Chicago, in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, has 19 games left as it tries to make a second straight playoff appearance. The Bulls are in the midst of a critical stretch and visit eighth-place Milwaukee on Wednesday.
In order to make a push, Chicago will need to put together an elusive winning streak. The Bulls haven’t won two straight since Feb. 16-22, and have not won more than two in a row since a four-game run from Jan. 21-28.
Chicago responded to back-to-back losses by winning 95-90 at Atlanta on Saturday. Luol Deng scored 21 points and Kirk Hinrich added 18 as the Bulls built an early 10-point lead and held off a late rally.
Coach Scott Skiles appreciated his team’s effort, but said he needs to see it on a consistent basis.
“The problem is they’re against the wall every game right now and somehow we have to convince the guys of that,” Skiles said.
The Bulls have alternated wins and losses in their last six home games, including Friday’s 107-96 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.
Chicago is hoping leading scorer Ben Gordon returns to form. Gordon has had two straight rough games, averaging 9.5 points on 26 percent shooting.
Portland coach Nate McMillan is also looking for consistency from his team, particularly forward Zach Randolph. The Trail Blazers’ leading scorer had 32 points and 14 rebounds to help Portland snap a four-game skid with a 111-101 win over Portland on Sunday.
Randolph, who did not start because he reported late, is averaging 31.3 points and 9.0 rebounds over his last three outings.
“If he can learn to bring this every night, this is the kind of consistency and commitment we need,” McMillan said. “His last couple of games, I like the way he’s approached them.”
The Blazers are beginning a four-game road trip as they try to snap a six-game slide away from the Rose Garden. They are 2-9 on the road against Eastern Conference clubs.
Portland has not won two straight since a four-game winning streak from Jan. 11-18. It has won five of its last seven trips to the United Center.