PORTLAND — Friday was a tale of two halves that couldn’t have been any different.
The Portland Trail Blazers came back from as much as 21 points to extend their winning streak to nine games, beating the Chicago Bulls 98-95.
The first half was a Bulls domination, and Portland looked hopeless to stop their attack.
Portland came out like a new team in the second and the Bulls superstar point guard, Derrick Rose, left the Moda Center on crutches and will have an MRI on his right knee Saturday.
The Blazers played their worst half of basketball this season. They followed it up with a third quarter that showed they can handle adversity.
The Blazers were out rebounded 31-18 in the first half and found themselves down by 15.
The Blazers turned up the defensive pressure and Wesley Matthews continued to amaze. Matthews had 26 points through three quarters and continues to do no wrong as he finished with 28.
“We got to start doing that to start the game,” Matthews said. “We responded like we are supposed to. We turned up.”
Robin Lopez was the only Blazer whose energy never wavered from the tip-off and he finished with 13 points and 16 rebounds.
The Blazers were lacking in energy in the first half, but Lopez was relentless in trying to get the Blazers back in it. Along with Matthews and some heady steals by Nicolas Batum, who finished with five on the night, the Blazers were able to prevail.
“Yeah, in that first half yeah,” Lopez said when asked whether he sensed the Blazers needed a lift. “In that third period, we had to make an impression straight away.”
The Blazers were able to get the win Friday despite LaMarcus Aldridge’s worst game of the season, going 4-of-20 from the field.
It speaks to the offensive fire power that the team has, so says the hottest of them all.
“We’ve got a lot of players who can make plays,” Matthews said. “We have a lot of guys that can score any given night and whenever you have a problem (for other teams) on your team like an LA or Dame, where they have to put two guys on him and you have guys that can make plays, that’s why we’re able to make shots.”
Matthews praised the unselfishness of Aldridge.
“He shot 20 balls, but how many times did he make the hockey assist or make the assist. That’s an unselfish superstar right there,” Aldridge said.
Aldridge hit two free-throws to ice the game and put the Blazers up 98-95, and the Bulls final possession failed to send the game into overtime.
The marquee match-up between Chicago’s Rose and Portland’s Damian Lillard never really came to fruition on this night as Rose’s night was cut short in the third quarter.
Rose, the 2011 NBA MVP, left the game in the third quarter with what the Bulls called a right knee injury and did not return.
“He said it’s sore, so we’ll see,” said Bulls forward Luol Deng.
The Blazers will now head into the second night of a back-to-back in Oakland, the hometown of Damian Lillard, Saturday night.
“We have to start the game off a lot better than we did tonight,” Lillard said. “The Warriors can really score the ball and they play great at home. If we put ourselves in that position tomorrow it could get ugly.”
At least for now, with nine straight wins, thing are far from ugly for the Blazers.
• Terry Stotts said before the game he was expecting “Chicago Bulls defense,” but early on it was simply the Chicago Bulls that took it to the Trail Blazers. The Bulls forced the Blazers into 38 percent shooting by trying to takeaway their three-point shot. Offensively, the 23rd ranked Bulls found their best offense coming on the offensive glass and scored 32 in the first quarter and had a 59-44 lead in the first half.
• Rose missed all of last season after recovering from ACL surgery and due to the lockout shortened season hadn’t played in Portland in several years. The official count on the days between visits to the Rose Garden/Moda Center is 1,020. He scored 17 points in the first half.
• The Bulls came to Portland on the second night of a back-to-back but didn’t look like the team that had played the night before. The Bulls jumped out to a big first half lead that got as high as 21 points and they simply outworked the Blazers on the boards outrebounding them 12-2 in the first quarter. After the first half the Bulls had a 31-18 rebounding advantage. Luol Deng had a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds after the first half.
• Matthews continued his great stretch of play as he was the only player on the floor for the Blazers that had any kind of rhythm. Matthews had 16 points in the first half on six of 10 shooting. The rest of the Blazers shot 25 percent.