Game Notes: Blazers at Bulls
An all-around team effort and a career night from Luol Deng delivers Chicago a convincing victory over Portland.
by Bryan Crawford / @_BryanCrawford
Nate McMillan was none too pleased with his Portland Trailblazers squad after they were beaten in almost embarrassing fashion on Monday night at the hands of Chicago Bulls, 110-98. Portland came into the game with a perfect 3-0 record, but a lack of energy and effort on both the offensive and defensive ends led to their first loss of the season.
“We definitely have to play with more energy,” said McMillan after the game. ”We’re getting off to slow starts and teams are having big quarters. Our first unit gave up a 32 point quarter in the first and a 32 point quarter in the third… Defensively, I think we’re playing soft. We’re giving up layups — this team shot 60 percent from the field — there’s no excuse for that.”
It’s still early in the season, but on the eve of election night and with dignitaries like Rahm Emmanuel and celebs such as Jennifer Hudson in attendance, the Bulls played their best game of the year so far . They played smothering defense on Portland which led to some easy baskets in transition and once they grabbed the lead, they never looked back.
Chicago was led by Luol Deng who had a career-high 40 points eclipsing his previous career high of 38 which ironically, came against the Trailblazers back in ’07. Deng — who was coming off a terrible 9 point effort on 2-10 shooting against the Pistons in the Bulls home opener on Saturday night — got himself into a good offensive rhythm from the start of the game. He dropped 16 points in the first quarter on 6-7 shooting from the field and outscored the entire Portland starting five by himself. The Blazers starters managed to score just 14 points with 10 coming from LaMarcus Aldridge and 4 from Andre Miller.
Deng would have another huge quarter in the 3rd scoring another 16 points on 5-6 shooting from the field and Portland just had no answer for him. When asked why he’s had career nights twice against Portland, Deng downplayed his performance and kept everything in perspective.
“It’s just a coincidence. I mean, this is my seventh year, if it was like that against Portland I would get [a career-high] every time we play them… I was just making shots.”
Conversely, Chicago had no answer for the aforementioned Aldridge who had a pretty big night of his own.
Aldridge, who always seems to play well against the Bulls, dropped 33 points and grabbed 9 rebounds on 12-19 shooting from the field. Still seemingly motivated by the fact that Chicago traded away his rights in the 2006 NBA Draft for Tyrus Thomas, he’s been a problem that the Bulls have since had no answer for. Said Aldridge, “[The trade] is always in the back of your mind but, you know, [the Bulls] made that decision. But I’m always thinking about it; a little bit.”
Outside of Aldridge, Portland got virtually no help from any of its other key players.
All-Star Brandon Roy put up just 17 points (the bulk of which came in the 3rd quarter) on 4-12 shooting from the field. Andre Miller, who’d played very well in the previous three games, had just 7 points on 2-6 shooting and only dished out 6 assists. Head Coach Nate McMillan pulled his starters with a little over five minutes left in regulation, partly out of frustration, and partly because they have to face the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday night. Said McMillan, “We weren’t making a run, we weren’t getting any closer, we pretty much stayed down around 15 points. So we were just starting to get ready for tomorrow night.”
Derrick Rose, who takes a lot of criticism as some have likened him to Allen Iverson or Steve Francis due to his low assist numbers and a very misconstrued shoot-first mentality, had a career night of his own. Sort of.
He tied his career mark of 13 assists and for once, got support from his teammates, giving him the night off from the heavy lifting he’s been doing of late on the offensive end. The leading scorer in the NBA after 3 games had just 16 points on 6-11 shooting from the field and he spoke directly to the criticisms that he’s received from those who may not understand his game or the type of player and person that he is.
“I’m the type of person where if I’ve got something going, I’m going to stick with it. If it’s scoring, I’m going to stick with it if it’s helping us. Tonight, it was passing the ball. That might sound crazy as a point guard, but I’m different. My teammates were hitting shots and I had to keep feeding them because they were knocking down shots that they were supposed to.”
The Bulls face the New York Knicks on Thursday night at the United Center.