Road Takes: Blazers Top Bulls With 3-Point Barrage
The Portland Trail Blazers’ recent stretch of play has involved lots of drama.
That, or getting beaten by lesser teams by double-digits.
On Friday evening, the Blazers let themselves and their fans enjoy the waining moments of their match-up against the Bulls drama-free.
Behind the type of marksmanship from three we became used to and solid defense, the Portland Trail Blazers ended their final extended road trip with two straight wins on their final back-to-back of the season.
After LaMarcus Aldridge scored 25 points and grabbed 16 rebounds in Atlanta to help the Blazers to a win and snap a three-game winning streak, they had to face the NBA’s 2nd best defense.
The Chicago Bulls came in with the 2nd-best record in the Eastern Conference since January 1st and Joakim Noah is having a fantastic season. Tom Thibodeau can still coach a team to defend and they’ve gotten along despite losing Derrick Rose.
The Blazers’ defense got them going in this one.
Against other teams who are elite defensively and mediocre-to-bad offensively, such as Memphis and Charlotte, Portland didn’t defend well. The Blazers did an excellent job of not letting Chicago’s offense get anything easily.
They forced the Bulls, who do shoot the midrange jumper quite often, into six more midrange shots than they normally take. The Blazers also benefitted from 13 Bulls turnovers which led to 9 points.
The first quarter was a slugfest that ended 19-16. The Blazers gave up only 17 three-point attempts and on the few looks they got, the Bulls seemed too out of sorts to be able to connect.
In the second quarter, Mo Williams took over the game and swung it in Portland’s favor for good. Williams scored 10 of his 18 points and had both of his assists in the 2nd quarter to help the Blazers take an 11-point lead into halftime. He finished going 7-of-12 from the field.
Williams’ ability to create his own shot was something the Bulls didn’t have an answer for on Friday. Williams was creating shots in transition, running off pick and rolls to deliver passes, throwing a pass to a sitting Dorell Wright who somehow saved it. Everything was working for Williams tonight.
Once again, you could feel the difference in the Blazers with LaMarcus Aldridge in the line-up. With Aldridge back, Joakim Noah had to devote all of his attention to slowing him down. While Aldridge went 2-of-10 from the field, taking less than half of the shots he averages per game, he did just about everything else well.
He finished with 5 points, 13 rebounds, 4 (!) steals and solid defense on Joakim Noah even though Noah still got Noah-type numbers. Stotts went to Aldridge at center for the second consecutive night and perhaps this is something we will see moving forward, or at least until Joel Freeland comes back from injury. Aldridge, Robin Lopez and Thomas Robinson basically played Chicago’s frontcourt trio of Noah, Carlos Boozer and Taj Gibson to a evenly while Portland’s perimeter players demolished Chicago’s.
Damian Lillard looked very comfortable as he went 3-for-5 from beyond the three-point line as well as 4 rebounds and 4 assists. Nicolas Batum finished with 13 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 threes of his own. Portland made 10 of their 22 threes while Chicago was a poor 3-of-17.
Portland now comes home to play six of their final eight games at home and four of the final eight coming against lottery teams.
Their next game will be against the Memphis Grizzlies, who could play their way into the 6th seed, on Sunday at the Moda Center at 6PM.
- Thomas Robinson continues to play well, scoring 10 points and grabbing four rebounds and Terry Stotts continues to go with Will Barton. It looks more and more like he likes the energy that tandem in particular can bring. Dorell Wright also played his fair share of both forward spots.
- Scott Powers did a piece on Meyers Leonard for ESPNChicago.com.
- The Blazers magic numbers is now 6 after tonight’s win. Any combination of Dallas losses and/or Portland victories in Dallas’ final nine games that adds up to six will clinch the Blazers a spot in the playoffs. Portland also has a chance to increase their lead on the fifth spot to two games should the Grizzlies knock off the Warriors tonight in Oakland.