Blazers Outworked At Home In Loss To Bulls

by Casey Holdahl
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PORTLAND -- In their first game at home after a four-game road trip, the Trail Blazers led by as many as 20 points in the first half before going on to lose 111-108 to a Chicago Bulls team missing a number of rotation players due to COVID-19 protocols.

“We lost this in the second half,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “Chicago outplayed us, they played harder than us. We let down our guard, we gave up 66 points in the second half after having an outstanding first half defensively. Chicago played harder. They got life, they got confidence, they made shots and we got a little tight and missed our shots.”

The Trail Blazers are now 3-4 overall and 1-2 at home this season. The loss breaks a seven game winning streak versus Chicago.

Portland found their home rims hospitable in the early going after a week on the road, making their first four attempts, all from three, for 12 points in the first two minutes. They’d finish the quarter with eight threes with Robert Covington, CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard each knocking down a pair while Carmelo Anthony and Gary Trent Jr. both made their sole attempts from deep.

And on the other end, they held the Bulls to 30 percent shooting from the field and 2-of-10 shooting from three while logging three steals and two blocks. The combination was one of Portland’s most complete quarters of the season, resulting in an 18-point lead going into the second quarter.

But the happy homecoming would be short lived, as they were as bad in the second quarter as they were good in the first. No Blazer made more than one field goal or shot a free throw, the bench combined to shoot 1-of-10 and with and the stiff defense that held Chicago to 30 percent shooting in the first quarter loosened considerably, especially from three.

With little going their way, Portland was outscored by nine in the quarter to take a 54-45 lead into the half after leading by as many as 20.

Portland found their offense again to start the second half. McCollum went 4-of-5 for 10 points, Jusuf Nurkic struck a balance between scoring and playmaking from the high post, which allowed for a 31-point quarter despite Lillard scoring just one point.

But the defense that was already middling in the second quarter was downright bad in the second half. Chicago shot 62 percent from the field and went 6-of-8 from three, numbers that are even more impressive when considering they scored just 10 points in the paint.

“I was really pleased with the way we came out in the first half and how we came out with our approach to the game,” said Stotts. “I was very disappointed with our third quarter.”

And while the Bulls weren’t as dynamic in the fourth, Portland’s offense all but ground to a halt. But despite playing poorly in the second half, the Trail Blazers managed to still hold the lead until midway through the fourth. A Garrett Temple 24-foot three gave the Bulls a 96-94 advantage with 6:36 to play. They’d spend the next few minutes of play swapping the lead until the Bulls scored six-straight to take a 106-100 lead with just over two minutes to play.

Lillard answered with the next five points of the game, all from the free throw line, to cut the lead to one with 30 seconds to play. But Zach LaVine would make a three late in the clock and well behind the line to push the lead back to two scored with 10.8 seconds in regulation.

Lillard responded again, this time with a three of his own, and with the lead back down to one, Portland McCollum immediately fouled White on the inbound to stop the clock and force free throws, both of which the Chicago guard would make.

After calling time, Portland, needing a three, advanced the ball to midcourt. But the Bulls managed to blow up Portland’s play, resulting in Carmelo Anthony forcing a turnaround three that missed that rim off and went out of bound with a second to go.

“I think in that situation, if the ball ends up in Melo’s hands, when he shot it I felt confident in it because I got that kind of belief in Melo and he’s done it over the course of his career,” said Lillard. “But I think we lined up as if we had to get a shot off in one second instead of lining up in a way where we got time to get a catch and create a shot. That’s my only thought looking back at it.

“Any time you in that situation, you just want to give yourself a chance to win. We got the last shot to tie it, opportunity to force overtime, and we missed.”

All the Bulls needed to do was inbound the ball, which they did, to secure the first 20-point comeback of the season for any NBA team.

“This is a game that we should have won and Chicago deserved it because they kept playing, they played harder,” said Stotts. “This is a game where we showed in the first half how we’re supposed to play and we didn’t play the way we needed to play the entire game.”

Seven Blazers scored in double figured led by McCollum, who went 10-of-21 from the field and 6-of-14 from three for 26 points to go with five rebounds, four assists and three steals.

Lillard had 26 points, nine assists and five rebounds in 36 minutes. Covington had his first double-digit scoring effort as a Blazer with 14 points to go with six rebounds in 36 minutes.

Nurkic had a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds while also handing out six assists while Anthony and Gary Trent Jr. combined to score 25 points off the bench.

White led the Bulls with 21 points and 10 rebounds. Otto Porter Jr. also had a double-double with 19 points and 13 rebounds in just 28 minutes.

Next up, the Trail Blazers have a day off before hosting the Minnesota Timberwolves Thursday night. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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