After back to back home losses to the Suns and Nuggets, a road game against the Pelicans offered a chance for the Bulls to bounce back. The Pelicans are several games under .500, and already a team the Bulls had beaten last month thanks to a historic three-point shooting performance. And again tonight it was the duo of Zach LaVine and Coby White who stepped up for Chicago. The Bulls backcourt combined for 61 points and knocked down some key free throws at the end to help Chicago avoid a late game collapse and win 128-124.
Chicago got off to a quick start in the game before allowing New Orleans back into it by the end of the first quarter. However, the tide began to turn in the second when the Bulls outscored their opponents 38-20 to take a 19 point lead into the half. It was much in thanks to a 20-6 run in the final four minutes of that second quarter.
As per usual, Thad Young was the biggest spark off the bench hitting all five of his shots in that 2nd frame for 12 of his 18 points, as he continued to find open cutters and score flip shots inside the paint. It was another brilliant game from him as he has been Chicago’s second best player all season.
This Thad Young season is going down in franchise lore and the lefty flip shot will be its defining move pic.twitter.com/dNdfEU5OPU— Ricky O'Donnell (@SBN_Ricky) March 4, 2021
It looked to be smooth sailing from there as Chicago’s lead hovered between 14 and 19 up until around 7 minutes left in the contest. But the Pelicans then switched into another gear and went on a 18-8 run, cutting the Bulls lead down to four with a couple minutes remaining. Jaxson Hayes was one of the main catalysts for this, scoring eight points (four dunks) in a matter of minutes to suddenly put the pressure back on Chicago.
The Bulls now to had to respond offensively as they looked to be on the verge of another collapse. It helped that the Pelicans missed three straight free throws, as on the very next possession, Coby White had an open look from three but it clanked off the rim. Luckily Wendell Carter Jr. was right under the rim and scored on a putback which calmed things down for Chicago. Then after a missed three from J.J Redick, LaVine scored a clutch bucket of his own as he glided past the Pelicans defense for a layup.
This put the Bulls up eight with 40.1 seconds and should have been the one which put this game on ice. The defense was atrocious as they continued their terrible habit of fouling three-point shooters. But they remained calm on the other end of the court, going six of seven from the charity stripe in the final thirty seconds. In the end, Chicago was able to walk out of Smoothie King Arena with a win.
Offensively it was a great night for the Bulls. As a team they shot 51 percent from the field and 42.9 from three. The free throw shooting, which aided Chicago in crunch time, was fantastic all game as they made 20 of their 22 attempts (90.5 percent). Granted this came against a Pelicans defense which is near the bottom of the league in defensive rating but credit to Chicago for taking advantage. The Bulls had five players score in double figures and got 51 combined points from their backcourt.
LaVine was again Chicago’s main catalyst, leading them with 36 points and shot an efficient 12 of 19 from the field while adding in eight assists as well. He continued to shoot brilliantly from three, going four of eight from downtown. His biggest contribution came in third quarter when he scored 12 in that frame alone. He was aggressive all night, going to the rim at will whenever he had the ball in his hands. LaVine also added to his NBA leading streak of consecutive games where he’s scored 20 or more.
Coby White had a big game as well, scoring 25 points while shooting 50 percent from the field. Like LaVine, White shot well from three-point land and also made four of his attempts from there after making three three-pointers combined in his past three games. This marks the sixth straight game he’s scored in double digits and the fourth time he’s scored 20 points or more in that span.
Patrick Williams had a notable night, getting off to a quick start by scoring seven points in the opening minutes but then struggled with foul trouble for the rest of the game. However, he finished with a decent stat line of 13 points (six of seven from the field) and four rebounds. Williams biggest contribution came on the defensive end with three blocks and all of them coming against Pelicans star Zion Williamson. These are the types of defensive plays from Williams that really makes you excited about his ceiling as a player moving forward.
Elsewhere, Carter was great all night on the boards, grabbing 15 rebounds with seven of them coming on the offensive end. Garrett Temple had a tough assignment guarding Ingram all night and struggled shooting the ball, going just two of ten from the field. Denzel Valentine had 11 while it was a rough night for Tomas Satoransky offensively as he just scored two points.
New Orleans was led by the 28 points of Williamson as he gave Chicago problems all game. Nobody on the Bulls could really match up with him when he went to work. Redick had 22 off the bench but went one of five from three. Ingram pitched in 21 of his own and ended up with a solid stat line despite starting the game cold offensively.
The biggest problem for New Orleans was their free throw shooting as they went 26 of 38 (68.4 percent).
Overall, the Bulls made this tougher on themselves than they needed to. They were up double digits for much of the game up until halfway through the fourth quarter. The game nearly slipped away from them but they did just enough to to grab the victory. We have seen the Bulls in previous games close out opponents better and avoid these types of situations. Giving up 45 points in the fourth quarter usually doesn’t end well, but thankfully for Chicago it didn’t come back to bite them.
Now we head into the All-Star break where LaVine will be in the game and in the three-point contest. The Bulls next regular season game is March 11th against the Philadelphia 76ers.