LIVE: Portland Trail Blazers at Chicago Bulls
8:00 PM ET
Portland Trail Blazers at Chicago Bulls
United Center, Chicago, Illinois
The Bulls came into the season with postseason aspirations but a slow start has brought them back down to earth in a weak Eastern Conference playoff race. Chicago has won just six of its first 17 games but they remain just one game back of the Orlando Magic for the No.8-seed in the East. Meanwhile, Portland is still searching for its first win since acquiring Carmelo Anthony. The Trail Blazers come into this matchup in second-last place in the Western Conference standings with a 5-12 overall record after losing four in a row. Can Portland get back on the winning track in Chicago on Monday night?
Lillard returns but Blazers can’t stop slide vs. CavsDamian Lillard returned to the lineup but Portland was unable to quiet the skeptics in their 110-104 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday. Lillard scored a team-high 23 points while C.J. McCollum added 20 for the Trail Blazers, who have dropped four consecutive games, including three straight since signing Carmelo Anthony. Anthony finished with 11 points but shot 0-for-8 from 3-point range in the loss.
After the game, both Rodney Hood and head coach Terry Stotts claimed Lillard was laboring a bit. Lillard, who had missed the previous two games due to back spasms, seemed out of rhythm and shot just 7-for-20 from the field but said he was not playing hurt versus the Cavaliers. With a 5-12 overall record, Portland still knows there is plenty of time to right the ship. To do so, they’ll have to get healthy first. The team played Sunday’s contest without starting center Hassan Whiteside, who has missed the last two games with right hip soreness.
Despite the slow start, there have been a few bright spots for the Blazers this season. First-round pick Nasir Little, swingman Gary Trent Jr., and Skal Labassiere have all flashed the ability to contribute quality minutes for the Blazers. Trent has been earning the trust of the coaching staff but is considered questionable for Monday’s game with a hamstring injury.
LaVine explodes for 49, game-winner after benchingOne day after saying trust was an issue after being benched by head coach Jim Boylen, shooting guard Zach LaVine responded with the best game of his life on Saturday. LaVine scored 49 points and hit the game-winning 3-pointer to help the Bulls edge the Charlotte Hornets 116-115. LaVine made 17 of his 28 field goal attempts, including 13-of-17 from 3-point range while rookie Coby White added 29 off the bench for the Bulls, who trailed by five points with 10 seconds remaining. Tomas Satoransky hit a 3-pointer with 7 seconds left before LaVine capitalized on a turnover from Devonte Graham with his 13th 3-pointer of the night.
With a young roster, Boylen has to be careful not to lose the locker room. He’s already come under fire a couple of different times since taking over for Fred Hoiberg midway through last season. Boylen publicly called out LaVine and forward Lauri Markannen for their play against the Miami Heat, as tensions boiled over after the game.
The Bulls have been making strides this season, especially on the defensive end of the floor. Chicago actually ranks in the top half of the league with a defensive rating of 106.8 (13th in the NBA). They still have some work to do on offense though, as they rank 27th in the league with a 104.1 offensive rating through 17 games.
The locker room in Chicago seems dysfunctional but the players seem to be rallying together right now. The same thing can’t be said about Portland, which has disappointed beyond anyone’s wildest expectations through 17 games. The Trail Blazers signing Carmelo Anthony and sticking him in the starting lineup with a usage rate of 26.1 percent seems like a desperate move for a team trending in the wrong direction. Melo has been inefficient in his first three games back in the NBA and he’s -19 during limited action in that span. Take the Bulls to come out on top at home in this matchup on Monday.
These two teams are pegged for 227.5 points, which seems a bit high but not when you consider that they rank No. 8 and No. 9, respectively, in pace. Neither of these teams has been particularly efficient on offense but Portland ranks among the worst defensive teams in the league and they’ve taken a step back with Anthony in the mix as of late. They’ve also been playing without Whiteside, which hurts their shot-blocking and rebounding. Look for this game to go over the projected total on Monday night.