The Bulls Tuesday had a bravura opening night on their Western Conference “circus” trip, flying over the Portland Trailblazers without a net and juggling their lineup to perfection in a commanding 113-88 victory.
It was as perfect a game as the Bulls have played this season, leading by double digits less than four minutes into the game and then for the rest of the game. The Trailblazers never came close to making a run as the Bulls’ defense was suffocating on the Portland high scoring guards and Jimmy Butler continued his scoring blitz.
Butler had 27 points, 12 rebounds and five assists, all team highs in 30 minutes. Dwyane Wade had 19 points and Jerian Grant 18 after scoring a total of 16 points in his five previous games this season. Robin Lopez had 13 points and 11 rebounds and Taj Gibson 12 points and 11 rebounds. The Bulls held high scoring Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum to a combined 14 of 39 for 36 points. Their other three starters combined for 14 points. The Bulls had a massive 67-49 advantage in rebounds.
The Bulls are 7-4 and play the Jazz in Salt Lake City Thursday. It is their third straight win. Portland is 7-5.
The Bulls came into the game with being what’s known as shorthanded with starter Rajon Rondo out with a sprained ankle from Monday practice, Doug McDermott under concussion examination and Michael Carter-Williams still out with a knee sprain. So Grant started for Rondo, play the best he has this season including physical defense on Lillard and the Bulls scored the first 10 points and led 35-14 after the first quarter. It was the lowest scoring Portland first quarter of the season, a dominant first quarter for the Bulls driven by Butler and Lopez. Butler hammered the ‘Blazers for 13 first quarter points and six rebounds. Butler came into the game averaging 29 points in the last four games. Former Trailblazer Lopez had nine points and seven rebounds in the first quarter, too big and strong for the Portland front court. The Bulls led 30-9 late in the first quarter and then opened up a 25-point lead early in the second quarter when Wade came back in with the second unit. Wade and Butler did a lot of ballhandling with the offense running through them more and Grant driving or playing off the ball. More significantly, the Bulls defense was excellent collapsing against high scoring Lillard and McCollum, who were a combined six of 22 shooting in the first half. Portland inched within 49-33, but the Bulls went back to battering the ‘Blazers with a driving score and drive and drop off to Taj Gibson for a three-point play and 56-37 Bulls lead at halftime.
The Bulls didn’t relax after halftime with Lopez coming out looking for his shot and even trying out a three, which missed like the other four he had attempted in his career. Butler continued to muscle the more slightly build Portland guards, one drive sending McCollum into the fifth row of stands as he tried to reach in on Butler. Then Grant continued to sparkle with seven points in the third quarter, including the last five of the quarter with a steal from Lillard and fast break layup. The Bulls led 83-63 going into the fourth quarter.