Bulls take step back with loss to Trail Blazers

Written By BY JOE COWLEY Staff Reporter Posted: 03/28/2014, 11:30pm
Array Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, center, passes the ball to LaMarcus Aldridge, right as Chicago Bulls forward Carlos Boozer (5) and Kirk Hinrich (12) defend during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, March 28, 2014, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast) ORG XMIT: CXA106

Three days off were supposed to be the perfect remedy, a much-needed rest for a team that seems to grind, not play, through a schedule.

Three days to get right physically and mentally.

And it still wasn’t enough Friday against the Trail Blazers. Thanks to a 10-for-22 three-point shooting night by Portland, all those warm, fuzzy feelings the Bulls had after the victory Monday over the Pacers were long gone.

A 91-74 loss at home can do that to a team.

“We didn’t have the energy we normally have,’’ guard Jimmy Butler said. “We didn’t hit shots, and we damn sure didn’t guard.’’

So, basically, pick a problem because the Bulls (40-32) had a bunch of them.

“Yeah, we were flat,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. “I think [the Trail Blazers] had something to do with that. We didn’t cover the line the way we would have liked to.’’

That was the first crack in the dam. After holding Portland (47-27) to 1-for-5 three-point shooting in the first quarter and only trailing 19-16, it was as if the Bulls’ usually reliable defense forgot about guarding the three-point line.

The Blazers went 4-for-4 from three-point range in the second quarter, then 4-for-8 in the third.

“It just seemed like we were a step behind the play,’’ Thibodeau said. “A couple of them were scramble threes, and you can live with that, but a couple of other ones we lacked discipline on closeouts. But we didn’t cover the line the way we needed to.’’

Especially in transition, where the Bulls seemed confused, and Portland feasted.

“We caused it, not talking, not paying attention to the basic defensive principles,’’ Butler said. “I feel like when you’re in transition, you always have to talk. There’s no man in transition. You just got to pick up the man nearest to you.’’

The Bulls had no answer offensively, shooting 3-for-17 (17.6 percent) from three-point range.

“Offensively, we were just so bad,’’ Mike Dunleavy said. “Besides just making shots, just making the right decisions. Eventually, it affected us on the defensive end.’’

Dunleavy said the team was sluggish out of the gate.

“I just thought we got some good looks early on that didn’t go down,’’ Dunleavy said, ‘‘and it sort of snowballed from there. Just one of those nights. Not our best, not our best, for sure.’’

It was made worse by the fact that the Raptors won, keeping the Bulls in the No. 4 spot in the Eastern Conference playoff picture, a game behind Toronto with 10 to play.

“We pay attention,’’ Joakim Noah said of the standings. “It’s our job to pay attention to what’s going on. But we have to worry about us. There’s 10 games left; we’re playing pretty good basketball. [Friday] was just a bump in the road.’’

A bump that all but erased any good feeling coming out of that victory against the Pacers.

“I don’t want to look back at Indiana,’’ Thibodeau said.

“We lost this game, so we’re going to analyze why we lost it, make our corrections and get ready for Boston. One game is not the end-all either way.’’

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com

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