Perhaps three days off after a big win wasn’t a recipe for success, as the Bulls (40-32) were throttled by the Trail Blazers (47-27), 91-74, Friday night at the United Center in a game that was decided shortly after halftime.
Carlos Boozer (16 points, 12 rebounds) helped the Bulls get off to a quick start, but Portland quickly rallied to seize the lead behind the tandem of versatile small forward Nicolas Batum (13 points, seven rebounds, four assists) and All-Star point guard Damian Lillard (16 points), the league’s reigning Rookie of the Year. But after a 9-0 Blazers’ run, the Bulls stormed back to make it a tight-knit affair.
Boozer continued to lead the way, but despite his big opening period and Joakim Noah (11 points, 10 rebounds, six assists) playing solid defense on Portland All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge (13 rebounds)—originally a 2006 Bulls first-round draft pick, though he was immediately traded for Tyrus Thomas—the Bulls faced a 19-16 deficit after the first quarter.
Bulls sixth man Taj Gibson (13 points, 10 rebounds) provided a boost at the outset of the second frame, sparking the Bulls with his energy, rebounding and finishing above the rim to propel them to a 6-1 spurt, prompting a Blazers timeout. Portland regrouped, jumping all over their hosts to build a comfortable cushion and turning the tables.
Contributions from the likes of rugged swingman Wesley Matthews—Jimmy Butler’s former college teammate at Marquette—and veteran reserve Mo Williams (18 points) were crucial for the Blazers. Meanwhile, with starter Kirk Hinrich in first-half foul trouble, the Bulls relied on backup point guard D.J. Augustin (15 points, seven assists) and Noah, their All-Star center, but that didn’t prevent a double-digit margin of separation from accumulating, leading to the home team trailing, 47-36, at the intermission.
After the break, the Bulls’ deficit ballooned, as Portland went on a 15-2 run, featuring Batum handling scoring duties. Aldridge, who struggled offensively, and blue-collar center Robin Lopez (13 points, nine rebounds) made an made an impact on the glass, with second-year backup power forward Thomas Robinson also making his presence felt off the bench.
However, it couldn’t be said that competitive spirit and home-court pride were lacking, as Butler, Boozer and Gibson combined to slow the visitors’ momentum and trim the gap, but heading into the final stanza, the Bulls remained behind, 73-58.
The Blazers increased their lead early in the fourth quarter, continuing an atypical evening for the Bulls’ vaunted defense. Portland’s advantage hovered around the 20-point range heading into the stretch run, which yielded an appearance by new fan favorite D.J. Augustin.
The Bulls made a late push, but long after any real threat could be presented, giving them their sixth consecutive defeat at the hands of Portland.