Let’s address an elephant in the room.
In a hard-fought 118-112 loss against the Denver Nuggets a couple nights ago, Nuggets big man Nikola Jokic was absolutely dominant. Not a single one of his 39 points came from behind the 3-point line. Instead, most of the Joker’s damage was done inside the paint against young Bulls big man Wendell Carter Jr.
With the game tight late, Chicago Bulls head coach Billy Donovan subbed Carter Jr., a guy lauded for his defensive chops, for 6-foot-8-inch power? forward Thaddeus Young. Although to be fair to Carter Jr, Jokic scored several more buckets after Young subbed in and the Joker has killed virtually everybody he has played this season (he had a triple-double against the Milwaukee Bucks Tuesday night).
This season though, the Bulls lack of a center that can lock down big physical opposing big men and have allowed guys like Jokic, Joel Embiid, Nikola Vucevic, and others to have their way against them. NBC Sports Chicago writer K.C. Johnson wrote about this issue much more eloquently in one of his recent stories.
The Bulls thought they might have a defensive anchor in Carter Jr. So far, the flashes defensively from the Duke product have been intermittent. Cristiano Felicio and Luke Kornet are virtually unplayable defensively and Lauri Markkanen is still injured, leaving the center duties to Carter Jr. in traditional lineups and Young in small-ball variations.
Jokic’s latest offensive explosion denies the Bulls a second-straight opportunity for a quality win against a Western Conference stalwart. The Bulls let a game slip late against the Phoenix Suns last week as well.
Fast forwarding to tonight, the Bulls have an opportunity to right the ship before the All-Star break against the New Orleans Pelicans. At 15-19, the Pelicans sit at No. 11 in the Western Conference standings. They had a big win over the league-best Jazz two nights ago, but overall have gone 4-6 since a bad loss to the Bulls last month.
Bulls have been getting crushed in the paint lately, and Pelicans up next. Just have to hit 25 3-pointers again. https://t.co/MbzwmN2nn8— Jason Patt (@Bulls_Jay) March 2, 2021
Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson (a first time All-Star selection) are the headliners. Perhaps this trip down to New Orleans will give AKME the opportunity to scout a certain point guard who plays for the Pelicans.....
Let’s go into the All-Star break with a win!
We have a new addition: Luke Kornet is out for personal reasons. And he’d actually been receiving minutes lately!
For the Pelicans, looks like a squeaky-clean injury sheet.
Game Time: 7:00 p.m. CDT; NBC Sports Chicago