There is a lot to unpack here, so let’s jump in right away to what was a sensational game that saw the Chicago Bulls ultimately fall to the New Orleans Pelicans 132-128 in double overtime. There were several amusing subplots heading into this game that both teams shared. Obviously, Anthony Davis is a Chicago native, but two of New Orleans’ starting players were core players on Chicago’s bench within the last few years. Additionally, brothers Jrue and Justin Holiday were starting an NBA game against each other for the second time this season, with the latter vastly outplaying his sibling in their previous matchup.
Yet, for the majority stretch of the opening quarter in which the Bulls led, it was the two new guys that looked poised to completely dominate the headlines of this game. Lauri Markkanen scored two points on 1-4 shooting out of the gate, and yet he looked like easily the most talented player in his time on the floor. In addition to inhaling eight rebounds in the first quarter, Lauri also made two brilliant assists that resulted in slam dunks for Zach LaVine:
That second dish came after Markkanen took on Davis off the dribble from outside the perimeter, and shortly after, Lauri managed to get the best of AD once again while on the move:
Yeah, Boogie wanted none of that.
Unfortunately, after that slam from Markkanen, the Bulls’ bench gradually made their way into the game and proceeded to totally screw up the paint-dominant attack that gave Chicago an early lead. The Pelicans proceeded to ripped off a 14-2 run over the quarter’s final four minutes against a helpless Bulls defense “anchored” by Bobby Portis and Denzel Valentine, and Chicago subsequently ended the first period down 25-21.
Before we get to the second quarter, I need to mention that Tim Floyd was at this game sitting next to Archie Manning for some reason. The fact that Tim Floyd was in the same building as Fred Hoiberg obligates me to post this .gif:
As for the second quarter itself, it was thoroughly unspectacular. The Bulls spent almost the entirety of it playing catch-up with the Pelicans as DeMarcus Cousins and AD finally started to get going offensively. Fortunately, thanks to a late surge in the final three minutes of the quarter, Chicago managed to cut the lead to just six points after trailing by 13 just a few minutes prior. Rather than show you any highlights, here’s a sleeper Shaqtin’ moment that happened during that stretch from Denzel Valentine:
The Bulls concluded the half down 54-48.
Coming out of the locker room, Chicago quickly erased the remainder of New Orleans’ lead in the opening two minutes thanks mainly to a quick six points from Zach LaVine. From there, the Bulls proceeded to play an excellent quarter of team basketball by assisting on 11 of their 13 made baskets to help fuel a 34 point offensive explosion. Several of those connections came off of great setups from Jerian Grant, and by the end of the third quarter, Grant had already posted a double-double of 15 points and 10 assists in a dominant effort off the bench. Perhaps Grant’s best dime was this great alley-oop to Markkanen:
After ripping on Grant a bit ago....— ⓂarcusD (@_MarcusD2_) January 23, 2018
Grant oop with Lauri. pic.twitter.com/mbP0XEbyMb
The Pelicans didn’t lose much steam offensively, but the superb effort from the Bulls’ offense still allowed Chicago to enter the final quarter of play up 82-81.
To open the fourth quarter, the Bulls once again ripped off a quick run, but this time it was an 8-0 streak over merely the first minute of the final frame. That ended up being merely the beginning of what proceeded to be a 25-8 run over the initial six minutes of the period led by the energy of David Nwaba and the continued brilliance of Grant. The offensive eruption saw the Bulls open up what looked like a comfortable 17 point lead, and the Pelicans did not look like they had any shot of slowing the Bulls down.
However, a technical foul in the wake of some pretty lackluster officiating against the Pelicans seemed to be the rallying point for New Orleans to give themselves one last chance in this game. From there, Anthony Davis completely dominated both ends of the floor, as he routinely abused the Bulls’ defense off of pick & rolls while finally finding a way to completely disrupt Chicago’s blitzkrieg second half offense. Suddenly, with about fifteen seconds remaining, the game found itself knotted at 112 apiece after the Pelicans answered the Bulls’ run with a 21-4 scoring spurt of their own.
On the next possession, Anthony Davis broke free out of yet another pick & roll and drew a foul with three seconds left. Davis sank both freethrows to give the Pelicans a two point lead, and when the Bulls had to hustle up the floor to have any chance of staying alive, this happened:
Not sure about this one. Holiday shot? pic.twitter.com/uuQNS91UaC— ⓂarcusD (@_MarcusD2_) January 23, 2018
Holiday would get three shots, and after making the first two, he just barely missed what would have been the game winner. After a full court heave from the Pelicans that spectacularly rimmed out, both teams headed to overtime.
This game ended up needed two overtime periods to reach a conclusion thanks to the Pelicans airballing two three pointers in the final thirty seconds of the first OT. The Bulls played reasonably well for the majority of both of the extra stints, but a late personal offensive collapse from Jerian Grant proved to be the difference down the stretch. Though Anthony Davis fouled out early on in the first overtime, DeMarcus Cousins simply could not be stopped over the final ten minutes to cap off what proved to be an historic performance. Boogie finished the game with 44 points, 24 rebounds, 10 assists, and four steals while also shooting 13-29 from the field, 5-11 on threes, and 13-14 from the freethrow line. Cousins’ transcendent night had not been replicated in some five decades since Wilt Chamberlain put up 54 points, 36 rebounds, and 14 assists in some godforsaken era of basketball. It’s hard to believe most teams would have had any chance of beating a team that got that kind of contribution from a single player, so bearing that in mind makes it a bit easier to process that the Bulls ultimately lost this game 132-128.
Though it’s extremely hard to ignore the fact that Chicago totally let this game get away from them, there were still a lot of positives for the Bulls on this night. Lauri Markkanen pulled down a career high 17 rebounds, Robin Lopez quietly scored 22 points against the best big man combo in basketball, Zach LaVine continued to make progress on his in-game conditioning, and all five of the Bulls’ starters finished with at least 14 points. Jerian Grant literally fumbled the game away at the end but otherwise spearheaded a Bulls attack that ultimately assisted on 31 of its 45 makes from the field on the night. However, the ball control and long range shooting team-wide definietly left something to be desired, as Chicago finished with 24 turnovers and made only 8 of their 31 three point attempts.
Hats off to Boogie for an incredible game. The Bulls will play next on Wednesday when they take on the 76ers in Philly.