Keys to the Game: Bulls vs. Pelicans (10.09.19)

Tonight, the Bulls welcome the new look New Orleans Pelicans to Chicago's West Side as both teams lace up their sneakers for the second time this preseason.

The Bulls opened the new year Monday night here at the UC falling to the Milwaukee Bucks 122-112. It was somewhat of a mixed bag for the home team as Chicago clearly accomplished a stated goal for the season to play fast, yet they still came up short in the end.

The Bulls launched 98 shots overall, 10 more than the Bucks. Chicago even forced 25 turnovers (15 off steals) while committing just 12 themselves. Unfortunately, they struggled to put the ball in the hoop, shooting 37.8% (37-of-98) from the field, 31.6% (12-of-38) from behind the arc and 68.4% (26-for-38) from the free throw line. Milwaukee, on the other hand, connected on 47.7% (42-of-88) of their shots including 37% (17-of-46) from downtown, and 84% (21-of-25) from the charity stripe.

The Bulls started returning players Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, Otto Porter Jr., Lauri Markkanen along with Cristiano Felicio standing in for regular starting pivot Wendell Carter Jr. who missed the game with a minor injury. Six others logged extended minutes including newcomers Tomas Satoransky and Thaddeus Young, along with returning vets Denzel Valentine and Ryan Arcidiacono as well as top draft picks Coby White and Daniel Gafford.

Dunn posted 11 points, three assists, three rebounds and three steals while committing only one turnover in 24 minutes. LaVine led the Bulls with 16 points, six rebounds and five assists, while Markkanen contributed 14 points, five rebounds and two dimes. Rookies Coby White added 12 points while Daniel Gafford electrified the crowd with a couple of thunderous dunks on his way to a 12 point and five rebound night off the bench.

Head Coach Jim Boylen says he'll likely shuffle his lineups throughout the preseason before settling on a regular rotation in time for Opening Night later this month. All total the Bulls used 17 players against the Bucks, oftentimes employing three- and four-guard lineups with either Markkanen or Young playing center. Carter Jr. (bruised tailbone), Chandler Hutchison and Shaq Harrison (hamstring strains) are still nursing minor aches and won't play this evening, however newcomer Luke Kornet, a 7-foot sharpshooter who signed as a free agent over the summer, is likely to see action for the first time after recovering from a painful turf-toe injury suffered early in training camp.

As for the Pelicans, they got off to nice start Monday by taking down the Atlanta Hawks 133-109 in Atlanta. Veteran guard Jrue Holiday led the way for New Orleans with 21 points in only 18 minutes of work, shooting a blistering 7-of-9 from the field, including 3-of-5 from long distance. Ex-LA Lakers Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball also had nice games as Ingram added 19 points, while Ball chipped in nine points and seven assists. Zion Williamson, the league's No. 1 overall pick this past June, posted a hearty 16 points and grabbed seven rebounds in his NBA debut.

After falling behind by seven (39-32) early in the second, New Orleans went on a 33-12 run to take a comfortable 65-51 lead with less than three minutes to play. When the buzzer finally sounded to end the second stanza, the Pelicans had outscored the Hawks 46-27 to lead 75-61 at the midway point.

Overall the Pels did a terrific job of controlling the glass, outrebounding the Hawks 54-44; including 15-9 on the offensive window.

Tonight, look for Chicago to continue to run at every opportunity and attempt to tighten the screws on defense as much as possible. Although the Bulls were able to score an impressive 38 points off 25 turnovers against the Bucks, there were way too many defensive breakdowns when Milwaukee was able to set up its offense in the half court.

Offensively Coach Boylen's multiple ballhandler system could turn into a thing of beauty for the Bulls when everything is clicking and in synch. However, for it to get on the right track Chicago must do a far better job of battling on the boards and hustling after every loose ball.