DeRozan sits out, but Bulls have no problems in Portland
The Bulls season seemed like a lost cause when they limped into the all-star break without DeMar DeRozan and lugging a six-game losing streak.
So having DeRozan on the sideline for the start of a three-game West Coast trip counts as cause for alarm. The veteran forward aggravated a right quad strain in Wednesday's home loss to Philadelphia, the same injury that caused him to miss a total of six games in January and February.
Fortunately for the Bulls, they didn't face a particularly daunting challenge late Friday in Portland. The Blazers were missing their top four scorers due to injuries -- Damian Lillard, Jerami Grant, Anfernee Simons and Jusuf Nurkic.
So the Bulls took care of business with a routine 124-96 victory, their fifth-straight road win. Zach LaVine scored 33 points, drained 6 of 9 3-pointers and was able to sit out the entire fourth. Center Nikola Vucevic added 23 points and 15 rebounds. Coby White had one of his best stat lines of the season with 19 points and 9 assists.
Bulls coach Billy Donovan took an optimistic tone before the game on DeRozan's injury. He was able to get some shots up before Friday's shootaround.
"I think he's definitely feeling better, but they're just going to be cautious with him, just based on the history and what's happened, because it's been twice he was out before this," Donovan said. "I don't think it's at the level it was maybe right before we went to Paris (on Jan. 19).
DeRozan pulled himself out of Wednesday's game midway through the third quarter, shortly after he threw a bad pass, then sprinted back to stop a fast-break lay in. He went a long way up the aisle behind the basket before returning to the court.
"DeMar probably just him knowing his body, caught it sooner than that," Donovan said. "I don't know what it looks like going into both those games in L.A. the next couple of days, but we'll see how he feels tomorrow."
The Bulls will conclude the trip with back-to-back games at the Staples Center -- against the Lakers on Sunday afternoon and the Clippers on Monday night.
Friday's game was tied 26-26 after one quarter, but the Bulls pulled out to a 61-45 lead at halftime thanks to some hot long-range shooting. They went 8-for-9 from 3-point land in the first half, including 4-for-4 by LaVine, who buried a 3 at the buzzer to end the second quarter.
Without Nurkic, Vucevic had a size advantage inside and recorded a double-double before the first half ended.
Alex Caruso returned to action after missing two games with a sore foot, while Javonte Green sat out after returning Monday from nearly three months off with a knee injury.
Portland's lineup included former Bulls point guard Ryan Arcidiacono. Rookie Shaedon Sharpe did most of the damage for the Blazers, scoring 24 points.
While the injuries pile up in Portland, Lillard has talked about the reality of giving up on making the play-in tournament. That affects the Bulls because they'd get the Blazers' first-round pick this year, but it's top-14 protected. So Portland keeps the pick if it doesn't make the playoffs.
In the play-in race, Toronto won Friday and Atlanta was off, so the Bulls remain 10th in the East, a half-game behind the ninth-place Raptors and a game behind the eighth-place Hawks. The Bulls are two games ahead of Indiana and Washington.