The first time Derrick Rose played against the Portland Trail Blazers he had six points. He doubled that in his seccond game, but finished with 13 points on 36% shooting. Earlier this year Rose nudged up to 14 points, but the Bulls lost by 24. How many times could Portland look the future superstar in the eye and still walk away with victories?
Rose wasn’t about to fail for the four consecutive games against the Blazers, and he delivered in a big way, dropping 33 in Chicago’s 115-111 victory over the Blazers on Friday night. In fact, in a game that featured multiple lead changes it was Chicago that had trouble putting the nail in Portland’s coffin. The Bulls are 20-5 when leading after three quarters (make that 21-5 now), and with the long limbs of Luol Deng directly in front of Brandon Roy, the Bulls were coasting to victory until their offensive stalled in the final minutes. Roy, who earned every single one of his 23 points, missed a pair from the line in the final seconds, only for the fourth quarter ghost that is LaMarcus Aldridge to appear, then dramatically tip-in the rebound over the outstretched ponytail of Joakim Noah. Rose had an excellent chance to win the game for the Bulls, but gravity was not on his side, as his last second layup attempt flirted with the rim but never fell.
On to overtime we go. Problem is, the Blazers are terrible in the extra period this year. Portland is one-of-four in OT, that lone victory coming in Andre Miller’s 52 pointsplosion against Dallas. As Blazers fans are accustomed to, Roy was the lone option in the waning minutes of the game, and while he’s been known for the last second heroics, this current Blazers team isn’t the back-against-the-wall force that last season’s was. Nursing five fouls and one bad hamstring, Roy couldn’t compete against a Bulls team that wasn’t ready to let this game slide away one more time. Portland had a chance to take the lead with a three-pointer with five seconds left, but an exhausted Roy was short, and that was it.
While Rose got them there, the Bulls leaned on Deng who scored 23 on the night, seven of which came in overtime. Before doing his usual late game vanishing act, Aldridge contributed a season best 32 points. Although, the first 26 of those came by the midway point of the third quarter. Miller (14) and Jerryd Bayless (15) rounded out the other Blazers to finish in double digits. For the second straight game Martell Webster was a complete non-factor. In five minutes he left with nothing but an empty box score.
This game marked the final road game against an Eastern Conference team, meaning Portland finished the year under .500 (7-8) against the weaker side of the league. Keep in mind, last year the Blazers were 22-8 on the year against the East. If there is a silver lining, it’s that Portland has a back-to-back tomorrow against Minnesota and the Blazers have the best record in the NBA when playing on consecutive nights.
Even better, Derrick Rose won’t be playing.