The Bulls dropped a familiar-seeming game to the Pelicans by a score of 123-108. The losing streak is up to five. Here's some observations:
The first half was chaos
I was going to call the first half of this one ‘sloppy’ but that doesn’t feel strong enough. To put it diplomatically, it was a display befitting of these two teams’ records entering play.
Bulls fans aggrieved by their team’s high-volume, low-efficiency 3-point shooting ways need only watch the Pelicans’ first half tape from this one for comfort. The hosts missed their first eight 3-point attempts of the game and ended the first half 7-for-28, missing most of their looks badly but chucking with reckless abandon anyway. Though the Pels shot 50% from the field in the first quarter, they cratered in the second, shooting just 8-for-27 (29.6%) from the field (5-for-17 from deep, 3-for-10 from inside the arc. You’re not reading that wrong).
The Bulls first half played out inversely. They shot only 33.3% from the field in the first quarter, but 52.4% in the second, though at one point they endured a 6:29 minute field goal drought and shot only 14-for-27 in the restricted area. Somehow, it all ended in a 48-48 tie.
Kris Dunn, for what it’s worth, thrived in the chaos. He had five steals in the first half — tying a season-high in just 18:15 minutes — while the Bulls as a team forced 10 Pelicans turnovers and scored 12 fastbreak points. Zach LaVine had 17 points on 8-for-14 shooting at the break and blessed us with one of the only highlight-worthy plays from the first 24 minutes:
Yup. LaVine would definitely win the Dunk Contest pic.twitter.com/y50MJKy3pz— Bulls Talk (@NBCSBulls) January 9, 2020
With Wendell Carter Jr. missing his first game of the season, all eyes coming into this one were on how Jim Boylen would handle the frontcourt rotation. He rolled with Thad Young and Lauri Markkanen (at center) in the starting lineup, and Markkanen got bullied by Derrick Favors early to the tune of 6 points and 5 rebounds through quarter one.
Markkanen went on to play only 12:09 first half minutes to Young’s 17:12 and Daniel Gafford’s 11:51. Then, the Finnish forward logged 17:11 in the second half, finishing the night with 29:20, overall. He scored 14 points, snared 4 rebounds and shot 4-for-13 from the field in those minutes.
The Pelicans’ frontcourt had the edge all game. Favors finished with 12 points and 9 rebounds on 5-for-6 shooting, and rookie backup Jaxson Hayes had 14 points, 12 rebounds and 4 blocks.
Kris Dunn made three 3-pointers
That’s it. That’s the observation.
The third quarter strikes again
The Pelicans offense came to life in the third quarter — right on schedule when you consider the Bulls’ propensity for shoddy play out of halves. The Pels outscored the Bulls 44-27 in the third, shooting 65% from the field (4-for-9 from 3) to the Bulls’ 40%. The Pelicans' shots started falling, the turnovers stopped coming and the Bulls were outrebounded 11-5. The game didn't feel within reach from midway through that period on.
Over the last five games, the Bulls have been cumulatively outscored by 51 points in third quarters, the widest margin in the NBA.
Another standout LaVine performance in vain
Also right on schedule: a Bulls fourth quarter rally. They clawed their way back to within nine points with five-and-a-half minutes to play, but ultimately the Pelicans pulled away. Boylen pulled the Bulls’ starters with around three minutes to go.
It’s a familiar-seeming loss, especially given how well LaVine performed. He was in attack mode all night, as he has been throughout the Bulls’ now-five-game losing streak, and ended with 32 points, 6 assists and 5 rebounds on 13-for-24 shooting.
The Pelicans’ supporting cast simply did more around Brandon Ingram — who finished with 29 points, a whopping 11 assists, 8 rebounds and 11-for-12 from the free throw line — than the Bulls’ did. J.J. Redick had 24 points and six 3-pointers. Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart and Nickeil Alexander-Walker combined for 35 points (Ball with seven assists, Hart and NAW with two 3s each) and all made timely plays at timely moments.
Dunn ended the night with 15 points, a solid output for him, but none in the fourth quarter. Young had 18, but was only 7-for-16 from the field and missed three layups. Coby White had 10 off the bench and showed flashes attacking the rim, but faded down the stretch. Tomas Satoransky was hindered by foul trouble all night and Gafford was scoreless in limited minutes.
As mentioned, the losing streak is now five. Back home for the Pacers on Friday. It goes without saying, but that's a must-win at this point.
Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Bulls games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.