CHICAGO — The Portland Trail Blazers are coming off a win in which they did enough to win ugly. The Chicago Bulls are hoping to rebound from playing just plain ugly.
The Bulls have struggled to produce attractive efforts in two of their last three games. That includes a 107-82 loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday night when Chicago never led, trailed by as many as 25 points and committed 20 turnovers.
The Trail Blazers, who visit the United Center on Monday night, didn't exactly paint a masterpiece Saturday. Portland held the Miami Heat without a field goal in the final three minutes of a 99-92 win as the Trail Blazers outscored the Heat 14-1 down the stretch.
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“We did enough to win an ugly game,” guard C.J. McCollum told The Oregonian.
Portland (11-10) will carry a two-game winning streak into Chicago and will face a team that is in the midst of playing four games in five days. The Bulls (11-8) were unable to carry the momentum of an impressive victory over Cleveland on Friday night.
Veteran guard Rajon Rondo was masterful against the Cavaliers with a triple-double. But like the rest of his teammates, Rondo faltered against the last-place Mavericks on Saturday when he had five turnovers while registering a total of four points and assists combined.
Nikola Mirotic continued to struggle offensively for the Bulls. One night after shooting 1-for-9 against the Cavaliers, Mirotic went 0-for-4 in Dallas and failed to score.
“We need Niko to play, man,” Bulls guard Jimmy Butler told reporters after Saturday's loss, according to the Chicago Tribune. “When he starts thinking, it only gets worse. When you just play, great things happen.”
Along with center Robin Lopez, Butler was among the few bright spots for the Bulls, scoring 26 points — the 13th straight game he has scored at least 20 points.
With Chicago's bench continuing to struggle to produce, the Bulls will again be without guard Doug McDermott, who has been dealing with concussion symptoms. McDermott was cleared to start taking contact on Friday night and will practice with the Bulls' NBA Development League team as Chicago wraps up its grueling stretch with Monday night's game against the Trail Blazers before heading to Detroit to face the Pistons.
With McDermott's return date still uncertain, Mirotic understands the need to start finding his touch from the field.
“I didn't feel very comfortable playing offense in some games,” Mirotic told reporters. “I've had some wide-open shots I didn't make. I'm trying to contribute in other ways.”
The Trail Blazers, meanwhile, will look to continue their winning streak as they begin a five-game road swing. Portland is 4-6 away from home and will look for a better start than they did against the Heat. The Trail Blazers missed their first five shots and shot only 32 percent in the first quarter before putting everything together down the stretch.
McCollum finished with 17 points on 7-of-18 shooting while fellow guard Damian Lillard tallied 19 points on 6-of-18 shooting in what was the lowest combined point total for Portland's starting backcourt.
“It's good to win any game, ugly or pretty, because at the end of the day all that shows up is the wins and losses,” forward Ed Davis told reporters Saturday.