The Bulls Tuesday hung on after losing a 13-point fourth quarter lead and finally in a wild finish subdued the Portland Trailblazers 93-88.
The Bulls got a game saving defensive stop by Joakim Noah on Portland star Damian Lillard trying to make a game tying three with two seconds left. Noah stood his ground without being faked into a foul and the shot never reached the rim. Jimmy Butler, who led the Bulls with 22 points, converted four pressure free throws in the last 15.9 seconds after Lillard missed a free throw which would have tied the game at 87.
The Bulls moved to 9-4 and 2-1 on this short Western Conference trip. The Bulls finish the road trip in Indiana Friday. Derrick Rose added 17 points and Pau Gasol had 12 points and 14 rebounds and a crucial late driving basket after the Bulls went nine minutes with one field goal after leading 78-65. Lillard led Portland with 19 points, but shot four of 22 with Rose supplying sticky defense.
Rose returned from missing two games with a sprained ankle and picked up where he left off, making his first three-point attempt for three straight after missing 17 of his first 18 of the season. Rose also moved the ball sharply as the Bulls took off to a 10-0 start. The Bulls then late in the quarter got a rare offensive burst from Joakim Noah with three field goal attempts in 61 seconds which included making his first jump shot of the season. That one gave the Bulls a 29-19 lead and it was 29-22 after one quarter. But after taking a 43-32 lead on a beautiful Rose look away pass to Nikola Mirotic on a fast break, the Bulls reverted to one-on-one play after Rose went out and were slow to the boards with Portland carrying a 10-3 advantage on offensive rebounds into halftime. But after getting the ball back with 2.1 seconds left in the first half, Butler made a running 55 footer for a 48-39 Bulls halftime lead. Portland was blazes to start the second half with a 7-0 run to pull within 48-46. Portland kept leaving Tony Snell open and he missed several threes with Doug McDermott coming in to make a pair of tough runners. But it was Butler with a steal and fast break runout and Rose with a pair of mid range jump shots that enabled the Bulls to push back ahead by 13 with Rose and Butler combining for 14 third quarter points.
But Lillard finally shook loose to enable Portland to get within 71-63 going into the fourth quarter. The Bulls looked like they’d pull away in the fourth quarter as a Rose bank shot and a floater sandwiched around a Kirk Hinrich three-point play put the Bulls ahead 78-65 with about 10 minutes remaining. But the Bulls reverted to isolation play, missing 14 of 15 shots in one stretch. There also was a dustup after Mason Plumlee drew a flagrant foul for running over Butler on a screen. Butler kicked out his leg and drew a technical foul as the players went nose to nose. But the Trailblazers tied it at 80 with the technical foul free throw with 4:17 left and then it was a battle to the buzzer.