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Night starts bad, gets a lot worse
With so many lowlights, it's tough to know where to begin dissecting the Bulls' 116-74 drubbing at the hands of the Trail Blazers Wednesday night at Rose Garden.
Here's one attempt: Wet paper towels offer more resistance than the Bulls' big men.
With Luol Deng watching because of a sore left hamstring, the Bulls were manhandled physically for the second straight night, meekly falling to 6-54 since 1998 on this annual extended November trip.
It's the worst Bulls loss since a 140-89 loss at Indiana on March 28, 2003.
"They jumped on us early and put pressure on us," coach Vinny Del Negro said. "Their big guys controlled the paint. From the tip, they controlled the tempo. Too many turnovers, back on our heels, the list can go on and on."
How bad did it get? Derrick Rose looked human in failing to reach double figures for the first time, missing seven of eight shots and tallying six points with one assist.
Still, the Rookie of the Year race between Rose, 2007 top overall pick Greg Oden and other talents will be far more competitive than this debacle.
The Bulls committed four turnovers on their first 10 possessions and fell behind 16-3 before Neil Funk seemingly cleared his throat on the TV call.
Joakim Noah, yanked from the lineup in favor of Aaron Gray, drew a first-quarter technical and five first-half fouls. He eventually fouled out with a whopping 8 minutes, 35 seconds remaining.
"Maybe I was too aggressive on some," Noah said. "I got six of them, so I might've fouled a couple times. I don't feel all of them were justifiable. I don't think my technical was even a technical. Refs are part of the game. I have to learn from it and move on."
Noah's fifth foul came after Oden shoved him and Cedric Simmons out of the way to grab an offensive rebound -- on a missed free throw.
And why, you may ask, was Simmons in that early? Because Tyrus Thomas was reminding all why he'll never be confused with draft classmates Brandon Roy or LaMarcus Aldridge, forcing action and missing seven of nine shots.
Roy's 20 points led Portland. Joel Przybilla, Aldridge and Oden combined for 36 points and 24 rebounds as the Blazers owned a 52-34 advantage in points in the paint.
But, wait, there's more: Trailing 55-28, the Bulls had to call timeout because they couldn't inbound the ball.
Portland led by as many as 47.
"It's not frustrating, it's embarrassing," Noah said. "We're giving up so much easy stuff around the basket."
Deng suffered his injury during Tuesday's morning shootaround in Los Angeles, spent 26 minut es chasing Kobe Bryant around then sat the entire fourth quarter against the Lakers. Late Tuesday, he said he could be "out for a bit."
But Deng had a more optimistic view after Wednesday's game, saying he hopes to return Friday at Golden State.
"I'm trying to be smart about it," Deng said. "It doesn't feel like a serious injury."
Del Negro started Larry Hughes instead.
"Hamstrings can linger and those just need rest," Del Negro said. "The injury situation doesn't get any better. We just keep trying to find ways to patch this thing up."
Another patch job came in the form of Aaron Gray replacing the struggling Noah, who then started the second half.
"I just have to keep working," Noah said. "What else can I wish for? I mean, what, I'm going to give up?"
Noah came dangerously close to saying teammates did exactly that.
"I feel like sometimes you can't make excuses for yourself and realize individually everyone can play harder," he said. "I don't think you can look at the game and say, 'Oh, wow, he played as hard as he could.' I feel individually we have to play harder and smarter and better. It's unacceptable."
The relentlessly optimistic Del Negro denied Noah's performance factored in his decision, citing Gray matched up better with Przybilla.
"It has nothing to do with that," Del Negro said. "We've changed the lineup with injuries and matchups. It's never an easy decision or the perfect answer. You go with what you think. There's no hidden agenda behind it. Guys have to understand their role and do their job."
Noah is typically one of the more vocal and upbeat players in the locker room. But he uncharacteristically declined to talk to a reporter late Tuesday in Los Angeles and spent pregame in Portland glumly watching game film.
Yet Del Negro said he didn't believe Noah's confidence has been affected.
"I don't think so," Del Negro said. "He has to keep working. I have to do a better job of helping him understand things."
After a 4-for-12 night, Ben Gordon is now 10 for 34 on this trip. But Del Negro defended Gordon's shot selection.
"Jump shooters don't shoot well every night," Del Negro said. "He's been shooting and playing well so I don't want to take that away from him."
Gordon proved more on the mark afterward.
"We couldn't get anything going," he said. "They took us out everything really easily. It seemed like the game was over before it even started the way we came out."