Paul Zipser

Boogie and Brow missed chances, help on the way: Observations from Bulls' OT loss to Pelicans

Boogie and Brow missed chances, help on the way: Observations from Bulls' OT loss to Pelicans

The Bulls could've and should've pulled out a win at home against the New Orleans Pelicans but instead fell to 2-6 with a 96-90 overtime loss Saturday night. Here's the biggest observations from that game.

We have stars, you don’t: Sometimes it’s as simple as having DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis doing things that cannot be matched by the opponent. It was more than just the stats—although Davis’ 27-point and 16-rebound performance was as impressive as it was understated—but Davis made the right plays at the most opportune times to seal the win.

He blocked a Justin Holiday jumper and then threw it off him while falling out of bounds to retain possession in overtime, the play of the game considering the stakes.

He also defended Bulls rookie Lauri Markkanen and prevented Markkanen from having clean looks, although Markkanen had two big fourth-quarter 3-pointers to keep the Bulls close when the Pelicans were threatening to pull away.

Markkanen was two of 11 from three and five of 16 overall, in large part due to Davis’ length and attention to detail.

“Our motto is, if we don’t score, they don’t score,” Davis said. “We came up with some big possessions, guys made some big shots and big plays. We wanted to make sure we defended.”

Cousins’ night wasn’t as smooth but he was dominant in terms of his presence, scoring 25 with 11 rebounds, although he hit just six of his 20 shots. He routinely bullied the Bulls and got to the foul line 13 times, as both he and Davis played over 40 minutes.

“I struggled early on,” Cousins said. “That being said, you gotta go out there and find the ways to have an impact on the game. That’s what I tried to do, and we pulled out an ugly, gritty win.”

The effort was there, the execution was not: Nothing epitomized the Bulls’ night better than the close misses Robin Lopez had at the rim, two contested bunnies he should’ve finished but didn’t after a pass from Jerian Grant.

He was battling with Davis and Cousins all night, and usually takes advantage of easy chances near the basket.  With nine seconds left and the game tied, it could’ve won the game for the Bulls.

But he had tough luck and the extra five minutes proved enough for the Pelicans to take control.

“It’s frustrating. It feels bad tonight. They know we had a great effort. I’ll be better. I’ll be better next game,” Lopez said. “He made a good play. I missed two shots. (Grant) made such a fantastic play.”

Here’s the play.

Although the Bulls took 42 3-point shots and shot just 26 percent from long range, Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg was happy with the effort, commending the team in his opening statement to the media following the loss.

“I’m proud of our guys for going out there and competing again when the ball wasn’t going in the hoop, giving ourselves a chance,” he said. “A great chance to win it there again missing a couple at the rim, but they continued to go out there and battle.”

“We’re going to have nights like this on the offensive end, but if we can battle like that defensively, we’re going to have a chance most nights.”

It’s a far cry from their last performance at home against Oklahoma City, where Hoiberg bemoaned the lack of effort in a blowout loss. Cousins complimented the Bulls and their play, having seen them twice in the preseason and once in the regular season.

“I feel like they’re a better team than their record shows,” he said. “They’re probably top-three hardest playing teams in the league at this point. To have a record like that and still come out and play with the tenaciousness and edge that they do, it’s a credit to them.”

Turning a corner/stepping back: Denzel Valentine had a second straight strong performance after Friday night’s showing against Orlando, scoring a season-high 16 points and hitting four of seven from 3-point range.

He was the only efficient scorer the Bulls had and Hoiberg said they ran their offense through Valentine in the fourth quarter, although the Pelicans outscored the Bulls 26-19.

“I like making big time plays, especially when my team is depending on me,” Valentine said. “So whenever my number is called, I just step up to the plate and deliver. I thought we should’ve won.”

Had the Bulls taken better care of the ball, they would’ve given themselves a better chance at a second straight win. But that old bugaboo reappeared, as Kris Dunn committed four turnovers in nearly 17 minutes.

His aggressiveness is in sharp contrast to Grant, as he presses the envelope at every opportunity. But finding the balance will be a season long challenge, as he’s had at least four turnovers in each of his four games this season.

Taking hold of that starting spot doesn’t seem as assured as it did when he was making big plays and showing emotion in Miami, spurring a quality effort on the road.

Hoiberg made note of Dunn’s giveaways, referencing players trying to make passes in tight spaces where a safer play could better apply.

