This was low-key kind of a big game for the Bulls if they wanted to stay competitive this season until Lonzo Ball returns. They were at 6-8, but had played relatively well and even their losses were pretty close. They had the excuse of a tough, active schedule. But while the opponents were still tough, the schedule was to ease up this week. But after multiple days of rest saw them still get demolished by the Nuggets, surely they’d put forth a better effort after more days rest facing a Pelicans team that, albeit in their home arena, had played the night before.
Nope. Bulls were thoroughly worked again tonight, in a 124-110 loss that wasn’t even as close as the final score.
Chicago looked fine, at least in the first half. They were doing their thing, falling behind a bit then storming back behind bench play. DeMar DeRozan put up points, Vuc hit a couple threes, Zach LaVine looked downright spry in some of his inside finishes.
But as a team they can’t shoot. They have next to zero 3-point threats on this roster besides the guys who dominate the ball. They were facing a team in New Orleans that was actually worse than them in putting up attempts this season, but despite a mostly even first half the Pels were +18 at the three point line, and then opened up the 2nd half with back-to-back-to-back triples to go up 14.
It was tough for the Bulls to dig out from there, as any momentum swing would be quickly reversed by the long ball. Davonte’ Graham hit back-to-back threes late in the 3rd. Then in the 4th as the Bulls went small to try and catch up, there was dominance from Jonas Valanciunas, who had two 3s of his own and was effective forcing the Bulls to commit to him defensively. The Pelicans lead got as high as 25 and there was just not the major offensive lull coming from New Orleans nor streaky shooting from the Bulls that would allow Chicago to threaten that deficit again.
Even without Zion Williamson, the Pelicans unleashed a balanced attack. The aforementioned Valanciunas had 22 points, winning his matchup against Vucevic for the 2nd time in these two teams’ now completed season series. CJ McCollum looks to be rounding into form with his 2nd very good game after a season-long slump, and in a rare feat made Alex Caruso look hapless. Jose Alvarado kinda took Caruso’s mojo and influenced the game off the bench with 13 points. Brandon Ingram had a modest 16, and Trey Murphy had an immodest 19, including going 5 of 6 from beyond the arc.
Trey Murphy III is a SPECIAL player. The 22-year-old scored 19 points on 7-of-9 shooting including 5-of-6 from three to go along with 10 rebounds and three steals in Wednesday’s win. He showcased his unreal shooting range, his versatile defense, and his underrated athleticism. pic.twitter.com/FpPGGef3Np— Brett Usher (@UsherNBA) November 17, 2022
The Pelicans not only had 6 more makes than the Bulls from three, they had 10 more makes at the line, and there was a very long stretch of this game where the Bulls didn’t get to the free throw line at all. If the Bulls aren’t going to match in distance shooting, they have to get points in other ways, and they just didn’t have that formula tonight. They were outrebounded, and while they won the turnover battle it was only barely, and seemed like their miscues due to lapsed concentration moreso than the Pelicans defense.
As mentioned, the Bulls ‘big’ 3 was decent but nothing special and they all stink defensively. Caruso actually hit some threes to be the only other Bull in double figures. Patrick Williams was mostly invisible and then literally left the game in the 4th with a sprained ankle. Javonte Green attempted two floaters. Goran Dragic went 0-2 from three, and Ayo Dosunmu went 0-3, and the way this team is constructed that is sadly crippling, especially with their lone shooting role player in Coby White still out of the lineup.
I don’t know, this team is so very flawed but they will still grind out wins. The problem looks like a lot of other teams are pretty good and aren’t going to just let the Bulls take it from them when they put in their bench. And what adjustment can they really make, start Goran Dragic and Javonte Green? Then you’re a team that starts Goran Dragic and Javonte Green.
All that said, their next matchup is a softer landing, at home versus the Magic. Looking at the schedule after that, the Bulls kinda really need that one. Not a good place to be in mid-November.