The Portland Trail Blazers are squaring up with the Chicago Bulls tonight in a game with massive playoff implications for both teams.
To learn more about the Blazers’ opponent, we spoke with Blog A Bull contributor Vijay Vemu.
1. The Bulls hold the last spot in the Eastern Conference Play-In. What does the team need to do to win during these last stretch of games to secure a spot?
Play more consistently in terms of their offensive efficiency. The defense has taken a boost since Patrick Beverley’s arrival and there will always be limitations with this core in terms of their ceiling as a team defensively. It’s the offense that has had it’s fair share of struggles. In both games against the Sixers the Bulls struggled to score the ball and it took them two overtimes to have 109 points on Monday. The offense needs to get into a better rhythm, shoot more three-pointers, and not get clunky when the games get more physical.
2. Patrick Beverley has changed the energy surrounding the team. How impactful has he truly been?
Energy certainly has been one of Beverley’s biggest impacts but he’s also helped them in terms of overall on-ball defense and accountability within the team. Very early on in his Bulls tenure we saw that he wasn’t afraid to call out his teammates during games and it’s not something we have seen much of on the court from this Chicago team. Beverley is another perimeter defender the Bulls can throw at their opponents and he has no qualms in getting these assignments. He’s not big enough to bother wings but given the health issues of Alex Caruso and the struggled of Chicago’s younger players, having Beverley as a defensive backcourt option has aided the Bulls quite a bit.
3. What’s one thing people should know about the Bulls’ recent affairs that cannot be found in a box score?
Just their recent overall health worries/issues, which could impact their playoff chances. DeRozan left Wednesday’s game early with a right quad strain and Caruso hasn’t played in nearly a week. Those two guys are crucial to Chicago’s success and while the Bulls did get Javonte Green back this week, they need their entire rotation healthy if they want to make a push to host one of the play-in games.
4. If the Bulls win tonight, what would be the reason?
Their offense gets off to a hot start and the Bulls are able to find easy shots early in the shot clock. They get Zach LaVine going to the rim and involved from the get-go. Hopefully DeRozan is healthy and is able to punish Portland’s defense in the mid-range. Defensively they are able to slow down Damian Lillard and take advantage of the Blazers other absences such as Jerami Grant and Anfernee Simons
5. What’s your prediction for the game?
I think it’s a back-and-forth affair with both teams trading runs. Chicago gets out to a lead but then allows Portland to get right back into it in the third quarter. However the Bulls do just enough offensively to beat Portland despite Dame’s best efforts.