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  • Chicago ranks eighth in the league in both offensive rebounding and rebound percentage. Bulls Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah and reserve Taj Gibson all give Portland coach Terry Stotts concern. “We know rebounding is going to be important tonight,” Stotts said. “Boxing out, or at least knowing where their offensive rebounders are, is a priority. They’re relentless on the glass.”
  • In Friday’s overtime win over Houston, the Rockets held a 24-1 advantage in fastbreak points through the first 28 minutes of the game. Over the final 25 minutes, the Blazers held an 8-0 edge in that category. “We picked up our defense and got running ourselves,” Stotts said. “I was concerned about how they got 17 [in the first half] really quick in transition. When you’re not stopping them and they’re running out, it’s hard to run. We emphasized transition defense in our meeting [Saturday]. We have to get better at it.”
  • Portland will active guard Nolan Smith and deactivate forward/center Joel Freeland tonight.
  • Chicago (5-4) has alternated wins and losses this season. The Bulls dropped a 101-80 encounter with the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center Saturday night, meaning that if history has anything to say about it, they win tonight. “We prefer not to have the losses, but we have a prideful team,” Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We have to understand how hard we’re going to have to play to get wins on the road. We’re disappointed with the way we played yesterday, but today is another challenge.”
  • Thibodeau said Portland’s Damian Lillard is “very impressive.” “His skill set makes him very hard to guard,” the Chicago coach said of the point guard, who leads rookies with averages of 19.3 points and 6.4 assists. “His ability to shoot sets everything up. He’s very clever in the pick-and-roll. He plays with great poise for a rookie. He takes seven threes a game. That sets up the drive.”
  • Thibodeau said veteran Kirk Hinrich will guard Lillard. “We just want Kirk to run the team and play to his strengths,” he said. “The big thing is we have to do things collectively. It’s not a one-on-one matchup with him and Lillard — it’s how he’s going to run the team.”
  • Thibodeau also had verbal bouquets for Portland small forward Nicolas Batum, who matches his career high with 35 points against Houston and is averaging 20.8 points. “With his experience, he has gone to another level,” the Chicago coach said. “He is shooting the ball with a lot of confidence. He can put the ball on the floor and he is very good moving without the ball. Each year, he has gotten better. He gives them another 20-point scorer.”

By Kerry Eggers

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