By ANNE M. PETERSON | AP Sports Writer
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Zach LaVine scored 33 points and the Chicago Bulls dominated the short-handed Portland Trail Blazers 124-96 on Friday night.
Nikola Vucevic added 23 points and 15 rebounds for the Bulls, who have won six of their last eight games and sit in 10th place in the Eastern Conference standings with nine regular-season games remaining.
Chicago finished with 17 3-pointers and 33 assists, just one shy of their season high. They were playing without DeMar DeRozan because of a right quadriceps strain.
“I think guys were aggressive. I definitely tried to be aggressive from the beginning, trying to set the tone, and then react from there,” LaVine said. “We settled into the game, the ball is moving around, we're getting a lot more open shots, and I think that leads to a lot more 3s.”
Portland, which has lost seven of its last eight games, was led by rookie Shaedon Sharpe, who matched his career high with 24 points. The Blazers' lone win during the recent stretch came against the Utah Jazz 127-115 on Wednesday. Portland was at 13th in the Western Conference standings, well out of the playoff picture.
Regular Portland starters Damian Lillard (calf tightness), Jusuf Nurkic (sore right knee), Jerami Grant (quad contusion) and Anfernee Simons (sore right foot) did not play against the Bulls. Instead, the Blazers started Ryan Arcidiacono, Matisse Thybulle, Trendon Watford, Drew Eubanks and Sharpe.
“I thought offensively he was pretty good, defensively he wasn't bad, but tough matchup for him,” Blazers coach Chauncey Billups said about Sharpe. “That's the reason I wanted to put him on Zach, he needs to see what it's like in the fire. Zach is a tough matchup for anybody.”
DeRozan aggravated his injury in the third quarter of Chicago's loss to Philadelphia on Wednesday. He missed five games in January and February because of the injury.
“It's not at a point where he can't do anything, he's just trying to work through it right now and just manage it,” Bulls coach Billy Donovan said.
Even without DeRozan, Chicago led by as many as 30 points.
The Bulls went on a 9-0 run to start the second quarter to go up 35-26. LaVine capped the first half with a 3-pointer to put Chicago up 61-45.
The Bulls pushed the lead to 70-49 in the third quarter. LaVine was pulled at the start of the third quarter and didn't return.
“It was great. A little bit extra rest, those guys were out there playing great, I didn't have any worries about it,” LaVine said. “So I'm glad that Billy trusts them to go out there and finish the game off, and that's what we needed.”
Bulls: Chicago won the first game between the two teams, 129-121, last month. ... Bulls assistant Maurice Cheeks was Portland's coach from 2001-05. ... Alex Caruso started after missing the last two games with left foot soreness.
Trail Blazers: It was the first of a five-game homestand for the Blazers, who also have nine games left in the season. ... Billups finds himself in the same position he was last season, juggling lineups and absences as the playoffs appear out of reach. “Unfortunately it is familiar. It's not the best, it's not the greatest, but it is what it is. Whoever is available, I'm going to coach them, I'm going to do the best I I can to help them, to help them to help us,” Billups said.
Bulls: Visit the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday.
Trail Blazers: Host the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday.
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