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10 observations: Bulls down Trail Blazers to cap 1-2 trip

DeMar DeRozan takes over in 4th and rookie Julian Phillips delivers strong minutes

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Presented by Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich

PORTLAND, Ore. --- The Chicago Bulls capped a 1-2 Western swing with Sunday night’s 104-96 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers.

"I really thought we tried to share the ball," coach Billy Donovan said. "We hung in there defensively. . . . At the end of the road trip, it's tough. We had an emotional loss in Phoenix. I think we were really disappointed with the way we played against the Lakers. It's a hard to place play here. And we found a way to make enough plays when our shooting wasn't great."

Here are 10 observations:

---DeMar DeRozan opened the game facilitating for others. Then, Portland started trapping him and he kept giving up the ball. In the fourth, DeRozan started hunting his shot more---a familiar formula for him. He finished with 20 points, seven rebounds and six assists. He scored 12 in the fourth.

---With Patrick Williams sidelined by a left foot injury, Ayo Dosunmu drew the start in a smaller lineup. Dosunmu scored six seconds after tipoff on a dunk and netted six points in the first 1 minute, 52 seconds on two more fast-break layups. This is Dosunmu’s specialty---pushing the ball in transition and attacking the rim.

"It happened so fast, I thought it was the wrong side of the rim," Dosunmu said. "I didn't hear anybody yelling so I thought, 'Cool.' When it's that open, you're kind of like, 'Why is that open?'"

But he saved his biggest basket for last, sinking a huge 3-pointer with 20.5 seconds left for a six-point lead. Dosunmu extended his career-long streak of double-figure scoring games to seven.

"In those instances, you try not to think and just trust your instincts," Dosunmu said. "I understand we needed a good shot. They were trapping DeMar. I thought about driving but I hit Vooch (Nikola Vucevic) on the baseline. Once Vooch had it, I'm ready to shoot. He hit me back. Coach Donovan always tells me to be ready, have my eyes on the rim."

---With Torrey Craig also out, the Bulls’ guard-heavy roster is being tested. Coach Billy Donovan went to the double-big lineup of Nikola Vucevic and Andre Drummond in the first quarter and also inserted second-round pick Julian Phillips just over midway through the opening period.

---Phillips finished with a career-high 11 points in 23 minutes. He said that Donovan told him to be himself, run the floor hard and use his athleticism. He certainly did the latter shortly after checking in, emphatically spiking a Malcolm Brogdon shot from behind and then powering home an and-one on which he failed to convert the free throws.

---This is the second straight game and third time recently that Donovan has used the Vucevic-Drummond pairing. This time, it was out of necessity with the injuries piling up. Against the Lakers, the pairing played well together and Donovan always has said he likes the look in certain matchups. Drummond drew three fouls in eight first-half minutes but rallied with strong second-half minutes to finish with 15 points and seven rebounds in 17 minutes.

---All nine players who played scored---and they had done so by halftime. In the first half, the Bulls assisted on 18 of 24 field goals. They finished with 27 assists. This ball movement has defined their improved play since early December.

---Coby White, one of six in double figures, fell one assist shy of a points-assists double-double with 15 points and nine assists. White also has a career-best double-figuring scoring streak, now up to 34 games.

---The Bulls fell on the short end of a 29-17 free-throw attempts disadvantage. But they made up for it with a 52-40 points in the paint advantage. Particularly in the first half, they did a great job of penetrating and dishing and also recognizing favorable matchups.

---The Bulls led by 11 at half and only committed one turnover. But the Trail Blazers took their first lead of the night with 2 minutes, 12 seconds left in the third after Jerami Grant posted a spectacular block on Andre Drummond and drew a foul, making one free throw. The Bulls have four turnovers in the third quarter alone and started settling for non-paint shots after dominating in that area in the first half.

---The teams’ first meeting served as another reminder that the Bulls won’t get the Trail Blazers’ first-round pick from the Lauri Markkanen trade again this season. It’s lottery-protected and Portland remains stuck in a deep rebuild. If it doesn’t convey by 2028, it becomes a second-round pick. The Bulls also received Derrick Jones Jr., who now plays for Dallas, in that deal. Markkanen is putting together another All-Star caliber season in Utah.

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