The final score won’t indicate just how bad the Bulls were outplayed, despite having as close to a full roster as they have in weeks.
Kirk Hinrich and Taj Gibson returned, but it wasn’t enough to stop the team from dropping to 18-16 at home as the Portland Trail Blazers led by as many as 28 before settling with a 99-89 win.
The Blazers connected on 10-of-21 of their three-point attempts.
Joakim Noah scored a team-high 18 points and Carlos Boozer collected his 32nd double-double of the season with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Luol Deng, Marco Belinelli and Kirk Hinrich went a combined six-of-24 from the field.
“It’s tough, man. We’re not playing great right now, so it’s disappointing,” Noah said. “It’s the final stretch. We’re not getting it done, so we’ve got to find a way.”
The Bulls were undone by a slow second quarter, in which the Blazers started out on a 14-0, after playing well enough to finish the first with a 21-20 advantage.
Portland shot 58 percent in the quarter and outscored the Bulls by 16 to put them in a 52-37 hole at halftime.
Things didn’t pick up much in the second half as they shot just 28 percent in the third quarter and Portland earned its biggest lead of the night. The reserves did a better job defensively in the fourth, but there wasn’t enough time to make up the large deficit.
“We’ve got to play better,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “In the second and third quarter, you give up 32 and 28 points, that’s not going to get it done.”
LaMarcus Aldridge led the way for Portland with 28 points, while Rookie of the Year favorite Damian Lillard added 24 with four of the team’s 10 three-point connections. J.J. Hickson surpassed he previous high of rebounds (20), also set in the United Center, with 21.
The positive for the Bulls is that Hinrich and Gibson was back. While both weren’t satisfied with the loss, they were happy to be back on the floor with their teammates.
“I didn’t like getting drummed like that, but I was happy with the way [my foot] feltand hopefully moving forward, it will just get better and better,” Hinrich said. “Right now it feels fine. I just got done icing it. Its feeling okay right now…I’m feeling all right. I felt fine. Obviously I didn’t make some shots, but they all felt good and I didn’t feel like I was really out of rhythm. I got a little bit winded there. I couldn’t do much, but individually, health-wise, I was encouraged.”
Gibson started slowly, but finished with 14 points and nine rebounds.