After losing to the lowly Wizards on Monday, it felt like the Bulls’ season was about to go off the rails. They instead responded with their most prolific 3-point shooting performance of all time, hitting a franchise-record 25 triples on 47 attempts in a truly wild 129-116 victory over the Pelicans.
Zach LaVine and Coby White did the majority of the damage, with the duo combining for 76 points and 17-of-31 shooting from beyond the arc. LaVine poured in a whopping 46 points on 17-of-25 from the field and 9-of-14 from 3, while White added 30 points on 10-of-20 from the field and 8-of-17 from long distance. The duo made some shocking history given Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant were teammates for three seasons:
Zach LaVine and Coby White are the first teammates in NBA history to each make 8 threes in a game. pic.twitter.com/8jbUjaPAQq— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 11, 2021
LaVine, White and the Bulls took advantage of some heinous Pelicans defense, moving the ball well around the court to create wide-open 3 after wide-open 3. It felt like every other possession the Bulls were getting up a clean look from distance. Chicago does deserve credit for the ball movement (36 assists, so Jimbo would be proud!) and for actually knocking down the shots, but this was some of the worst 3-point defense I’ve ever seen. It was right up there with Klay’s historic game in Chicago.
LaVine has obviously been on fire all season and made it looks easy right from the start in this one (20 points in the first quarter), but it was good to see White find his shooting groove amid an ugly slump that had many questioning if he should be benched. It certainly helped that White was allowed to spot up for countless open 3s, which led to that whopping 17-attempt number, and his killer stretch came in the game-defining third quarter when he hit 5-of-7 3-balls as the Bulls outscored the Pelicans 40-14 in the frame.
The Bulls’ dominant third quarter came after it looked like they were about to totally fall apart. Despite a first quarter that saw Chicago make its first eight 3-pointers (even Garrett Temple hit two!) en route to 44 points, the home team actually trailed 74-66 at halftime thanks to a 40-22 Pelicans rout in the second quarter. Lonzo Ball had it cooking in the first half and was on triple-double watch (19/5/4) in a potential audition (he was mostly invisible in the second half), and New Orleans used a 13-0 run to close the half to seemingly take command.
It certainly didn’t feel good that the Bulls trailed by eight after shooting 58.5% in the first half and 14-of-26 on 3-pointers. The Pelicans got their lead by shooting 60.5% overall and hitting nine triples themselves while also dominating in the paint (28-16) and at the free-throw line (13-4).
But while Chicago caught fire again in the third quarter, NOLA’s offense went in the tank. A more spirited defensive effort by the Bulls certainly helped, with Daniel Gafford providing a spark down low with three blocks in the quarter, but the Pelicans also just couldn’t buy a bucket. Brandon Ingram went 0-of-7 in the third as part of NOLA’s wretched 5-of-20 shooting quarter. The Bulls opened the second half on a 19-2 and never really looked back.
White capped off the third quarter with a 3-pointer for an 18-point advantage heading into the final frame, and the Bulls’ lead never got back into single digits. The Pelicans almost made things interesting midway through the fourth when they trimmed their deficit to 11, but they failed to secure a rebound off a Thaddeus Young missed layup and wound up with a Tomas Satoransky trey, which incensed Stan Van Gundy on the sidelines.
Outside of LaVine and White, there were only two other players in double-digit scoring, but there were plenty of other contributions. Denzel Valentine was the third-leading scorer with 16 points and four 3-pointers. Hilariously, Valentine was actually pulled almost right away to start the game for Temple because Billy Donovan made a mistake:
Billy Donovan says Garrett Temple replaced Denzel Valentine less than 90 seconds into the game because Donovan made a "blunder" and incorrectly reported the same starting lineup when he meant to report the same recent inactives list.— Cody Westerlund (@CodyWesterlund) February 11, 2021
He wanted to start Temple.
Temple was the other Bull in double figures with 10 points, and he also added seven assists. Satoransky racked up eight dimes, with seven of those coming in his first stint on the court. Young was solid with eight points, seven rebounds and four assists as the vets complemented LaVine and White beautifully.
I already mentioned Gafford’s stellar third quarter (he also made all three of his shots in the frame, including another jumper), but I also have to point out Patrick Williams’ effort on defense. Zion Williamson had himself a game with 29 points on 12-of-18 shooting, but Williams made some really nice plays on the defensive end of the court:
All in all, this was a legit stunning win for Chicago after what happened on Monday. While the Bulls were ridiculously hot in the first half, I thought they were toast once they went down eight points at halftime and were going to wind up getting blown out. To come out with their best quarter of the season was a pleasant surprise. Maybe Luke Kornet’s presence inspired them.
The Bulls are now 10-14 on the season and tied for ninth in the hilariously bad Eastern Conference playoff picture. The Clippers are next up on Friday, and they’re going to be without Paul George.