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Bulls focus on containing Portland’s Aldridge
by Adam Fluck
Posted on Mar 28
Playing without LaMarcus Aldridge, who had missed seven consecutive games with a low back contusion, the Portland Trail Blazers were starting to struggle.
Though still fifth in the Western Conference standings, Portland had gone 3-8 in its last 11 games and was only a few games from falling outside of the playoff picture.
On Thursday, however, Aldridge returned to record 25 points and 16 rebounds in a 100-85 win over the Hawks in Atlanta.
With Portland in Chicago on Friday, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said he’s preparing for a Trail Blazers team that has returned to its high level of play.
“They’re back to how they normally play,” said Thibodeau. “They’re a very hard team to guard.”
It’s Aldridge in particular who will require a team effort from the Bulls to try and contain. The 6-11, 240-pounder is averaging 23.4 points and 11.1 rebounds on the season.
“He looked great [on Thursday],” said Thibodeau of Aldridge. “His skill set is so unique. He’s a hard guy [to defend] because of where he catches the ball and his release is so high. When you throw [Damian] Lillard and Mo Williams out there and Wes Matthews, [Nicolas] Batum and then [Robin] Lopez is great at doing his job. That was a huge pickup for them. [Thomas] Robinson really runs the floor. They’ve got a lot of weapons.”
Chicago enters Friday’s game after a three-day break. On Monday, the Bulls recorded what Noah called one of their biggest wins of the season, an 89-77 victory over the Pacers to close out their season series with Indiana at 2-2.
Noah, however, wasn’t ready to concede that the Bulls are playing as well as they have all season.
“We’ll see tonight,” said Noah. “Every game is different. I think we’re a confident group right now and we’ve beaten some pretty good teams. We have a big challenge tonight playing against a great offensive team. We’re excited.”
Earlier this season, Portland defeated Chicago 98-95 as Matthews posted a game-high 28 points. Chicago has dropped five straight contests versus Portland, including five straight at home.
In their two meetings last year, Aldridge averaged 23.0 points against Chicago, while Noah averaged a double-double with 17.0 points and 10.5 rebounds.
Expected to be considered for NBA Defensive Player of the Year honors, Noah will be counted on to help defend Aldridge.
“He’s a great player,” said Noah of Aldridge. “He definitely changes everything when he’s on the court for them, just his ability to shoot the ball, score in the paint. He’s probably the best offensive big in the league. So he definitely presents a lot of challenges.”
The Bulls will clinch a playoff spot with a win or a New York loss in Phoenix.