entire game. Thirty five of the Spurs 50 field goals were assisted so they were just shredding the Bulls all night.
Rees Woodcock of Writing Illini mentions the great play the Bulls have been getting from rookie Ayo Dosunmu.
In this past victory over the Toronto Raptors, Ayo received 38 minutes, which is tied for a team-high with Zach LaVine. Ayo didn’t have his best game, only scoring seven points on 3-of-10 shooting, but he did lead the team in box plus-minus at +20 for the game.
Playing winning basketball isn’t about putting up the most points on the team. That is the role of LaVine and Damar DeRozan. That isn’t Ayo’s role. His role is to make everyone around him better. He is that Swiss Army Knife for the Bulls.
Ayo is putting his fingerprints on the Bulls squad. He has led the team in assists in five out of the past seven games. The team has won three out of their last five games as well.
James L Jackson of FiveThirtyEight talks about how essential Nikola Vucevic’s contributions are for a Bulls team hoping to make a deep playoff run.
The Bulls bounced back from that South Beach loss with a season-best nine-game win streak, during which Vučević averaged 17.6 points and 14.4 rebounds while making nearly two 3-pointers per game. His true shooting percentage was 55 percent during the streak, compared to a 46.9-percent mark over his first 20 outings. But in the 11 games since, during which Chicago has gone 4-7, Vučević has been up and down: He followed a 27-point game on Jan. 15 with a 7-point effort two nights later, and he recently bounced back from a 13-point, 4-of-19 shooting performance on Jan. 23 with back-to-back efficient nights, including a 17-point, 15-rebound, eight-assist gem against Toronto on Wednesday before recording 26 points and four threes in a 1-point win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday.