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Blazers star Damian Lillard’s troubling admission after blowing 20-point lead vs. Bulls

Damian Lillard, Blazers

The Portland Trail Blazers had Tuesday’s game against the Chicago Bulls well in hand, until they didn’t.

Portland raced out to a 20-point lead early, but the Bulls stormed back into the contest and earned a marquee victory despite a poor shooting night from Zach LaVine and early foul trouble for Wendell Carter Jr. It was the first time this season a team had a 20-point lead in a game and lost.

Blazers head coach Terry Stotts said after the game he was concerned his team’s defensive activity plummeted when the shots stopped dropping in the second half. Damian Lillard agreed with that notion:

“Tonight we came out and we basically flipped what we usually do — we started the game really well, really sharp, and part of that is when we are making shots, it’s easier to be up and active on the defensive end of the floor,” Lillard said, via Jason Quick of The Athletic. “In the second half, when the shots stopped falling, I think (Stotts) is right, that our energy did drop some, our activity level dropped and we started to get outworked.”

Portland scored a whopping 39 points in the first quarter, with Lillard pouring in 13 points in the frame. But the Blazers scored just 15 points in the second quarter, and the game continued to slip away in the second half.

The Blazers gave up 66 points in the second half. Chicago made nine triples and got to the line for 12 free throws after attempting just six shots from the charity stripe in the first half. The Bulls were simply more aggressive in controlling the game, and it apparently stemmed from the missed shots.

Lillard and the Blazers were expected to be among the top contenders in the Western Conference after a strong offseason. But it has been a slow start to the year, and Portland will have to improve upon its defensive rating (28th in the NBA) if it hopes to right the ship.