The Bulls have been an awful third-quarter team this season, and the Turd Quarter struck again in an ugly 123-108 loss to the Pelicans on Wednesday night. After a truly heinous first half of basketball by both teams, the home Pelicans dumped 44 points on the Wendell Carter-less Bulls in the third quarter to turn a tie game into a 17-point lead for the home team. The Bulls mildly threatened a few times in the fourth quarter thanks mostly to Zach LaVine, but the Pelicans shut the door with a string of 3-pointers to earn the convincing win without Jrue Holiday.
3-point shooting was a big story for the Pelicans, but to start the game it was because of how bad they were. The Pelicans missed their first eight triples and chucked up a whopping 28 treys in the first half, making seven of them. They shot just 37.5% overall and had 11 turnovers in the first half (Kris Dunn had five steals), which meant the Bulls had an opportunity to build a lead if they actually played competent basketball.
Unfortunately, the Bulls were just as shit in the opening half. Outside of LaVine drives to the basket, they weren’t able to get that much going offensively. The bench was especially putrid:
This unit closed the last two minutes of the first quarter for the Bulls. Zero points down the scoreboard. pic.twitter.com/EvosUy3LvN— Stephen Noh (@StephNoh) January 9, 2020
The Bulls kept this same lineup on the court to start the second quarter, and they didn’t score over the first few minutes. Jim Boylen quickly went back to LaVine and Lauri Markkanen, but the Bulls failed to make a field goal in the second quarter until the 7:52 mark on a Markkanen dunk. While the offensive ineptitude got the Bulls down eight, they were able to get back in the game with some improved output and the Pelicans’ own awfulness.
The Bulls actually went up six to start the third quarter thanks in part to a pair of Kris Dunn 3-pointers (Dunn actually went 3-of-6 from 3, but he also fittingly ended the first half with an air-balled trey), but then the wheels fell off. Brandon Ingram found his groove after a rough start, aided by a pair of fouls on 3-point shots. Rookie Jaxson Hayes did some damage down low during the onslaught, and another rookie in Nickeil Alexander-Walker capped off the onslaught with a 3-pointer to make it 92-75 going to the fourth quarter.
NAW quickly made it a 20-point game with a 3-point play to start the final frame, but some poor decisions on the rookie’s part helped the Bulls make things interesting. LaVine hitting back-to-back 3-pointers got the margin to nine midway through the fourth quarter, and the Bulls had the ball down 10 after E’Twaun Moore split a pair of free throws. Unfortunately, an ill-advised Coby White drive resulted in a blocked shot by Lonzo Ball, with Ingram then drilling an open triple on the other end to help stem the tide with just over five minutes to play. The margin was never single digits the rest of the way.
The Pelicans shot 8-of-16 from 3 in the second half to finish 15-of-44 for the game, and they only turned the ball over four times in the final two quarters. Ingram nearly recorded a triple-double with 29 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds while notching a game-high plus-22. JJ Redick added 24 points with six 3-pointers. He was a plus-21. Hayes had a double-double with 14 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks, while NAW had 11 points and six assists in an impressive showing for the Pelicans rookies. NOLA smacked the Bulls on the boards, 50-39
LaVine did all he could with 32 points on 13-of-24 from the field. He was aggressive all night and also added six assists, five rebounds and two steals for a nice all-around game, but it wasn’t nearly enough.
Thaddeus Young had a season-high 18 points in a starting role in place of Carter, but Lauri Markkanen struggled to the tune of 14 points on 4-of-13 shooting. Markkanen only played 12 minutes in the first half and 29 for the game despite the absence of Carter, which shouldn’t happen.
Dunn’s line of 15 points, seven assists, five steals and four steals looks good, but he was quiet after his hot start to the third quarter. Tomas Satoransky fouled out for the first time in his career.
As mentioned, the Bulls’ bench was atrocious. Chandler Hutchison played a wild 13 minutes (minus-15) and missed all four of his shot attempts, though he did get to the free-throw line six times. Of course, he made only three of those as the Bulls shot 12-of-21 from the charity stripe. Coby White had 10 points but made poor decisions and was a minus-17. Daniel Gafford and Ryan Arcidiacono didn’t do much, and Denzel Valentine appears to be back in Jimbo’s doghouse despite the offensive struggles.
The Bulls have now lost five straight games to fall to 13-25 on the season. Coming up is a back-to-back at home against a scuffling Pacers team and then on the road against a blah Pistons team that’s likely on the verge of tanking. If the Bulls can’t grab at least one win there...