The Portland Trail Blazers are back home for three games after a 1-3 road trip. On Friday Portland fell to the San Antonino Spurs 116-100. Maybe some home cooking will help? The Blazers have 10 out of the next 12 games and 16 out of the next 21 at the Moda Center. First up are the out-of-sorts Chicago Bulls.
The Bulls are on game three of their three-game West Coast road trip. They lost a close one to the Suns on Monday, 115-113. On Thursday they fell to the Lakers 141-132. Chicago currently sits in a play-in spot in ninth place, but Chicago fans aren’t all that enthusiastic about that kind of mediocrity. Most fans want a trade but it’s unclear if they will get it.
Portland Trail Blazers (13-32) vs. Chicago Bulls (21-25) - Sunday, Jan. 28 - 6:00 p.m. Pacific
How to watch on TV: Root Sports, NBA League Pass
Trail Blazers injuries: Robert Williams III (out), Moses Brown (out), Shaedon Sharpe (out), Malcolm Brogdon (questionable), Scoot Henderson (questionable), Jerami Grant (questionable), Anfernee Simons (questionable), Jabari Walker (questionable),
Bulls injuries: Zach LaVine (out), Torrey Craig (out), Lonzo Ball (out)
What To Watch For
- Who is actually going to play? It’s not too often you see 11 players on the combined injury report in a game that’s not at the end of the season. The Bulls’ situation is pretty clear in that barring a near-miracle, LaVine, Ball and Craig won’t be available. It’s a bit more unpredictable for the Blazers, with the top four ball handlers all either out or with doubts about their availability. If all or most of the “questionables” can suit up it won’t be too awkward for Portland, but if most of them are ruled out, get ready for some creative lineups.
- Turnovers. The Bulls don’t do a lot of things exceptionally well, but they do hold on to the ball. Their 12.4 turnovers per game is third best in the NBA. The Blazers are 27th in that category. Even worse, a potentially makeshift situation with ball handling could exacerbate the problem for Portland even more. It’s hard to imagine the Blazers winning the turnover battle, but they’ll need to keep it reasonably close if they want to have a shot at this game.
- Pace. In the NBA pace is the number of possessions a team gets per 48 minutes. The Blazers are 17th in pace at 99.01. The Bulls are dead last at 96.92. Pace doesn’t actually tell you much about how good a team is. For example, the Denver Nuggets are just above the Bulls in 29th. It does tell you though how a team generally likes to play. With all of the young bodies, I’d like to the Blazers play more quickly and get more possessions than the opposition. Against a team that likes to play slowly it’s an even bigger opportunity to take the opponent out of its comfort zone.
What Others Are Saying
Ryan Dauterive on Sports Mockery looks at a few aspects of the Zach LaVine situation.
Has Zach LaVine played his last game as a Chicago Bull? After appearing to twist his ankle over a week ago in Toronto, LaVine’s been on the sidelines again for Chicago and is set to be reevaluated on February 1st. Having only played in 25 of the 46 possible contests and his name being the most commonly thrown into trade talks, there’s more than meets the eye when assessing why he’ll be out at least two weeks with a rolled ankle. NBC Chicago’s K.C. Johnson put it best: They’re “clearly stretching to the trade deadline.” Have the Pistons’ rumors affected his return timeline, or are the two unrelated?
What might a possible Pistons deal for LaVine look like? K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago takes a look.
How low might the Chicago Bulls go? How badly do they desire to move off the remaining $138 million over the next three seasons on Zach LaVine’s contract?
The next two weeks may provide that answer. It also, of course, may not because, to this point, only one known team has even engaged on initial dialogue with the Bulls, who, with now LaVine’s agreement, have been shopping him for months.
Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic writes that the Bulls need to get on a different trajectory but isn’t optimistic the front office feels the same way. (subscription required)
Their reality, with five games remaining before the deadline, is that at 21-25, yet another season is sputtering toward mediocrity. Chicago is fighting like hell for a second consecutive Play-In Tournament appearance. And no matter what the Bulls do, that positioning at the end of the season feels like a certainty given the ineptitude at the bottom of the East.
Perhaps that’s sufficient enough for the Bulls.