Bulls end west coast trip with gritty win over Blazers
Soobum Im - USA Today Sports

Bulls end west coast trip with gritty win over Blazers

by - Senior Writer -

PORTLAND - When the Chicago Bulls (22-25) embarked on their three-game West Coast trip, they aimed to go 2-1 if not a perfect 3-0. Looking at who they were facing, two of these games were very winnable, with the third being one in which the Bulls had a great chance to win. After dropping the first two on the trip in ugly fashion, the Bulls needed to win on Sunday to finish things off on a positive note.

Fortunately for them, the struggling Portland Trail Blazers (13-33) stood in their way as they squared off at the Moda Center on Sunday. Even with guys like Zach Lavine and Patrick Williams out of the lineup, the Bulls continued to find new ways to win these types of games as Chicago got back on the winning side of things with a gritty 104-96 win. Health has been an issue at times for this team, but unlike last season when guys went down, the Bulls have more depth and are in a much better place this year.

Ayo Dosunmu is a massive reason for that as he opened the game with a layup off the opening tip as the Bulls grabbed the lead less than six seconds into the game. Chicago would build their lead up to eight points midway through the first quarter, only to see the Blazers pull within three after one. After going through a rough second season in the league, Dosunmu has bounced back and is showing the long-term investment is well worth it as he filled in for Williams with 11 points, including several clutch buckets down the stretch.

Even with Lavine missing most of the past two months, the Bulls have survived as Coby White and Demar DeRozan have formed an impressive duo. DeRozan may not be having the same kind of year he had in the previous two seasons, but with 20 points, he led Chicago once again. White also had a solid game for the Bulls, and although he wasn't scoring as frequently as he has been, with 15 points and nine assists, he continues to play the PG position at a high level.

One of the biggest reasons the Bulls have not only found themselves back in the play in picutre, but have been able to stretch their lead out a bit has been the resurgence of Nikola Vucevic. After being one of their more consistent players the first month, Vucevic went into a prolonged slump where it seemed his age caught up to him.

He then went on the injured list for about two weeks, but since returning, he has been playing his best basketball to date. That continued on Sunday with a 14-point, seven-rebound effort as he continued to do his thing. His counterpart, Andre Drummond, continues to be a menace off the bench with 15 points, but the rookie Julian Phillips stole the show.

For the most part, Phillips has been having his way in the G-League, averaging close to 17 PPG while showing off his unreal athleticism. However, he has only played sparingly in the NBA and has shown potential when on the floor. With Williams and Torrey Craig out, look for Phillips to start getting more minutes, and after a career-high 11 points, he deserves more time.

Over the past three seasons, this Portland team has gone from a middle-of-the-pack Western Conference team to one of the worst in the league. That happens when you get rid of CJ McCollum, Damien Lillard, and Nursef Jurkic, as this team is a shell of what it once was. Even at that, the Blazers are trying to form a new trio under Chauncey Billups, and two of them were putting on a clinic Sunday.

Jeremi Grant led the way for Portland with 24 points. Since coming over from Detroit nearly two years ago, Grant has been a steady force that Portland would love to build around. DeAndre Ayton, who was acquired as part of the Nurkic deal, has also had a great season with Portland, and with 22 points and 12 boards, he continues to put up great numbers against Chicago.

Those two did most of the heavy lifting for Portland, but don't discount the effort that Malcolm Brogden showed. After bouncing around the past few seasons, Brogden is hoping Portland can be his home for an extended period, and with 16 points and six assists, the Blazers hope for the same. Anfernee Simmons is another young piece that this team would love to build around, but with just 11 points to round out the double-digit scorers, Simmons still has some work to do to reach the level this team needs him to be at.

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