Blazers complete season sweep of Bulls in fine style
Updated: 2013-03-23 10:36
Chicago Bulls' Jimmy Butler, left, is guarded by Portland Trail Blazers' LaMarcus Aldridge during the second half of their game in Chicago, Illinois, on Thursday. [Jim Young / Reuters]
Aldridge leads Portland to an impressive 99-98 road triumph
LaMarcus Aldridge said he enjoys playing in Chicago. It sure showed on Thursday night.
Aldridge scored 28 points to lead the Portland Trail Blazers to a 99-89 victory over the Chicago Bulls.
"This is one of my top three cities to play in, all the tradition. They traded me on draft night, so this is always fun," said Aldridge, whom the Bulls selected with the second overall pick in 2006 before trading him to the Blazers in a deal involving their pick, Tyrus Thomas.
Damian Lillard added 24 points and Portland improved to 10-25 on the road to sweep the season series with the Bulls for the first time since the 2008-09 season. The Blazers beat Chicago 102-94 on Nov 18 in their other meeting this season.
Joakim Noah had 18 points and Carlos Boozer added 16 points and 11 rebounds for Chicago, which shot 44 percent.
"That was probably, if not the best, one of our better defensive performances of the season," Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. "Our pick-and-roll defense was very good. We helped. Our weak side was active. We covered the paint pretty well. The points came, but they didn't come without the defense."
J.J. Hickson grabbed a career-high 21 rebounds for Portland, which held a 45-41 rebounding advantage.
"The energy was there. Everyone was focused on the game plan," Blazers forward Nicolas Batum said.
Chicago led 21-20 after the first quarter, but Portland scored the first 14 points of the second quarter and outscored the Bulls 32-16 in the period to take a 52-37 lead at halftime. Aldridge led Portland with 16 points at the break and Lillard had 13.
"First quarter was fine. Second quarter was bad," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "We have to be up on them more than we were. You give them space, they are going to score. We need to play better."
Portland extended its lead to 28 in the third quarter before the Bulls made a late charge, outscoring the Blazers 36-19 in the final quarter. Jimmy Butler scored 10 of his 12 points in the fourth quarter to help Chicago get within 10 points with about 36 seconds left.
The injury-plagued Bulls got Kirk Hinrich and Taj Gibson back. Hinrich started at point guard after missing seven games with a sore right foot. Gibson, a reserve, also returned after missing 10 games with a sprained MCL in his left knee.
Hinrich struggled, shooting 1 of 7 from the field for two points. He scored his first points on a layup with fewer than five minutes left in the third quarter. Gibson was 7 of 14 for 14 points.
"Every game is a grind right now. We're so short-handed," Boozer said.
The Blazers shot 49 percent from the field and went 10 of 21 from 3-point range, led by Lillard's four 3-pointers. Batum and Wesley Matthews each hit three 3-pointers.
"Our defense was terrible," Gibson said. "We couldn't stop them. They were hot. The ball pressure wasn't good enough. They were knocking down jump shots from every single part of the court."
Portland has beaten the Bulls in four straight meetings and won nine of its past 11 against Chicago. The Blazers had lost 14 of their past 16 road games before Thursday.
The Bulls fell to 3-6 in March, while Portland improved to 6-5 this month.