CHICAGO -- Portland shot the ball well from long range on Thursday night, but Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts was more concerned about the other end of the floor.
He insisted defense was the key to producing a 99-89 win over the Bulls at the United Center. Portland built a 28-point lead in the third quarter and a late Chicago comeback fell well short.
"That was, if not the best, one of our better defensive performances of the season," Stotts said. "Our pick-and-roll defense was very food. We helped. Our weak side was active. We covered the paint pretty well. It was good to see."
LaMarcus Aldridge scored 28 points, rookie guard Damien Lillard added 24 points and center J.J. Hickson set a career high with 21 rebounds.
Once Aldridge got going, it seemed to open up room for the outside shooters and the Blazers knocked down 10-of-21 shots from 3-point range. Portland also won the second and third quarters by an outrageous 60-32 margin.
"I thought this was one of our best efforts all year," Aldridge said. "When you play a physical team in the paint like they are, you have to match that effort."
Most of all, the Blazers learned from a recent mistake. In Tuesday's loss at Milwaukee, they scored just eight points in the second quarter and fell behind by 27 points at halftime.
Against the Bulls, Portland started the second quarter with a 14-0 run and continued to build the lead. The Blazers were up 52-37 at intermission and 80-53 at the end of three quarters.
"Our message to the team before the game was we gave up 57, 58 and 58 in the first half of our last three games," Stotts said. "That was our priority. We have a tendency, we can score some points in bunches at times. We showed that in Philly, showed it in Milwaukee. Again, I just go back to our focus defensively."
Chicago woke up and opened the fourth quarter with a 16-4 run, but the deficit was too big to overcome. Joakim Noah led the Bulls with 18 points and Carlos Boozer had 16. Neither of those players saw action in the fourth quarter.
"We got smacked," Noah said. "It's tough, man. We're not playing great right now. It's disappointing. This is the final stretch. We're not getting it done. We've got to find a way."
Bulls forward Taj Gibson made a nice return from 10 games off with a sprained left knee, finishing with 14 points and nine rebounds. Kirk Hinrich also returned from injury but managed just two points and three assists and struggled to stop Lillard.
"I felt good, at times. I just have to keep playing," Gibson said. "It's not going to be perfect. They told me, there's still going to be a little bit of pain. It's all about just pushing through that. I understand it's coming down late to the wire and we're going to need everybody."
Earlier Thursday, injured Bulls star Derrick Rose gave an update on his recovery from knee surgery. He hasn't played in a game since the injury occurred April 28 and still doesn't have a return date in mind.
"It could be tomorrow and I could feel like I could play the next game," Rose said. "Nobody knows but God."
The Bulls have 15 games left in the regular season, but Rose isn't planning to put any sort of deadline on his potential return. He's also said he's willing to wait until next season if the knee doesn't feel right.
"I feel like when I'm ready to come back, I'll be ready, no matter when it is," he said. "I don't care. Whenever I'm ready, I'll be out there. (I'm) still taking my time. Still trying to be patient, listen to my body and just be patient right now."
NOTES: While the Bulls continue to wait for Rose's return, they did welcome back a couple of injured players on Thursday. Hinrich was in the starting lineup against Portland after missing seven games with a sore right foot, and Gibson was back after sitting out 10 games with a sprained left knee. ... Forward Malcolm Thomas, who signed to a 10-day contract Tuesday, made his first appearance in a Bulls uniform. ... Boozer was called for a flagrant foul in the first quarter when he hit Hickson in the side of the head trying to contest a layup. ... Against Milwaukee on Tuesday, the Blazers trailed by 27 points at halftime. Against the Bulls, Portland opened a 19-point advantage in the second quarter.