Trail Blazers stop Bulls from gaining momentum with 99-89 win
BY JOE COWLEY email@example.com March 21, 2013 9:29PM
Bulls center Joakim Noah sky hooks a basket over Portland center J.J. Hickson in the second quarter of the Chicago Bulls game against the Portland Trail Blazers Thursday March 21, 2013 at the United Center. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
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Updated: April 23, 2013 2:32PM
It wasn’t supposed to look like that.
Not with so much that had gone on for the Bulls lately.
A high-energy week of practice, the return of both Kirk Hinrich and Taj Gibson from injuries, a group of players still angry about an overtime loss to Denver on Monday. No, Thursday was supposed to be the start of the playoff push, and Portland was expected to be the team that was just standing in the way of that progress.
Following the 99-89 loss to the Trail Blazers, however, the fading Bulls had more questions than answers.
“It’s really disappointing,’’ Joakim Noah said. “We’re not playing good right now. This is the final stretch and we’re not getting it done, so we got to find a way.’’
When asked what needed to change, however, Noah paused and replied, “I don’t know.’’
That was the running theme, as the Bulls (36-31) have now lost two straight on the three-game homestand, and dropped into a sixth-place tie with Boston in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
While head coach Tom Thibodeau has downplayed the playoff seedings with just 15 regular-season games left, the seventh and eighth spots aren’t exactly inviting, considering the Bulls would then draw a second-place Indiana team or if they fall further, have to face the Miami Heat in the first round.
That’s why Gibson [sprained left MCL] pushed to get back, and even though there was still some pain in the knee, gave the Bulls a boost by scoring 14 points and grabbing nine rebounds in just under 25 minutes of work.
“I just went out there and played, knowing that we’re battling for these spots and need to get hot,’’ Gibson said of his return. “It’s all about being the hot team late, and who can progress as the games go on.’’
Considering the Bulls allowed 32 points in the second quarter to a Blazers team that now has just 10 road wins, “hot’’ is the opposite of what the Bulls are right now.
“What we should be able to count on every night are the defense and the rebounding,’’ Thibodeau added. “Right now, we’re not getting stops, we’re not rebounding so we can’t get out and run. We’ve got to clean that up.’’