Friday, March 28, 2014
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Preview: Trail Blazers At Bulls

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[March 28, 2014]  (SportsDirect Inc.)   LaMarcus Aldridge returned to action and the Portland Trail Blazers immediately snapped out of their doldrums. Aldridge had 25 points and 16 rebounds against Atlanta on Thursday and the All-Star forward will attempt to help the Trail Blazers notch another victory when they visit the Chicago Bulls on Friday. Portland lost the first three contests of a five-game road trip before putting forth a solid effort against the Hawks and stands one game ahead of sixth-place Golden State in the Western Conference.

Chicago has won back-to-back games and is battling the Toronto Raptors for third place in the Eastern Conference. The Bulls are well-rested as they have been off since posting an impressive 89-77 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Monday. Chicago's Joakim Noah said it will be a challenge for his squad to silence Aldridge. "For a big, he's probably the most polished big in the NBA in terms of scoring the ball," Noah told reporters. "He can do a lot of things. It's going to take a team effort  just find a way."

TV: 8 p.m. ET, CSN Northwest (Portland), WCIU (Chicago)

ABOUT THE TRAIL BLAZERS (46-27): Aldridge missed seven straight games with a back injury and Portland struggled mightily without him. But he played 32 solid minutes against Atlanta and recorded his 37th double-double of the season and point guard Damian Lillard cited the difference his presence makes. "We're a whole different team with him," Lillard said afterward. "He's our best player. He brings balance to our team. We had an inside presence and we were able to play inside-out, like we have all year. I just think with him out there, we just got more quality shots."

ABOUT THE BULLS (40-31): Forward Taj Gibson had 23 points and eight rebounds in the win over the Pacers and is averaging 13.4 points and 6.8 rebounds while experiencing the best season of his five-year career. "He's improved in all areas, offense and defense," coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters. "He's a starter who comes off the bench. He's played great in the fourth quarter for us. He's a guy who you can throw the ball into who can get a quality shot. He can also face up to the basket. You can play a pick-and-roll game with him. He scores in the post as well as making plays. Defensively, he's as good as it gets  great feet, great anticipation, great multiple effort, great at protecting the rim."

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BUZZER-BEATERS

  1. Portland has won the last five meetings, including a 98-95 home victory Nov. 22  the game in which Bulls G Derrick Rose injured his knee.

  2. Chicago has held seven straight opponents under 100 points, giving up an average of 87.7 during the stretch.

  3. Trail Blazers G Mo Williams had 11 assists against the Hawks to match his season high.

PREDICTION: Bulls 90, Trail Blazers 86

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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