Trail Blazers Rally In Second Half To Keep Streak Alive Versus Bulls

by Casey Holdahl
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PORTLAND -- Even a 20-point deficit to one of the NBA’s hottest teams couldn’t put a stop to Portland’s home win streak.

After going into the half trailing by 15, the Trail Blazers outscored the Bulls by 20 in the second half to come away with a 112-107 victory in front of a crowd of 17,492 Wednesday night at Moda Center.

"I think we might need to start starting our games at 8 PM, instead of 7 PM, that's the time we start playing,” said Trail Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups. ‘But man, I'm just proud of them though. I mean, look at what Larry (Nance) was able to do tonight again, what Nas (Little) was able to do tonight again. I thought Nurk was huge, he did a good job at taking his time and finishing and getting rebounds.... We didn't depend on shot making to win this game. I was proud of that.”

The Trail Blazers are now 8-8 overall and have won seven-straight at Moda Center. Portland has now won two-straight versus Chicago and nine of the last 10 meetings.

At this point, if you’ve seen one Trail Blazers’ first half performance this season, you’ve seen them all, and Wednesday night’s was no exception. Portland found themselves trailing by eight after six minutes of play thanks to empty possessions on offense and lackluster effort on defense. They regularly allowed the Bulls to shoot open three-pointers -- Chicago went 6-of-10 from three in the first quarter -- struggling to make their own shots from distance and turned the ball over repeatedly.

While they managed to clean up their three-point defense in the second quarter, everything else was about the same, as their defense everywhere inside the three-point line was still suspect -- Chicago shot 59 percent from the field in the second quarter -- they managed to make just one of five attempts from three and turned the ball over six more times before the half.

The result was Portland going into the half trailing 63-48 while shooting 39 percent from the field and 25 percent from three. Were it not for a 14-point advantage in made free throws, a game that already wasn’t especially close would have all but out of reach for the home team.

But just as they’ve struggled to keep it close in the first half, the Trail Blazers have made a habit of improved play, especially on the defensive end, in the second half of home games. And again, Wednesday night was a continuation of that trend, with Larry Nance Jr. sparking a third-quarter rally that saw Portland outscore Chicago by 13 to cut the lead to 85-81 going into the fourth.

“With a team like (Chicago) that lets the ball find the energy for them, often times that’s what I’m good at as a defender is finding the energy that the ball has, and kind of reading the next pass,” said Nance Jr. “That
kind of defensive IQ. So for me, I really enjoy games like this. Ball movement teams are what I specialize in. It was just a lot of fun.”

After the Bulls pushed the lead back up to eight early in the fourth, Portland responded with a 10-2 run to tie the game for the first time since early in the first quarter with 7:43 to play. Chicago briefly reclaimed a one-point lead on an Ayo Dosunmu free throw, but a Jusuf Nurkic offensive rebound would result in a CJ McCollum three that game the Trail Blazers a 94-92 lead with seven minutes to play.

The game would flip back and forth for the next few minutes until Damian Lillared and Nurkic combined to score seven-straight to give the Blazers a 104-98 advantage with 3:39 to play. Zach Lavine and Lonzo Ball responded with a 9-2 run of their own to give the Bulls a one-point lead with 1:20 to play, though two Lillard free throws flipped the lead, slim as it may have been, back to Portland.

Both teams would come up empty on their next possession, leaving the game open for whichever team made the next play. That play would come thanks to Nassir Little, who played stellar defense to force DeMar DeRozan into a missed 17-foot jumper with 13.7 seconds to play, with Nance Jr. corralling the rebound, getting fouled and making both free throws to push the advantage back to three with 12 seconds to play.

Obviously with the first half we was having a really rough time with Zach (Lavine) and with DeMar (DeRozan),” said Billups. “At halftime I just said ‘We gotta be better there. We gotta take personal challenges.’ And those dudes did that. I think DeMar was 0-of-7 in the second half. He was getting some of the same shots but he was under duress a lot of times. We were closer, we were more physical, we contested and Nas was just - I love watching him grow. Yeah, he missed some shots, he turned a couple balls over but I tell him all the time ‘When you play as hard as you do, you can make up for some of those mistakes’ and he did that.”

Lavine would miss an open three on the next possession, with Little getting the rebound this time and making two free throws to ice the game with just under seven seconds to play.

“We feed off each other,” said Nance Jr. of Little, who he has played alongside with in fourth-quarter crunch-time minutes in the last two games. “Coming into the game, I always just tell him, ‘Hey look, you can only control what you can control, right? So, whether we’re up 10, down 10, or dead even, we can’t control that. The second you sub in, now we control what’s going on.’ Effort and energy is his game, too. I think we play really well off of one another; feeding off each other’s energy.”

STATISTICS

Damian Lillard scored 16 of his 22 points in the second half while also handing out 10 assists for the double-double in 40 minutes. And with his third made free throw, Damian Lillard (3,803) passed Clyde Drexler (3,798) for the most free throws made in franchise history.

Jusuf Nurkic also finished with a double-double, his fifth of the season, of 18 points and 12 rebounds while also logging a steal and a block in 22 minutes.

Norman Powell also added 18 points to go with two assists, two rebounds and a steal in 35 minutes. And Larry Nance Jr. went 6-of-9 for 16 points to go with nine rebounds, three assists, three steals and a block in 24 minutes.

Zach Lavine led all scorers with 30 points in 37 minutes. DeMar DeRozan added 22 and Lonzo Ball had 17.

HIGHLIGHTS

NOTABLE

• The Trail Blazers won their seventh straight game at Moda Center. It is the longest
home winning streak for the Trail Blazers since March 9 – April 10, 2019 (eight games).
• Portland’s bench outscored the Chicago reserves, 35-20.
• The Trail Blazers outrebounded the Bulls, 44-36, and outscored them in the paint, 50-42.
• Portland outscored Chicago by 20 points in the second half, 64-44.
• The Trail Blazers shot 96.4% from the free throw line (27-of-28).
• Chicago outscored Portland on the fast break, 26-9.

QUOTABLE

“Could I hear them? Yeah! I think I had my mask on, I was trying not to smile too hard. No, that was incredible. It’s only game 16 here, so I appreciate it more than they know.” -- Larry Nance Jr. on having his named chanted by the fans Wednesday night

NEXT UP

After playing six games in nine nights, the Trail Blazers now have two days off before hosting the Philadelphia 76ers Saturday night in the third game of a four-game homestand. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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