Chicago Bulls vs. Portland Trail Blazers: 3 Takeaways from Monday’s Loss

Jimmy Butler, SG/SF, Chicago Bulls

Dec 5, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) is defended by Chicago Bulls forward Jimmy Butler (21) during the third quarter of the game at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s three takeaways from the Chicago Bulls’ 112-110 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday night at home.

Rajon Rondo wasn’t the only thing the Chicago Bulls lost on Monday night.

Rondo sat out Monday’s game with a one-game suspension stemming from Saturday’s night loss in Dallas, and the Bulls fell at home for the second straight game to the Portland Trail Blazers, 112-110.

Damian Lillard paced the Blazers with 30 points on 11-of-24 shooting, while backcourt mate C.J. McCollum chipped in 24 points. Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade once again led the Bulls on Monday night, combining for 60 (!) of the Bulls’ 110 points, including 19 points combined at the charity stripe on 21 attempts.

Despite the big numbers from the Marquette duo, the Bulls fell despite being +12 on the glass (50-38), 11 blocks on the defensive end, and 30 bench points.

Having mentioned the good (and bad) from Monday, here’s three takeaways from the loss, including what could a turnaround performance from a key player in the Bulls rotation.

Jimmy Butler, SG/SF, Chicago Bulls

Dec 5, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls forward Jimmy Butler (21) is defended by Portland Trail Blazers guard Evan Turner (1) during the fourth quarter of the game at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

1. The Bulls have defensive issues

OK, so the defensive rating (104.5, 9th in the NBA before Monday) may not show it, but the Bulls have issues on the defensive end.

Portland can be a stellar offensive team with one of the game’s best backcourt combos, but the Bulls have given up 100+ in six of their last eight games (3-5).

Taj Gibson and Robin Lopez can only do so much protecting the lane, while Jimmy Butler is carrying a heavy workload (37 more minutes on Monday) and Dwyane Wade isn’t exactly a ball-stopper these days.

This was another game where the Bulls could’ve used a step-up performance from Jerian Grant (filling in the starting lineup for Rondo), but Grant missed six of his seven shot attempts, had one block and no steals in just 23 minutes. It was certainly a step back from his big 18-point performance the last time the Bulls and Blazers got together.

Plus, the Bulls aren’t going to get much help on the defensive end when the guys coming off the bench are the struggling Bobby Portis (who played just six minutes), Nikola Mirotic, Denzel Valentine and Isaiah Canaan.

At what point does Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg see if an answer lies deeper on the bench in the form of Cristiano Felicio or Paul Zipser (who has been nursing a back strain as of late) to provide the Bulls a spark?

Nikola Mirotic, PF, Chicago Bulls

Dec 5, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic (44) and Portland Trail Blazers forward Meyers Leonard (11) fight for possession of the ball during the third quarter of the game at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

2. Nikola Mirotic made some contributions offensively

The numbers have supported it since he came over to the NBA to join the Bulls.

When Nikola Mirotic is good, the Bulls are in a much better place. When he’s not, the Bulls aren’t either.

On Monday night, Mirotic was good, scoring 18 points on just eight shot attempts, including a 3-for-4 shooting exhibition from long range against the Blazers. Mirotic also chipped with a pair of steals and a pair of blocks in the defeat, too.

Monday could’ve been a big step for Mirotic moving forward this season. Mirotic had only scored 14 points combined in the last four games before the loss on Monday. He had only made two 3-pointers in the last five games.

Yeah, it’s safe to say he was due for a game where the ball actually went through the rim.

Monday marked the ninth time that Mirotic had reach double figures in scoring. In the previous eight games that Mirotic scored 10+ points, the Bulls went 5-3.

It’s not necessarily a case of “he go, they go” like Dexter Fowler and the Chicago Cubs this past season, but when Mirotic is going, the Bulls are better off.

Dwyane Wade, SG, Chicago Bulls

Dec 5, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Dwyane Wade (3) looks on during the fourth quarter of the game against the Portland Trail Blazers at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

3. It’s only 20 games, but the Bulls need to find consistency

If the Bulls are expecting to play into the summer months this year unlike last season, consistency is going to be the name of the game.

Simply put: you can’t go out and beat the defending world champions at home on Friday night, and then lose your next two games (one of them to probably the worst team in the league the very next night).

At one point in the young season, the Bulls had won four games in a row, which still remains their season-high for a win streak. That was from Nov. 10-17 (at Miami, Washington, at Portland, at Utah).

They haven’t had a win streak of any length since.

Despite the Eastern Conference still being the weaker of the two conferences, the Bulls can still make a run over the course of the season, but they have to find that stride.

Sure, things like getting guys healthy (Paul Zipser and Doug McDermott) is important. Yeah, getting more out of Rajon Rondo — who has been nothing short of a disappoitment — would be nice, too.

But, the big thing with the Bulls is finding the energy to play night in and night out will be a big thing.

Winning on national television against a premier opponent is always nice. Winning games when not everyone is watching is nice, too.

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