“We need to do better with that, of taking care of that,” Hoiberg said.

Grant put together one of his better statistical performances as a Bull, with 14 points, nine assists and eight rebounds in 36 minutes. He made a critical steal on Cousins in the final minute, leading to Lopez’ missed layup.

He could’ve been the hero Saturday night.

Bobby’s back: It’s been eight games, which means Bobby Portis will return to the Bulls active lineup Tuesday in Toronto after his suspension from punching Nikola Mirotic.

Portis has to leave the arena two hours before every game so he hasn’t been around to watch the games in person, but he’s been practicing through his suspension. And no, he won't start, meaning Markkanen's place at power forward is secure.

“He’s been practicing and that’ll all be discussed here in the next couple days, what we’ll do in the Toronto game,” Hoiberg said. “The biggest thing is try to go out with the guys we have available. We’ll get that figured out in the next few days. He’s working extremely hard. When everything happened we had to put together makeshift lineups, so those guys were getting most of the reps in practices.”

Mirotic is doing more physical activity, going from riding a stationary bike to doing pool work over the past week but he’s still several weeks away from even beginning to think of stepping on the floor.

And then again, there’s that trade request from Mirotic that hasn’t been rescinded.

So even when it’s over, it’s not really over.

Three Things to Watch: Bulls square off against LeBron and the Cavaliers

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Three Things to Watch: Bulls square off against LeBron and the Cavaliers

Here are Three Things to Watch in the Bulls' Tuesday night tilt against the Cavaliers on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live.

1. LeBron James will be on your television

Love him or hate him, LeBron James is must-see TV. Now in his 15th NBA season, James has shown no signs of slowing down. Despite playing just one preseason game (against the Bulls), James has shown anything but rust in three games, averaging 25.0 points on 60 percent shooting, 8.3 rebounds and 6.3 assists in nearly 37 minutes. He's a threat every night to do something you've never seen on a basketball court, His Airness included. Justin Holiday and Paul Zipser will have their hands full against the game's best player.

2. Lauri Markkanen, Week 2

Small sample size alert! But through the season's first week Markkanen and Ben Simmons are the only rookies averaging a double-double (Dallas' Dennis Smith has played just one game, averaging 16 points and 10 assists). While the Bulls have struggled through two games, Markkanen's net rating is third best on the team and he leads the Bulls bigs in rebounds per game and rebound percentage. Markkanen has shown some versatility offensively, and his 7 free-throw attempts have been a nice surprise as well.

3. Don't forget: The Bulls swept the Cavaliers last year

OK, so expecting a victory Tuesday night in Cleveland isn't smart. The Bulls will be underdogs just like they were in each of the four games last season, all of which were Bulls winners. It was the first time in 52 division series that LeBron James had been swept, which is pretty remarkable considering the Bulls were the No. 8 seed and the Cavs coasted to a third straight NBA Finals. We're not over here predicting a win. But just remember: the Bulls have fared well against James in the regular season.

Will Perdue projects opening night Bulls starting lineup

Will Perdue projects opening night Bulls starting lineup

The Jimmy Butler era is over for the Bulls and there are a lot of new faces on the Bulls roster this season, but what will the team look like on the floor?

Former Bulls center Will Perdue took a crack at what starting five coach Fred Hoiberg may send out for the opening game at the Raptors on Oct. 19. Watch the video above to see Perdue explain each of his starting five picks.

Point guard: Kris Dunn

Perdue: "He was an important piece of that big trade on draft night. I love his aggressive nature, but he's got to learn to play a little more defense with his feet, not so much with his hands so he can stay out of foul trouble."

Shooting guard: Justin Holiday

Perdue: "This is a little bit of a question on the two-spot, but I'm going to go with Holiday. The reason why is because he's a much better defender than Denzel Valentine and one thing you have to worry about is what's going on with DeMar DeRozan in game one.

Small forward: Paul Zipser

Perdue: "Has he worked on his game to the point where he can prove that he can hit that midrange jump shot off the dribble and can he attack the basket and finish over and through defenders?"

Power forward: Nikolic Mirotic

Perdue: "He put on 23 pounds of muscle, according to Niko. He said he got tired of getting beat up last year. So because of these younger guys I think Niko feels like his best ability to play is at the four spot so he's going to get that opportunity early."

Center: Robin Lopez

Perdue: "Right now the only guarantee is this guy, according to Fred Hoiberg, Robin Lopez."