Stopping Loul Deng will be a key for Portland against the Bulls Sunday night. Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE

Game Preview: Portland Trail Blazers (4-5) Vs. Chicago Bulls (5-4)

Building on victories is a big point of emphasis in the NBA. Although most coaches and basketball sages will say, and won’t be wrong, that a team learns more, about themselves and about the game as a whole, when they lose, it’s the taking one win, learning from it, and flipping into multiple wins that actually helps a team evolve.

Portland is basically without a signature win at home this season (minus the home opener which had a lot to do with troubles on the opposing team’s bench). Friday’s OT thriller was nice. But go back and watch that game. By the third quarter it was clear that Houston was making the kind of mistakes that were going to let Portland back in the game. The Blazers snatched a victory in amazing fashion, that’s for sure, but the Rockets were more than willing to give it up in crunch time.

Sunday the Blazers host the Chicago Bulls. This is a Bulls team that is trying their best to hold on until Derrick Rose returns. They are not the Bulls teams of the years past. They are beatable. In fact, they were beaten Saturday night in Los Angeles by a Clippers team that the Blazers did OK against.

Portland needs to take advantage of any momentum or carry over from the Houston win, and they need to do all they can to maximize the effort output of Chicago’s road-weary starters. If they can put those things together, the Blazers might just have the formula needed to cook up a signature win.

Blazers Starting 5: PG Damian Lillard, SG Wesley Matthews, SF Nicolas Batum, PF LaMarcus Aldridge, C J.J. Hickson

Bulls Starting 5: PG Kirk Hinrich, SG Richard Hamilton, SF Loul Deng, PF Carlos Boozer, C Joakim Noah

Holding his knee, holding his knee and down…

These are the opening lines of the Adidas All In Derrick Rose The Return commercial that has been played so many times on TNT already this season that it is becoming the de facto soundtrack to the season. Rose is out. And even if Adidas wants you to believe otherwise, he is going to stay out for awhile.

The Bulls can compete in the East without Rose, in fact they’ll make the Playoffs in the top half of the division, probably, playing without Rose for at least the first half of the season. That being said, minus their top guy, this team is vulnerable, as their 5-4 record will attest to.

Take a look at the rest of their roster too. This is not the Bulls team of seasons gone by. Gone is sharp shooter Kyle Korver, gone is Omer Asik, gone is the bench unit that might have been one of the best in the league. In their place are Nate Robinson and Marco Bellinelli. Nate Rob has his moments, but one of those moments, the one that best encapsulates Nate in my opinion, was the time when he was playing with the Knicks and he lit up the Blazers in the third quarter in a game at the Rose Garden. Nate got hot, and made something like five or six shots in a row. But then he missed his next two or three, and that next two or three turned into seven or eight. The lead he’d helped shoot New York into, he also shot New York’s way out of. Nate’s that kind of player. Bellinelli is no substitute for the sure-shot Kyle Korver. I don’t think I need to elaborate too much on that.

What to Watch For

  • How will Damian Lillard deal with Kirk Hinrich’s defense? Lillard’s worst game at home came against the quick hands and ball stopping defense of Jeff Teague. Jeff Teague came of age under the same defensive tutelage as Kirk Hinrich. Expect Hinrich to be dogged on defense against Damian. Hinrich, however, is a bit older than Teague, and shouldn’t cause Damian nearly as much trouble on offense.
  • Can Portland stop the Bulls inside? Carlos Boozer is widely regarded as very over rated, but Joakim Noah can score a little, especially on put backs and stuff like that. If the Blazers can limit Chicago’s easy looks at the rim, they should have a good chance in this one.
  • Which team wins the battle of the wings? Loul Deng vs. Nicolas Batum. Wesley Matthews vs. Rip Hamilton. Whichever team gets the better of those match-ups wins. I like Wesley over Rip, but the Batum/Deng dog fight could be pretty special.
  • Will Meyers Leonard get to double digits in scoring? It has to happen sometime. Chicago has a small front line. Sunday could be the night.

@mikeacker | @ripcityproject | [email protected]

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