7 p.m. CDT; NBC Sports Network
The Bulls will try to play Zach LaVine 24 minutes tonight after the Bulls star recorded 19, 19, 19, and 18 minutes in his first four games back from that left ACL injury. Kris Dunn will not play after he suffered a concussion falling hard to the floor after a dunk in the game against the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday.
For the Pelicans, defensive specialist Tony Allen had a setback in his recovery from a left fibula fracture and will miss another two to four weeks with the injury. Solomon Hill remains out indefinitely as he continues to rehab a hamstring injury. He underwent surgery in August and targeted February as a return date.
Do the Chicago Bulls really want a piece of these guys?
Well maybe the young Bulls who are carry-overs from last season do because they get to visit “mentor” Rajon Rondo. The controversial point guard has been better in New Orleans, averaging just about the same amount of points, more assists, and a much better true-shooting percentage than he did last season in Chicago (53.2 percent to 46.1).
But Rondo isn’t the story when your team plays the Pelicans, as their frontcourt is Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins. Davis is fourth in the NBA in player efficiency rating, Cousins checks in at No. 24 but he averages a double-double and adds 5.1 assists per game to boot. He’s the only player in the NBA this season to average more than 25 points, ten rebounds, and five assists.
As a team, the Pelicans are third in the NBA in effective field goal percentage (55.1 percent) and sixth in offensive rating. The high quality looks that Davis and Cousins get around the basket certainly contribute, but the Pelicans also have two players who shoot over 40 percent from behind the 3-point line in Darius Miller and former Bull E’Twaun Moore. Jrue Holiday steadily shoots 49.8 percent from the field on 14.8 field goal attempts per game.
In the first matchup between the two teams way back on Nov. 4, the Pelicans prevailed 96-90 in overtime behind a second half offensive onslaught from Cousins and a characteristically dominant game from Davis (27 points and 16 rebounds). This was the game when David Nwaba sustained his ankle sprain, and you may recall Robin Lopez missing some easy looks around the bucket at the end of the game that could have prevented overtime.
This now is a completely different looking Bulls team. After that loss, the Bulls were one game in to what would become a five game losing streak and a stretch where they’d lose 15 of 16 games. Neither the bash brothers nor LaVine were around, and Paul Zipser and Cristiano Felicio were still in the regular rotation.
With Dunn sitting tonight, we’ll get to see round two of Ryan Arcidiacono, who was solid in a win on Saturday against the Atlanta Hawks. He’ll matchup against Rondo whose quality of defense largely depends on his level of interest (and is mostly bad).
We now live in a world where the Bulls are a mediocre team once again and you can make the prediction that the Bulls can eke out a victory on the road against a Western Conference playoff team without sounding like a homer.