CHICAGO -- In the times this season when the Portland Trail Blazers have struggled, defense has typically been at the center of the troubles. But coach Terry Stotts has also seen glimpses of improvement, which gives him hope. While he concedes the defense remains a work in progress, there are instances -- like the Blazers' effort in the fourth quarter Monday night -- when he knows the attention to detail is paying off. Damian Lillard scored 30 points and C.J. McCollum added 24 as the Trail Blazers rallied in the fourth quarter to hold off the Chicago Bulls 112-110 on Monday night. The Trail Blazers (12-10) used an 11-0 run in the fourth quarter, sparked by reserve guard Evan Turner, who scored eight of the 11 points during the momentum-shifting push as Portland held the Bulls (11-9) to 5-of-21 over the final 12 minutes. "I've never questioned whether they cared (defensively), but it's got to carry over to the court," said Stotts, whose team won for the fourth time in five games. The defensive effort came alive in the fourth quarter after the Blazers erased a deficit with the pivotal scoring run. Turner's 3-point field goal with 5:55 remaining gave Portland a 103-93 lead. The Bulls, led by Dwyane Wade's 34 points, made a push late in the fourth quarter and Nikola Mirotic got the Bulls to within three points with a pair of free throws. But Lillard responded with a pair of free throws with 18.2 seconds remaining and then connected on another pair to give the Blazers a five-point lead. Jimmy Butler, who scored 26 points to extend his 20-point-plus streak of games to 14, hit a meaningless 3-pointer at the buzzer. But after the way the Bulls shot in the fourth quarter, Butler's last-second effort wasn't enough. "They made plays and I thought we got a little deflated," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "I thought we hung our heads a little bit, then battled back and gave ourselves a chance, but we can't do that in the fourth." While the Bulls withered with the game still hanging in the balance, the Blazers, who hit on only 7-of-21 shots in the third quarter, made their move. "Our team did a great job staying the course," Lillard said. "We stayed together, our defense got tighter. ... We weathered the storm. We kept it even going into the fourth (quarter) and in the fourth, that's when players got to go out there and play and go out there and win the game." The Bulls played without starting point guard Rajon Rondo, who was suspended for one game for conduct detrimental to the team. Without him, the Bulls struggled to maintain any rhythm with the exception of the third quarter when they made their move behind Wade and Butler. But Chicago, which has lost three of its last four games, couldn't keep it going down the stretch. The up and down play was emblematic of the Bulls' play over their first 20 games. "We've been great at times and other times, just OK," Wade said. "It hasn't been terrible. Our season is what our record is." Allen Crabbe scored 17 for Portland, which also got 11 points from Maurice Harkless and 10 from Mason Plumlee. As many plays as the Blazers made during the fourth-quarter offensive push, they used their defense to stave off the late rally by the Bulls, who beat Portland by 25 points last month. Now in the midst of a successful run of late, Stott and his team are hoping performances like Monday's can lead to bigger and better things to come. "I think (the fourth quarter) says a lot about us because we fought back," Turner said. "Things weren't going our way in the third quarter, but we stuck together and fought and pretty much, the basketball gods rewarded us." NOTES: Trail Blazers F Al-Farouq Aminu returned to the lineup Monday night after missing 13 games with a strained calf. Coach Terry Stotts said Aminu would be limited to 16-20 minutes. "I just want him to get back in the rhythm of playing," Stotts said. "It's about getting on the court and not trying to do too much." ... Bulls G Rajon Rondo served a one-game suspension Monday night after the Bulls cited him for conduct detrimental to the team earlier in the day. According to the Chicago Tribune, Rondo got into a verbal altercation with a Bulls assistant coach during Chicago's loss to Dallas on Saturday night. Coach Fred Hoiberg declined to give specifics of the incident. "We've moved past it." G Jerian Grant started in Rondo's place against Portland. ... G Doug McDermott (concussion) practiced with the Bulls' NBA Development League team on Monday and is expected to do so again Tuesday.
Lillard, McCollum lead Trail Blazers' rally past Bulls
The Sports Xchange | Dec 5