Bulls fight to complete comeback rally in Portland, improve to 4-4
Chicago overcame a 20-point deficit as seven players (again) scored in double-figures
Remind Me Later •
Despite finding themselves in a twenty-point hole in the second quarter, the Bulls fought back with seven players in double-figures, a double-double from Coby White, and a clutch fourth quarter three from Zach LaVine to complete and hold on to a 111-108 comeback win in Portland.
Twenty-point deficit on the road against one of the contenders from the supposedly superior Western Conference and one of the favorites for league Most Valuable Player. Is that all you've got?
Bulls 111-108 Tuesday over Damian Lillard and the Portland Trailblazers. Take that!
"I always say that you go into every game thinking that you can win," said Zach LaVine, who revealed both a tender shoulder and tremendous shot, his left wing three pointer with 10.8 seconds effectively clinching the massive comeback Bulls victory. "You've got to run into these backcourts and these top teams. You've got to play them. That's how you become one of those teams. I was excited to come on this road trip and play and see where we're at. I'm looking forward to tomorrow."
And perhaps many more tomorrows to come as the Bulls with a fourth victory in five games heading into Sacramento Wednesday are looking nothing like they did or many expected. Instead with seven players scoring in double figures again led by Coby White with 21 points, 10 rebounds and five assists and the team with 27 assists, nine from LaVine, it was the Bulls who were the smarter team, the deeper team and the tougher team.
The Bulls got another big game from the reserves as Garrett Temple had 14 points, including eight in the last three minutes of the third quarter to again stop the Trailblazers from burning the Bulls. Thaddeus Young had 10 points, eight rebounds and drew two crucial changes that changed the momentum of the game after the Bulls fell behind by 20 early in the second quarter. Denzel Valentine had eight rebounds and kept the ball moving. And Otto Porter Jr. playing a more comfortable power forward spot with Lauri Markkanen out had 19 points and 13 rebounds, his second big double-double in the last four games.
The Bulls were out rebounded by the much bigger Trailblazers. And after trailing virtually the entire game until midway through the fourth quarter, the Bulls pulled away down the stretch taking advantage of scoring opportunities while the Trailblazers stuck to the formulas and multiple three pointers. Portland in one stretch attempted threes on eight consecutive possessions and 10 of 12, making just two and all a quick shot and Bulls rebound. For their part, the Bulls moved the ball and went to the free throw line or their mid range game for six straight crucial points to break a tie with four minutes left, leaving the Trailblazers desperate and beaten as LaVine made his clutch three to effectively close it out.
The Bulls evened their record at 4-4 after the 0-3 start. Portland is 3-4.
"Portland has been known for getting out to quick starts and big leads at the beginning and then kind of letting you in throughout the course of the game," noted Young. "We just continued to fight and continued to go out there and execute.
"We were just taking the opportunities that were being given to us (down the stretch)," noted Young. "We noticed Zach was able to get downhill, Coby was able to get downhill, OP was able to get downhill. So why not keep driving the ball at them and keep getting downhill so we can get to where we are comfortable?"
Yeah, why not? It did turn out all those late twos added up to a lot more than the missed threes.
"We know CJ (McCollum, with 26 points) and Dame (with 24 points) Melo (Anthony) and Cov (Robert Covington), those guys are high volume three point shooters (19 of 51 for the game)," Young pointed out. "So us contesting threes and getting down hill. At that point the game was tied at 100 and we pulled away and got it to 106 and just played from there. We took advantage of the opportunities that were given to us.
"This team did a hell of a job of just staying poised down the stretch."
"That's our big thing, down the stretch we miss a couple of shots we just start doing anything. But we stayed poised. We got the ball in our guys' hands and we just executed and we played basketball how it is supposed to be played in order to win this basketball game. This was a great effort not just by the players, but by the coaching staff putting together a great scheme, the whole organization. We're going to use this as a building block. We started the road trip out how we're supposed to."
It's surely that small sample everyone will point out, and the Bulls have been in plenty of games where a team came back from a 20-point deficit. It just wasn't usually them.
"I think you learn from your mistakes over the years," said LaVine. "It's a different mentality that we have this year."
LaVine, especially, who was coming off his biggest offensive game of the season. The Trailblazers were ready. But instead of forcing himself against their defense, LaVine was content to work the ball around and set up teammates. He admitted he had a bit of shoulder soreness, though not actually an injury. LaVine also made several crucial defensive plays in that second quarter when the Bulls began their comeback, finishing with a pair of blocks. And then when it was winnin' time, he came through.
"Not like injured or anything, but my shoulder is a little messed up," LaVine admitted. "So I have to be able to try to play the game with that. I knew I could still affect the game by getting into the teeth of the defense and help my teammates assist wise. When it comes down to it, I'm not scared to take or make the shot. Just trying to affect the game in any way I can to help the team win. It's just been a little nagging thing. But if you see me out there, I'm OK."
The Bulls were OK, as well, even with that demoralizing start that might have doomed them in the past, the Trailblazers opening the game making four consecutive three pointers and taking a double digit lead midway through the first quarter. Portland then closed the first quarter with a 14-0 run for a 39-21 first quarter lead. The Bulls have that sort of recent history in Portland with big early deficits only getting bigger and the Trailblazers mostly mocking them the rest of the way. Not again as the Trailblazers, picked by many to challenge the Lakers in the West and Lillard as a top MVP candidate, added a few more three to take a 47-27 lead just over two minutes into the second quarter.
Wendell Carter Jr. already was in foul trouble. The four Covid players—Markkanen, Tomas Satoransky, Ryan Arcidiacono and Chandler Hutchison—weren't on the trip, and it was a chance to talk about getting another chance right away in Sacramento Wednesday. Not this time.
"Last year we would have got down 20 points, the morale of the team would have shifted, went down," said Young. "This year we're in a completely different mindset. Billy's (Donovan, coach) done a great job of just building up guys confidence and letting the vets be vets. Me, OP, Garrett, we go out there and play. But we are also able to go out and help these guys and keep guys confidence and spirits up throughout the course of the game."
Young took charges on consecutive possessions and LaVine scored and passed to Temple for a three, and there suddenly was a pulse. The Trailblazers continued to methodically shoot threes with seeming indifference as Young dunked on a LaVine pass, Porter rolled in and was fouled, White dribbled into a score and then found Patrick Williams for a three. The Bulls were within single figures late in the second quarter; the rout was over.
"We just kind of kept fighting," said Donovan. "I thought when we went small there midway through that second quarter it generated some easy baskets for us. Thad was huge getting some stops and some steals and some rebounds, key momentum changing plays to help us get some momentum back. (Temple) knocked down some threes which were big, did a great job defensively. I thought our ball movement was really, really good and obviously the last play Zach created the shot for himself and made a great shot."
The Bulls after closing the deficit still had to endure through the third quarter against a Portland team that was supposed to be angry after being lit up for 62 points by Stephen Curry. They thought they shot the Bulls out of this one; not this time.
"It was back-and-forth (late)," noted LaVine. "We were down. Then we cut it close and we were up. So it showed something that we haven't had in the past, and we continue to build on it."
Who knows what kind of structure that can be when you play the way the Bulls did in Portland.
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