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NBA Preview from The Sports Network



Thursday, March 21st (All times Eastern)

Portland Trail Blazers (31-36) at Chicago Bulls (36-30), 8 p.m.

(Sports Network) - Perhaps Steve Miller put it best: "Time keeps on slippin', slippin', slippin' ... into the future."

That is what's happening to the playoff fate of the Portland Trail Blazers.

Portland looks to save face on its current five-game road trip Thursday against the Chicago Bulls at the United Center. It has dropped the first two tests of the trek, losing at Philadelphia on Monday, followed by a 102-95 setback against Milwaukee the next night.

Wesley Matthews had a game-high 28 points on 10-of-20 shooting for the Trail Blazers, who have dropped three in a row and 10 of 11 as the visitor. All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge had 21 points and 15 rebounds and Nicolas Batum tallied 15 points in defeat.

The Blazers tried to rally in the fourth quarter with a 38-25 difference, but a 31-8 advantage by the Bucks in the second stanza was too much to overcome.

"We didn't play well," Blazers coach Terry Stotts said simply. "It wasn't good basketball."

Portland needs to start playing good basketball and is only 2-4 in its last six games overall. In fact, the slump has dropped the Blazers down the West standings and they are four games off the eighth and final playoff spot with 15 games to play.

The Trail Blazers are only 9-25 outside the Rose City and will also visit Atlanta and Oklahoma City on the sojourn. In other team news, forward/center J.J. Hickson has been limited to 12 points and 17 rebounds in the last two games, and recorded 10 double-doubles in the previous 12 games before his recent dropoff.

Aldridge, though, has picked up the slack with five straight double-doubles and seven over the past nine contests. He is averaging 23.2 points and 10.7 rebounds per game in that stretch.

Chicago's chances of making the postseason are much more realistic than Portland's as the Bulls sit sixth in the East -- one game behind Atlanta and just one-half game ahead of Boston.

The Bulls dropped a controversial game to the Denver Nuggets the last time out in a 119-118 overtime setback Monday night. Bulls center Joakim Noah appeared to give the Bulls a lead late in overtime until his basket was negated for offensive basket interference by the officiating crew. Marco Belinelli's shot from the left baseline was tipped in by Noah and the Nuggets called a timeout. It was then the call was reversed.

Not known for his 3-point prowess from his days as a Sixer, Andre Iguodala gave the Nuggets the lead on a shot from downtown with 7.1 seconds to go.

"From my angle it look like a good play, it looked like it was short," said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, whose club has lost three of their last four and seven of 11 games. "I guess we have to call the league to get an interpretation."

Noah totaled 14 points, 12 rebounds, seven blocks and six assists and gave the Bulls a 117-116 lead with 32.8 seconds to go in overtime with a tip-in. Nate Robinson scored 34 points, Belinelli had 18 and Carlos Boozer chipped in 14 for the Bulls, who opened a three-game homestand on a sour note and are 18-15 in the Windy City.

Chicago, which hopes former MVP Derrick Rose (knee) can make a return to action soon, will close out the residency Saturday versus Indiana. The Bulls could get a boost with the pending return of forward-center Taj Gibson. Gibson is questionable Thursday and has missed 10 straight games with a knee issue.

The Bulls faced the Blazers back on Nov. 18 this season at the Rose Garden and sustained a 102-94 setback. Noah finished with 16 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists in that one to pace Chicago, which has lost three straight and eight of the past 10 meetings between the teams.

Portland and Chicago met in the 1992 NBA Finals won by the Bulls in six games.

03/21 10:26:33 ET