8:00 PM ET, March 21, 2013
United Center, Chicago, IL
CHICAGO -- LaMarcus Aldridge said he enjoys playing in Chicago. It sure showed Thursday night.
"This is one of my top three cities to play in, all the tradition. They traded me on draft night, so this is always fun," said Aldridge, whom the Bulls selected with the second overall pick in 2006 before trading him to the Blazers in a deal involving their pick, Tyrus Thomas.
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Damian Lillard added 24 points, and Portland improved to 10-25 on the road to sweep the season series with the Bulls for the first time since the 2008-09 season. The Blazers beat Chicago 102-94 on Nov. 18 in their other meeting this season.
"That was probably, if not the best, one of our better defensive performances of the season," Blazers coach Terry Stotts said.
"Our pick-and-roll defense was very good. We helped. Our weak side was active. We covered the paint pretty well. The points came, but they didn't come without the defense."
J.J. Hickson grabbed a career-high 21 rebounds for Portland, which held a 45-41 rebounding advantage.
"The energy was there. Everyone was focused on the game plan," Blazers forward Nicolas Batum said.
Chicago led 21-20 after the first quarter, but Portland scored the first 14 points of the second quarter and outscored the Bulls 32-16 in the period to take a 52-37 lead at halftime. Aldridge led Portland with 16 points at the break and Lillard had 13.
"First quarter was fine. Second quarter was bad," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "We have to be up on them more than we were. You give them space, they are going to score. We need to play better."
Portland extended its lead to 28 in the third quarter before the Bulls made a late charge, outscoring the Blazers 36-19 in the final quarter. Jimmy Butler scored 10 of his 12 points in the fourth quarter to help Chicago get within 10 points with under 36 seconds left.
The injury-plagued Bulls got Kirk Hinrich and Taj Gibson back. Hinrich started at point guard after missing seven games with a sore right foot. Gibson, a reserve, also returned after missing 10 games with a sprained MCL in his left knee.
Hinrich struggled, shooting 1 of 7 from the field for two points. He scored his first points on a layup with under five minutes left in the third quarter. Gibson was 7 of 14 for 14 points.
"Every game is a grind right now. We're so short-handed," Boozer said.
The Blazers shot 49 percent from the field and went 10 of 21 from 3-point range, led by Lillard's four 3-pointers. Batum and Wesley Matthews each hit three 3-pointers.
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"Our defense was terrible," Gibson said. "We couldn't stop them. They were hot. The ball pressure wasn't good enough. They were knocking down jump shots from every single part of the court."
Portland has beaten the Bulls in four straight meetings and won nine of its last 11 against Chicago. The Blazers had lost 14 of their last 16 road games before Thursday.
The Bulls fell to 3-6 in March, while Portland improved to 6-5 this month.
Aldridge grabbed eight rebounds to fall short of his sixth consecutive double-double. The Western Conference Player of the Week had averaged 26.8 points and 12.2 rebounds in his last five games.
While the Bulls got Hinrich and Gibson back from injuries, Derrick Rose remains out. Rose said during Thursday's shootaround that he isn't sure when he'll return from his knee injury. The former MVP point guard sounded like he might miss the entire season and said he's experiencing some soreness in his surgically repaired left knee. He had ACL surgery in May. Rose said he hasn't experienced any setbacks in his recovery.
"Nothing has changed," Thibodeau said. "Go day to day. He continues to get better."
Thibodeau said reserve guard Richard Hamilton's sore back is not clearing up and the Bulls have to remain patient. Hamilton hasn't played since Feb. 26. ... Chicago closes out a homestand against Indiana on Saturday. Portland continues its road trip Friday at Atlanta.
Around The Association
MVP: LaMarcus Aldridge. He set the tone for the Blazers by getting off to a hot start, and his consistent play throughout gives him tonight's "glue guy" title. Not to mention, he iced the Bulls' early fourth-quarter run.
X factor: The Blazers' shooting. Chicago outscored the Blazers 52-30 in the paint, but the Blazers refused to miss from anywhere else on the floor. They outscored Chicago by 18 from beyond the arc.
LVP: Kirk Hinrich. Captain Kirk registered just two points, going 1 for 7 from the field and 0 for 4 from behind the 3-point line. This could explain why Bulls fans are more excited for the other return.