Trail Blazers-Bulls Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated March 15, 2012
The Chicago Bulls credit their ability to play through adversity for making them stronger. For the Portland Trail Blazers, continued problems cost coach Nate McMillan his job as the franchise underwent some big changes. The Bulls aren't certain if they'll have star guard Derrick Rose available Friday night when they host the reeling Trail Blazers, who play their first game under interim coach Caleb Kanales. Portland (20-23) has dropped to last place in the Northwest Division with seven losses in nine games, with all six defeats in March by double digits. The Trail Blazers put up little resistance and were embarrassed with a 121-79 loss at New York on Wednesday to a Knicks team that had lost six straight. The 42-point defeat was the last straw for management, which fired McMillan on Thursday after six seasons, during which he guided the team to three playoff berths. Kanales was promoted from assistant to interim coach. "Clearly the season to this point has not gone the way we had hoped it would and after talking with Nate we decided it was best to part ways," Blazers President Larry Miller said in a statement issued by the team. Thursday's moves also included trading veteran center Marcus Camby to Houston and forward Gerald Wallace to New Jersey. The Trail Blazers acquired guard Jonny Flynn and the expiring contracts of Mehmet Okur, Shawne Williams and Hasheem Thabeet as well as draft picks. To make room for the new additions, Portland waived former No. 1 overall pick Greg Oden, who was limited to 82 games by injuries since the Blazers took him over Kevin Durant with the first selection in the 2007 draft. Oden recently underwent his third microfracture knee surgery. With Portland in flux and struggling, a visit to Chicago isn't likely to help. The Bulls (36-9) have the NBA's best record and have won three straight, including a 106-102 victory over Southeast Division-leading Miami on Wednesday without Rose. The reigning MVP sat out with a strained groin - the 11th game he's missed this season. A day earlier, he was fined $25,000 by the league for criticizing officiating in a win over the Knicks and he was involved in a minor car accident, although he wasn't injured. While Rose and Richard Hamilton (shoulder) were out, Luol Deng returned after missing two games because of pain in his injured left wrist and had 11 points on 4-of-13 shooting. Despite Deng's poor shooting and a season-low two points from Carlos Boozer, the Bulls prevailed behind 24 points from John Lucas III - one of six players in double figures. "We're like a brotherhood," said Lucas, who hit 9 of 12 shots and 3 of 5 3-pointers. "When one brother goes down, we have their back." Chicago outrebounded the Heat 50-34 and has a 15.0 boards per game edge over its last three opponents. Taj Gibson has averaged 8.7 rebounds off the bench during that stretch, grabbing a season-high 13 against the Knicks. "The guys we have on our team are the right guys," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "They have the right attitude, approach and there's the belief we can win." It's not certain if Rose or Hamilton will play Friday. Rose has two 30-point games in his last three meetings with Portland. Chicago has won two straight at home against the Blazers, but has lost six of the last eight meetings overall. LaMarcus Aldridge has averaged 35.7 points in his last three games against the Bulls, scoring 42 in Portland's 109-103 victory on Feb. 7, 2011.
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