Jim Boylan has fared well early in his first NBA head coaching job. He could have a hard time extending that success when his Chicago Bulls meet one of the league's hottest teams over the last month.
The Bulls go for their fourth win in five games under Boylan on Thursday when they host the Portland Trail Blazers, winners of 14 of their last 15.
Boylan, a former assistant, took over one game after the Bulls fired Scott Skiles following a disappointing 9-16 start. Chicago (12-18) has gone 3-1 under the new interim coach, and its only loss in that stretch came on a buzzer-beating shot in a 112-110 overtime defeat against Southeast Division-leading Orlando on Monday.
The Bulls have scored at least 100 points in each game under Boylan, averaging 105.5 while shooting 46.4 percent from the field. They averaged just 89.0 points on 42.4 percent shooting in their previous five contests, failing to reach the century mark in any of them.
On Wednesday, they shot 49.4 percent from the field and rallied from a 12-point third-quarter deficit to beat Charlotte 109-97. Boylan used 6-foot-11 rookie Joakim Noah to counter Charlotte's three-guard lineup, and he responded with a career-high 17 points.
"Sometimes you go the way the game is going," Boylan said. "If things are going well for you, then your enthusiasm and your concentration and our focus is really sharp. Tonight (Noah) was very focused, his energy was infectious to our guys and it really gave us a lift."
Like the Bulls, the Trail Blazers (19-13) got off to a disappointing start, but they turned their season around with a 13-game win streak Dec. 3-30 - the second-longest run in franchise history. That streak ended with a loss at Utah on Monday, but Portland got back on track by beating Minnesota 90-79 on Wednesday.
"I'm happy with the way we responded,'' said second-year guard Brandon Roy, who had a team-high 24 points. "The big thing was, we've got to win this next game to show everyone we lost the streak, but we're still a good team and have a lot to play for."
Roy has averaged 22.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 6.3 assists since the beginning of the Blazers' run.
While Roy keyed Portland's turnaround, Ben Gordon has been key to Chicago's resurgence. Gordon is averaging 29.3 points in four games since Boylan removed him from Chicago's starting lineup. He's shooting 52.4 percent from the field and 57.9 percent (11-for-19) from 3-point range in that stretch.
Despite Gordon's reserve role, Boylan says he's still counting on him to carry a large part of the offensive load for a team that still ranks near the bottom of the league in points per game (93.3) and field-goal percentage (41.9).
"Our season is starting to slip away a little bit," Boylan said. "We need our main guys to come through."
The Bulls have won five of their last six against the Blazers, including three in a row. Luol Deng was 18-for-25 from the field and had a career-high 38 points in Chicago's 100-89 win over Portland on March 26 as the Bulls completed a season series-sweep.
Portland will try to snap its skid against Chicago in the finale of a three-game road trip. The Blazers are just 4-10 on the road, where they play eight of their next 10.
"We've got a lot of road games, especially this month," Blazers coach Nate McMillan said Wednesday. "The challenge to the guys tonight was to try to improve on the road. Continue trying to do what we're doing at home, but also improve our road record and see where that leaves us."
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