Bulls vs. Blazers final score: “Big Three” propels Chicago to win over Dame Dolla

Feb 5, 2023 - 4:35 AM
NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at <a href=Chicago Bulls" src="https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/thumbor/BdxiDUG0Qd3ab71jjxgSb2kJjMI=/0x0:6000x3375/1920x1080/cdn.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_image/image/71941898/usa_today_19925757.0.jpg" />
David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

It was a weird night to be a Chicago Bulls fan, and I’m not even talking about the up-and-down play of our 24-27 team on the United Center floor against the visiting Portland Trail Blazers.

Chicago, as you may have heard 20 million times or so since the 2021 offseason, will get Portland’s first-round draft pick this year if the now-26-27 Trail Blazers make the playoffs in the West. Our own pick, of course, will convey the Orlando Magic, thanks to our incredibly optimistic trade for Nikola Vucevic that also netted them the rights to future All-Star small forward Franz Wagner.

The Bulls have been reticent to blow up their roster this season, despite it clearly being rudderless, and with less than a week to go till Thursday’s trade deadline, losing every game we can down the stretch could go a long way towards convincing team president Arturas Karnisovas and GM Marc Eversley to flip our solid veterans for future draft equity and/or intriguing young pieces this season.

So it kind of behooved us to lose this one.

Naturally, we won.

Zach LaVine looked especially spry, scoring all over the floor against his 2021 Olympic teammates Damian Lillard and Jerami Grant.

Chicago opened up the first quarter looking sharp, with a pass-happy game galvanized by guards Ayo Dosunmu and Goran Dragic (the latter of whom at one point had five dimes in six minutes from the end of the first frame through the top of the second). Zach LaVine got cooking early, a harbinger of good things to come.

Conversely, with Alex Caruso a late scratch due to left midfoot soreness, Lillard was able to get more or less whatever he wanted on the break, which served as its own, more ominous harbinger of how his night was about to go:

The Bulls led 34-27 heading into the second frame, but everything felt tenuous, given the shooting acumen of the Trail Blazers’ backcourt.

In the second quarter, the script was indeed flipped quickly on a hapless Chicago defense. A 9-0 Portland run near the top of the period allowed the Blazers to take a 45-42 lead. The Trail Blazers would ultimately outscore the Bulls 43-25 in the quarter, thanks in large part to a significant free throw disparity between the two clubs — Portland held a 9-0 charity stripe edge, in makes and takes, during the second frame, and a 24-2 advantage in made freebies overall for the half. The Trail Blazers led 70-59 at the half, paced by Damian Lillard’s 28 points on 8-of-11 shooting (3-of-5 from deep) from the floor and 9-of-9 shooting from the free throw line.

Just watch this guy put on an absolute clinic weaving around teammates’ screens for a slick up-and-under:

At least Zach continued to have a nice scoring half? He led the Bulls with 21 points of his own, on 8-of-10 shooting from th floor (3-of-5 from long range). He, too, played well under the rack:

Portland quickly built up its biggest lead of the night, 17 points, to lead Chicago 80-63 midway through the third quarter. So naturally, because this Bulls team makes no sense, it put on a two-way clinic, responding with a 29-7 run to close out the frame thanks in large part to solid defense and second-chance scoring opportunities.

Ayo Dosunmu, Nikola Vucevic, and DeMar DeRozan started nailing big jumpers to key the run. LaVine and Ayo then took over, combining for 18 of the Bulls’ last 19 points during its comeback tear (the final point was an Andre Drummond free throw). Patrick Williams got in on the fun, too, at least defensively. His activity, especially around the paint, has really become a lot more reliable over the last month or two.

Dosunmu had 11 points in the third frame alone. Chicago started connecting on its triples in this period, nailing 5-of-8 treys (Ayo had three) compared to Portland’s woeful 2-of-12 performance in the same window.

The Bulls held the Blazers to just 17 points in the third quarter, while scoring 33 of their own. Chicago retook the lead heading into the fourth, 92-87.

In the fourth quarter, Chicago (or the refs) quickly made up for its minimal charity stripe tries earlier by beginning an aggressive march to the free throw line, taking 16 shots and nailing 13, a huge edge over Portland’s three.

Lillard turned it on again in that final frame, and for a while the Bulls just could not do much to prevent him from getting his:

Both clubs traded buckets to start the fourth period until the hustle of Vucevic and Derrick Jones Jr., combined with the shotmaking of Chicago’s “Big Three,” helped the Bulls go on a 12-0 run to create some separation midway through the frame. Portland never got closer than five the rest of the way, as a combination of a Bulls parade to the free throw line and some tough jumpers propelled Chicago to a 129-121 victory.

LaVine logged 36 points, six boards and five dimes, Vucevic had a 23-point, 11-rebound double-double, and DeRozan scored 27 points, grabbed seven rebounds and dished out seven dimes.

Chicago finished with 32 assists, shot 60% from the floor (48-of-80) and 46.2% from deep (12-of-26), and outrebounded the Jusuf Nurkic-less Blazers 41-33.

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