Blazers aim to avoid 'trap' against Bulls
The Chicago Bulls, on a four-game losing streak, begin a five-game road swing Wednesday night when they face the Trail Blazers in Portland.
"We're going West, and it's a totally different place," Chicago guard Zach LaVine told reporters. "Portland has the two-headed monster at guard with CJ (McCollum) and Damian (Lillard). They're going to be attacking. We have to be prepared for that."
The Bulls (10-30) have a new look to their rotation, with the return of injured forward Bobby Portis and the recent trade that sent small forward Justin Holiday to Memphis. That deal opened up more playing time for rookie Chandler Hutchinson, who started in Sunday's 117-100 loss to Brooklyn, collecting eight points and four rebounds in 22 minutes.
Portis, meanwhile, came off the bench for 17 points on 6-for-11 shooting in 19 minutes. Portis had missed the previous seven games with an ankle injury.
"I feel good," Portis said. "I was trying to get my timing back. I got a little tired, but that just comes with playing games and finding a rhythm."
LaVine wants the Bulls to muscle up to opponents.
"We just need to be more physical," said LaVine, who led the Bulls with 27 points on 11-for-17 shooting against the Nets.
"When teams see us, they can take advantage of us at times, and that's not a good trait to have as a team. We need to be tougher. If that's sending a message by committing a foul early on in a game, or setting the tone by not just playing your way into a game, we have to do a better job with that."
The Blazers, meanwhile, have won nine of their past 13 games and know they have a chance to continue the roll after a 111-101 home win over New York on Monday. After facing Chicago, Portland (24-17) plays host to Charlotte on Friday.
Portland is 16-7 at home.
"They're all trap games," reserve center Meyers Leonard said. "They're all games we should win. We could very easily at the end of this week be 26-17. That's the goal. We have to execute, believe in what we're doing and go out there and get wins."
Jusuf Nurkic led the way against the Knicks with 20 points and eight rebounds in only 19 minutes, making 7 of 9 shots from the field. Over his last eight games, the 7-foot Bosnian has averaged 21.8 points and 11.8 rebounds and shot 60.7 percent from the field.
"He's been on a roll," Portland coach Terry Stotts said. "He's finishing around the paint. He and (Lillard) have a good connection with the pick-and-roll. When (opponents) double-team or blitz, 'Dame' does a really good job of finding him.
"He has slowed the game down to where he is making good reads. He's finishing in the paint, not turning the ball over as much. That's not to mention what he's been giving us at the defensive end."
With small forward Moe Harkless struggling with a knee injury, Jake Layman stepped into the void by collecting 10 points and a career-high 10 rebounds in 21 minutes for his first career double-double against New York.
"Jake played well," Stotts said. "You can count on his energy. He makes energetic plays. He makes an impression out there with his style of play. He gave us a good boost."
--Field Level Media
Updated January 8, 2019