Portland Trail Blazers vs. Chicago Bulls: Preview, injury report, and how to watch

The Portland Trail Blazers are on the search for consistency, starting with tonight’s interconference battle against the Chicago Bulls. Here’s what to watch for.

Six games into the season, the Portland Trail Blazers have introduced fans to every part of themselves. Borderline unmatched offensive versatility, late-game mastery, serviceable team defense, you name it.

The only problem? Those characteristics have seldom come together in the same game.

It appeared Portland set the stage for 2021 with their 123-98 victory over the Warriors — the first time they kept an opponent under 100 points since Jan. 7, 2020 — but two nights later they were subject to public ignominy as victims of Stephen Curry’s 62-point night.

It’s back to the drawing board against the Chicago Bulls, a team that could be on the uptick as winners of three of their last four. Statistically, the Bulls are about as average as it gets across the league. But under new head coach Billy Donovan, they’ve quickly become one of the NBA’s craftiest at drawing fouls, the No. 4 team league wide.

They also roster a dynamic backcourt that should both test Portland’s discipline, and provide fans with shootout potential. Zach LaVine comes in averaging 24.6 points, and Coby White complements him up with 15.7 points per night, as well as up-and-coming first-round pick Patrick Williams.

Last season, the two played their sets over a four-day span, the Portland Trail Blazers winning 117-94 and 107-103.

For those in search of positivity, one of the supporting causes of Portland’s blowout victory came in their pick-and-roll defensive and communication on LaVine. The talented two-guard went as far as to credit the Blazers’ defense after the game, as noted in Phil Thompson’s piece for the Chicago Tribune. It also provides something to watch for.

“First half and second half, they were doubling me off all pick-and-rolls. We played against a good half-court defensive team. We need to get in transition more.”

– Zach LaVine on the Blazers’ defensive scheme

Few players benefited more from those early-season Bulls appearances more than Carmelo Anthony. Weeks into his NBA return, he averaged 24.0 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 3.0 assists on 50-50-88 splits. Lillard and McCollum were vital as well, but he could be a player to watch tonight.

Seeing the Bulls on the schedule was a bit of a relief last season for a team in dire need of consistency and confidence. This go-round, it could be a similar idea. Should Portland play with urgency and control the game early, tonight could be the season debut for 2019 first-round pick Nassir Little, who, for the first time this season, is off the Blazers’ injury report.

Beyond that, here’s what else should be known about the game.

How to follow the action:

— Date: Tuesday, January 5th
— Time: 7:30 pm PT
— How to watch: NBATV, or FuboTV
— How to listen: NBA League Pass Radio or Rip City Radio 620 AM

Injury report, per CBS Sports

— (POR) Rodney Hood, quadriceps
— (POR) Zach Collins, ankle (expected to be out until Mar. 1
— (CHI) Ryan Arcidiacono, protocol (expected out for Bulls’ road trip)
— (CHI) Chandler Hutchison, protocol (expected out for Bulls’ road trip)
—  (CHI) Lauri Markannen, protocol (expected out for Bulls’ road trip)
— (CHI) Tomas Satoransky, protocol (expected out for Bulls’ road trip)

Projected starters:

— POR — Damian Lillard (G), CJ McCollum (G), Derrick Jones Jr., (F), Robert Covington (F), Jusuf Nurkic (C)
—CHI —  Coby White (G), Zach LaVine (G), Otto Porter Jr. (F), Patrick Williams (F), Wendell Carter Jr. (C)