Curry had rarely seen action late in games and had typically been playing less than 25 minutes after losing the confidence of coach Scott Skiles. But he entered in the fourth with the game still close, converting an alley-oop layin and two dunks as the Bulls increased their lead to 16 points.
“Coach saw that I was definitely ready to play tonight and put me out there when the game was on the line.” said Curry, who also had eight rebounds in 33 minutes.
Shareef Abdur-Rahim had 22 points and 10 rebounds for the Blazers, who are 0-4 under interim coach Kevin Pritchard.
Chicago has made a habit of winning games in crunch time, but it’s usually been rookie guard Ben Gordon leading the charge. But Gordon, who has scored 10 points in the fourth quarter 17 times this season, was struggling from the field and stayed on the bench.
The Bulls (31-27) surpassed the 30-win mark for the first time since their last championship season of 1997-98. Chicago, which last won in Portland on Jan. 29, 1998, has suffered through six consecutive losing seasons, but appear to be on the way to the playoffs. The Bulls are in seventh place in the Eastern Conference with 24 games left.
The Blazers, headed in the other direction, are making the transition to younger players since the firing of Maurice Cheeks on March. 2.
“You guys talk about a youth movement and all that, but this is a game we should have won,” Pritchard said.
Tyson Chandler had nine points and 13 rebounds and Andres Noicioni scored 14 points for the Bulls
Chicago trailed for most of the game, until Portland wilted in the fourth. The Blazers were plagued by turnovers all night—finishing with 22—and then stagnated on the offensive end in the final 10 minutes.
Hinrich made a jumper to extend the Bulls’ lead to 78-73, their largest margin of the game, with 7:30 left. After Portland cut the deficit to three, Chris Duhon made a 3-pointer and Nocioni capped a 9-0 run with a dunk.
“We made some big plays at the end and Duhon hit a big shot,” Skiles said. “Once we get up into guys and start denying the ball, we’re a pretty good team.”
Joel Przybilla, struggling with an 0-of-7 shooting night, played 39 minutes. Telfair, who rarely played more than 20 under Cheeks played 36.
With a 95-90 victory over visiting Milwaukee on Monday, the Bulls ended a three-game losing streak. They continue on a road stretch that takes them to Seattle and the L.A. Clippers.
The Bulls beat Portland 92-87 in Chicago on Dec. 20. … The Blazers fell to 14-15 at home this season. … Portland was 27-of-33 from the free-throw line