Portland Trail Blazers at Chicago Bulls (-2, 198.5)
Tonight, the Portland Trail Blazers (17-5) will land in Chicago to meet the Bulls (13-8) at the United Center (7:00 p.m. Eastern).
The last time these teams met was on November 21 at the Moda Center in Portland. The Bulls, sans Pau Gasol and Derrick Rose, were easy targets for the Blazers who cruised to a 105-87 win.
Rose and Gasol have both played all eight of Chicago’s games since then. But, with defensive stalwart Joakim Noah suffering from a lingering ankle injury, the Bulls have not been able to find much consistency, going 5-3 over that stretch.
The latest reports indicate that Noah and 2014 first-round draft pick Doug McDermott will both miss tonight’s game.
The loss of Noah doesn’t hurt Chicago much on the offensive end; but Portland will have a much easier time attacking the basket without the 2013-14 Defensive POY on the floor.
Bulls center Pau Gasol will have to up his defensive game in the absence of Noah, especially on the glass. (Gasol leads the team with 12.2 RPG; Noah was the only other player on the Bulls averaging more than seven.) Tonight, the short-staffed Bulls will be facing a Blazers teams that leads the league in rebounding (47.3 RPG).
The tenacious Blazers come into the game having won 14 of their last 16. However, they were upended by the Minnesota Timberwolves (90-82) in their last outing. The Portland defense, which allows only 95.3 points per game (fifth in the NBA), was sound against Minnesota, but the offense, which averages just over 102, was non-existent. Leading scorer LaMarcus Aldridge was held to just ten points on 3-14 shooting.
Damian Lillard, who leads the team in assists (6.3 APG) and steals (1.5 SPG), was one of the only Blazers to play well. The third-year guard out of Weber State had 23 points and seven assists for Portland in the loss.
With Noah out and the Blazers looking to make a statement after the unexpected loss to the T-Wolves, take Portland and the points (-2).
(Photo credit: nikk_la (Flickr: K26A0442) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.)
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