What to Watch For: Bulls-Trail Blazers


The Chicago Bulls continue their four-game road trip on Tuesday night against the Portland Trail Blazers. Along with the return of Derrick Rose, here’s a few things to watch for in Tuesday’s game.

In the first two games of a modified four-game road trip — the annual “Circus Trip” — the Chicago Bulls split the results. After a dominant Jimmy Butler performance in the fourth quarter last Wednesday against Phoenix, the Bulls were unable to snap the unbeaten streak of defending champion Golden State two nights later.

But, for the third of four straight games away from Chicago, the Bulls will get Derrick Rose back in the rotation. It’s been a week to the day since Rose tweaked his left ankle against Indiana, but Rose will return to action on Tuesday night for the Bulls.

“Derrick’s gonna go tonight,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said after Tuesday’s shootaround. “He felt good after the last couple days of practice.”

Along with the return of the former MVP, here’s a few things to watch for as the Bulls clash in a late-night tip with the Portland Trail Blazers.

#TheReturn, Part … something

The Bulls are about as depleted as any team in the NBA at the point guard position. Kirk Hinrich has filled in nicely since Rose’s ankle tweak a week prior, but the Bulls lost Aaron Brooks to a hamstring strain late in the Phoenix game this past Wednesday. Rose’s return was imminent and needed.

A key reason why the Bulls needed Rose back was not just because of the small depth at the position; it’s because the Bulls are playing against one of the league’s best and most exciting backcourt tandems (again) on Tuesday. Fellow adidas representative Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum do one thing better than most: score the basketball.

Without any minute restrictions, Rose will have a tough challenge in his first game back to produce on one end and slow Lillard down on the other. No player in the league has logged more than Lillard’s 563 total minutes this season.

Jimmy Butler may carry the load again for the Bulls

It’s no guarantee that Rose will struggle in his first game back, but if the Bulls find themselves in ruts like they did against Golden State on Friday, the go-to man is Jimmy Butler.

Portland ranks 20th in the NBA in terms of their defensive rating (106.1), so the Bulls will have better opportunities to score than they had on Friday at Oracle Arena. Portland lacks the same versatility as the Golden State roster, but if the Bulls can’t slow the Lillard-McCollum duo down, Butler’s the best option the Bulls have offensively.

Not only that, Butler will be locked up with McCollum for most of the game (most likely), so another stellar two-way performance from Butler may be needed once again.

Good Bulls or Bad Bulls?

Like what was mentioned on Monday, the Bulls are the most confusing team in the NBA. They can go out and beat one of the league’s premier teams on one night, and then lose to a lottery-bound team by 20 the next night.

The Bulls have had Saturday, Sunday and Monday off before their meeting with Portland, while Portland beat both Los Angeles teams on Friday and Sunday this past weekend. The Bulls will have fresh legs and more depth, but could we see another Charlotte performance where they just come out flat and uninspired with the holiday looming?

It’s highly doubtful that the Bad Bulls show up, but the Rose Garden … er, Moda Center, has been a house of horrors, specifically for Derrick Rose. Portland was the place where Rose tore the meniscus in his right knee and missed almost all of the 2013-14 season.

But, from a statistical standpoint, the Bulls have played well in Portland as of late:

However, when you look at the win-loss record since the 2006-07 season in Portland, it’s not great. (The Bulls are 0-7 in Portland since the ’06-07 season; the last time they last won in Portland.)

Next: The 1995-96 Chicago Bulls vs. The 2015-16 Golden State Warriors

Final notes:

  • Illinois native and Portland big man Meyers Leonard (shoulder) will not play for the Blazers on Tuesday night.
  • Aaron Brooks will miss his second game in a row with a hamstring strain. An estimation for Brooks’ return to action would probably be Nov. 30 against San Antonio back in Chicago.
  • Tip-off is scheduled for 9:00 PM CT from the Moda Center. For the locals, the game will be televised on WGN. Radio coverage can be found on ESPN 1000 Chicago.