Keys to the Game: Bulls vs. Pelicans (02.06.19)
The Chicago Bulls (12-41) welcome the New Orleans Pelicans (23-31) to the United Center this evening to wrap up the season series with each hoping to get on a winning track. The Pels lost a heartbreaker at home to Indiana on Monday, 109-107, without five of their most productive players who were sidelined with injuries. New Orleans has now lost three straight and six of their last seven. Each of the most recent losses has been by six or fewer points to opponents currently holding playoff berths.
With regards to the Bulls, they've lost five of their last six, the most recent loss occurred at Charlotte Saturday, 125-118.
In the first get-together between the Bulls and Pels down in the Big Easy in early November, New Orleans posted a 107-98 victory behind 32 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks from All-Star forward Anthony Davis. Pels veteran Jrue Holiday also chipped in 17 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. Zach LaVine led Chicago with 22 points, five rebounds and four assists, while Jabari Parker added a double-double of 20 points and 13 rebounds. Rookie center Wendell Carter Jr. also notched a double-double of 17 points and 11 rebounds.
Injuries could end up being a major factor in tonight's contest for both teams, as New Orleans will likely be without Davis (left hand), and possibly ex-Bulls Nikola Mirotic (right calf strain), E'Twaun Moore (left quadriceps contusion), as well as Julius Randle (right ankle sprain) and backup point guard Elfrid Payton (right ankle sprain). As of Wednesday morning Mirotic, Moore, Randle and Payton were questionable, while Davis is doubtful at best. For Chicago, point guard Kris Dunn and forward Wayne Selden Jr. are each hurting to some extent but should be able to answer the bell, while rookies Wendell Carter Jr. (thumb surgery) and Chandler Hutchison (right foot fracture), as well as swingman Denzel Valentine (ankle surgery) are out.
In order for the Bulls to come away with a much needed victory they're going to need to take command of the boards at both ends of the floor and execute their plan of attack in a smart and savvy fashion. Offensively Chicago has to keep the ball on the move and make sure to get everyone involved and invested in the action. To that end they have to show up with an aggressive mindset, and attack the rim at every opportunity.
As a team, it is also essential for Chicago to get out on the break and run in order to post easy baskets and deny the Pels the opportunity to set up defensively.
It's vital the Bulls routinely exploit their strengths and stay positive and focused both on offense and defense. Good communication along with a desire to hustle on defense and refuse to allow New Orleans any leeway with regards to open driving lanes to the hoop and free looks at the basket from behind the 3-point arc will go a long way to coming out on top.