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Bulls vs. Pelicans game notes: when having 20-point scorers isn’t enough

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Even with two guys scoring more than twenty points, the Bulls offense had its problems

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NBA: Chicago Bulls at New Orleans Pelicans Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

The Bulls saw themselves down as many as 18 in the second half in last night’s loss in New Orleans. But as a positive: they didn’t give up, the guys on the bench were all invested during the comeback, and they even cut the deficit down to 6 multiple times in the fourth.

But a familiar problem surfaced for the Bulls throughout, the inefficiency on offense.

When looking at the box score, there’s a lot to take away from it. Both Jabari Parker and Zach LaVine went for 22 and 20 points respectively. Chicago shot 39.6% from the field and an awful 29% (9/31) from three. Individually, only Parker, Wendell Carter Jr, and Ryan Arcidiacono were the only players to shoot more than 50% from the field. Over 15% of the Bulls 2-point attempts were blocked. Chicago’s two main shot takers were Justin Holiday and Zach LaVine, and they went a combined 15 of 42 from the field. While it’s not good at all that he shot that poorly, it’s justifiable that LaVine would take 26 attempts, he’s easily Chicago’s best and most explosive offensive player. If they want a chance to win, he needs to be the main guy for them.

When LaVine’s not on the court, however, the Bulls struggle mightily. It showed against New Orleans. Even if some of the other starters are in, the struggles are still there, while Holiday and Parker can score the ball they can’t exactly be relied upon to take the best shots. And the bench was absolutely horrid, going 7 of 22 with 4 of those makes coming from Arcidiacono, including one three in the final possession after the game was well decided. While Antonio Blakeney is certainly the spark plug for this unit, he also has his off nights, and then the bench becomes a huge negative for Chicago.

A lot of times the Bulls offense ends up becoming a game of just isolations. LaVine is able to attack guys with more ease off the bounce and get to the rim. But when he’s not converting it makes the whole team - namely the other guys who can’t generate looks like LaVine - much worse. This was clear against New Orleans as the Bulls only had 18 total assists on their 38 makes. Compare that to the Pelicans who had 32 assists on 42 makes and you can easily see the difference in quality between the two. Ball movement, as we all know, is super important to any NBA offense. When things get stagnant for Chicago, defenders are able to latch on to LaVine and force the other guys to beat them. It gets even worse when he’s not on the court because the rest of the guys aren’t able to create off the dribble like he can.

The lack of secondary scoring and a reliable second option has created a scary situation for the Bulls. Unless LaVine goes off, like he did against the Knicks, the Bulls are going to struggle to win games. All of the offensive weight is on his shoulders and on nights where he is not knocking down shots, things can turn ugly.

Wendell Carter Jr. did not back down from Anthony Davis

Wendell Carter Jr. started his rookie season little bit passively, but with more game time, Carter Jr. is getting more aggressive in getting his own shots. Against all-NBA center Anthony Davis, Wendell Carter had 17 points, 11 rebounds, along with 3 blocks as well. Carter Jr. even knocked down another three and is a part of this game which we should be seeing more of. If he is able to merely be league average from three-point land, it would do wonders for him offensively. Let’s hope he can keep this up.

Carter was out-done by Anthony Davis, but that’s understandable. Carter did some great work, especially in his first stint containing and frustrating Davis (great video from The Athletic here (via)) , but AD went 5-5 in his 2nd half stint propelling him to a game high 32 points on 13 of 24 shooting while adding 15 rebounds and 7 assists. The Bulls couldn’t deal with his length and as the game went on he was getting whatever shot he wanted. If you were watching this game, it’s clear why he is considered a top 3 MVP candidate this season. But that makes it more commendable for Carter that he was able to compete at that level.

Fred is getting upset

While Fred Hoiberg looks to have his team in competitive games, he also showed several moments of frustration in this one. He received a rare technical foul arguing the officiating on Carter. He also demonstrably called out Jabari Parker after a blown transition defense.

He also looks to be making some playing time decisions. It was another game where Cameron Payne, who took 5 shots in the first 5 minutes and wound up with another poor night, was benched down the stretch for Arcidiacono. Robin Lopez again received the call in the 2nd half as backup center after Davis was feasting in limited time Cristiano Felicio. Antonio Blakeney was called out and pulled from the game at points for poor shot selection. We’ll have to see if Hoiberg changes things up proactively in their next game, as he’s not getting reinforcements any time soon.