PORTLAND—As much as Derrick Rose’s right-knee injury overshadowed the game itself, the fact remains that the Bulls have started their annual “Circus Trip” with an 0-2 record after a third-quarter collapse for the second straight night.
Friday evening at the Moda Center was even more brutal than Thursday’s game—coincidentally, the 98-85 defeat gives the Bulls six consecutive losses in Portland, as opposed to seven straight losses in Denver after the most recent Nuggets loss—as a stellar first half, with a lead that ballooned to as much as 21 points, gave way to a Trail Blazers blitzkrieg and even after Rose’s injury, a futile too-little, too-late fight to the finish.
“In some ways, similar to [Thursday] night,” Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said. I thought we played very well in the first half. Third quarter, we let it get away from us. We still have a long way to go in terms of being a 48-minute team and when you’re playing a team like this, that can shoot the ball the way they can, we didn’t guard the line the way we needed to. That’s something we need to correct.
“That’s the NBA,” he added. “Whether you’re winning or losing, I think it’s important to analyze why, what are the things you’re doing well and the things you’re not doing as well as you’d like and strive for improvement. To win on the road, you have to minimize your mistakes. We have to be able to rely on our defense and make plays for each other, keep the ball moving and we have to make shots.”
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Instead of the duo of All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge and reigning Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard leading the way for Portland, it was the unlikely pairing of rugged shooting guard Wesley Matthews and center Robin Lopez that caused the most damage, beating the Bulls at their own game.
“Teams are playing harder than us, and when teams make a run we’re all over the place. We’re not disciplined. Everybody is frustrated, everybody is screaming at the refs, instead of just focusing on the next task at hand. It’s everybody. It’s over with. Let’s learn from it and hope Derrick is all right.,” Joakim Noah explained. “We have enough experience to know that’s not winning basketball. It’s disappointing because we really had a good opportunity to win one against a really good team, and let it slip away.
Luol Deng added: “We allowed them to get back in the game. I thought we battled, we played hard. But the third quarter, we gave them life. They outscored us, outplayed us. Our first two quarters were great, so we didn’t come out aggressive enough.”
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Of course, it’s hard to fully blame the Bulls for losing focus after Rose went down—though the Blazers mounted their comeback when the former league MVP was still in the contest—as the sight of him coming to the bench, rubbing his injured knee, taking off the protective sleeve and limping, with assistance from the Bulls’ medical staff and without being able to put weight on his right leg, was disconcerting, to say the least.
“Like I said, this game just got over,” said an annoyed Kirk Hinrich. “We’re disappointed in the loss, feel like it was another opportunity to get a good road win and this team didn’t do the necessary things to get it done, so head to L.A. and move on, and figure it out.”
That’s exactly what they’ll have to do, in the wake of Rose’s MRI Saturday and Sunday’s game against the powerful Clippers at the Staples Center.