Behind the Numbers presented by HUB International: Bulls at Pelicans (1/22/18)
A look at three key numbers related to Monday’s game at the Smoothie King Center between Chicago and New Orleans (7 p.m., Fox Sports New Orleans, WRNO 99.5 FM):
3: New Orleans rank in winning percentage among Western Conference teams this season in games against the East. The Pelicans enter Monday’s matchup vs. Chicago at 12-6 in interconference matchups, a success rate that trails only Golden State (17-3 vs. the East) and Houston (13-5). Even West teams an echelon above New Orleans in the overall standings, such as San Antonio (14-9) and Minnesota (7-11), have had more difficulty when facing the opposite conference. It’s important that New Orleans continue to excel against the East because the next two Pelicans games are against that conference; there’s also an upcoming stretch from Feb. 7-25 with six East opponents out of seven contests. One notable difference for New Orleans while facing the East has been defense, with the Pelicans allowing just 105.7 points per 100 possessions, via NBA.com. That number spikes to 108.3 vs. the West.
84: Combined minutes played by DeMarcus Cousins (43) and Anthony Davis (41) during New Orleans’ 96-90 overtime victory at Chicago on Nov. 4, a workload reminiscent of what the All-Star starting duo has recently been given. The Pelicans have needed both on the floor a lot lately while playing numerous close games, including OT victories this month at New York and Boston. The Pelicans and Bulls played an unsightly first half in the Nov. 4 matchup, resulting in a 38-all tie at intermission. New Orleans eventually prevailed despite shooting just 40.2 percent from the field and 29.0 percent on three-pointers, but its offense has been significantly improved in recent weeks. The 96 points were the fewest the Pelicans have scored in a victory this season and the fifth-fewest they’ve tallied in any game. New Orleans is 2-7 when held under 100 points in 2017-18; the only other win came the night before at Dallas, by a 99-94 margin.
15-8: Chicago’s record since Nikola Mirotic made his season debut Dec. 8 in a win over Charlotte. Judge the Bulls by an overall record of 18-28 at your peril, because they’ve been one of the NBA’s hottest teams for the past month and a half (the only squads with more wins since Dec. 8 are 17-4 Golden State, 16-6 Miami and 16-7 Toronto). After starting the season 3-20, Chicago has benefited from elite three-point shooting by Mirotic, who is tied for fourth in the NBA in percentage at 44.7 (Pelicans starting small forward E’Twaun Moore ranks sixth at 44.0). During the same span of six-plus weeks, New Orleans has gone 11-9 and actually has a better net rating than Chicago, scoring 2.4 points per 100 possessions more than NOLA’s opponents, compared to Chicago’s plus-1.3 in that category.