I mean, wow. It definitely felt like the Chicago Bulls were going to lose to the Portland Trail Blazers throughout the game, but wow. The Bulls trailed by 19 points. Sure, okay, it seemed like they were going to lose. Then, Billy Donovan’s team fought back. They tore things up in the second half, and it looked like Zach LaVine had the clutch gene on display once more. Well, the LaVine giveth, and the LaVine taketh away… by allowing the Blazers to force a jump ball in the last seconds and then losing the jump ball to *checks notes* Gary Trent Jr. The final buzzer sounded just as Damian Lillard made an impressive three-pointer look effortless to win the game 123-122.
Both teams came into this one looking to prevent three-game losing streaks as the Blazers visited the United Center for the first time since November 2019.
The Bulls lost their last two games against the Lakers and the Celtics, both by double-digit digits. Those games, combined with a postponed mid-week matchup against the Grizzlies, had the Bulls looking for their first win in over a week.
The Blazers were missing a few key players as Derrick Jones Jr., C.J. McCollum, and Josef Nurkic all sat this one. For the Bulls, Wendell Carter Jr. missed his fourth straight game.
The Bulls did have some confidence heading into Saturday night as they beat the Blazers in their first meeting, a 111-108 win back on January 5.
The Up and Down Journey of Zach LaVine
This feels like the title of a book. And it might as well be with the way LaVine’s career has gone. LaVine continued to get buckets with ease on Saturday night. He put up 26 points on 75% shooting from the field and from three. He drained a clutch shot from behind the arc with 32 seconds to go to put the Bulls ahead 120-115. It felt like the dagger. No way the Blazers could climb back while having to foul along the way, right?
Ultimately, LaVine’s propensity to turn the ball over did him and the Bulls in. He coughed up the rock six times tonight, pushing his season average to a career-high 4.3 per game. He currently holds a 1.2 assist to turnover ratio, which is just awful for someone with the ball in his hands as much as LaVine. For every step he makes to show that he’s a star, he seemingly takes a step back and shows that he shouldn’t be a guy with the ball in his hands a lot.
Thaddeus Young and Lauri Markkanen Show Out
Lauri Markkanen led the Bulls with 31 points in a team-high 36 minutes. He was incredibly efficient, shooting 67% from the field and 55% from three. Markkanen is making a strong case to make a very pretty penny this offseason. He’s averaging 18.5 PPG on 48.5% shooting and 37.7% from deep on 6.9 attempts per game.
Thaddeus Young continued a strange new trend of almost recording triple-doubles. He finished with 8-11-11 on the night. Young shot horrifically (3/10) but his rebounding and playmaking have been a welcome sight for this Bulls team.
State of the Bulls and What’s On Tap Next
Tonight’s defeat at the hands of the Blazers marks three straight losses for the Bulls. That’s not an ideal trend for a team that is trying to show they are able to climb out of the bottom of the NBA. Let’s see how they respond Monday against the New York Knicks. Catch that game at 7:00 CST and find out if the Bulls can beat a Knicks team that is two games ahead of them in the standings. As always, tune in to the Bulls On Tap podcast for further postgame analysis.