Behind the Numbers presented by HUB International: Bulls at Pelicans (11/7/18)

by Jim Eichenhofer
@Jim_Eichenhofer

A look at three key numbers related to Wednesday’s game at the Smoothie King Center between Chicago and New Orleans (7 p.m. Central, Fox Sports New Orleans, WRNO 99.5 FM):

14.8: Turnovers per game for both New Orleans and Chicago, tied for 19th in the NBA (meaning nine clubs average more miscues per game than the Pelicans and Bulls; the Warriors are also tied in that spot at 14.8). New Orleans began the season in excellent fashion in this category, but since the departure of starting point guard Elfrid Payton from the lineup, the numbers have been much worse. The 14.8 average appears to have some significance in terms of the outcome of games, because when New Orleans commits 15-plus turnovers, it has a record of 1-5, with the only victory in that set coming vs. Sacramento on Oct. 19. When it finishes with 14 or fewer turnovers, the Pelicans are 3-1, the only defeat occurring at Portland on Nov. 1. Oddly, Chicago is 2-2 when it coughs up 15-plus turnovers, but 1-6 when it goes over that plateau. The Bulls’ two victories during high-turnover nights were both against struggling squads, Oct. 27 at Atlanta and Nov. 5 at New York.

21.8: Career high in scoring average for Nikola Mirotic through 10 games of the 2018-19 regular season. A former Chicago Bull, Mirotic’s arrival in New Orleans has benefited him greatly, with him filling a prominent role on a Pelicans team that swept a first-round playoff series in ’18 and has made him a full-time starter. In 243 games with Chicago, the native of Montenegro started just 59 times, never more than 38 times in a single season. The fifth-year NBA veteran is also averaging a career high in rebounding (11.4), easily surpassing his previous best of 7.4, while shooting a career-best 50.0 percent from the field. He has never averaged more than 30 minutes per game in any season, but through the first three-plus weeks of ’18-19, he’s at 31.6.

24-6: Combined home record of New Orleans’ five hosts during its recent nine-day road trip, including Denver (6-0), Golden State (6-0), Portland (5-2), San Antonio (4-2) and Oklahoma City (3-2). Even in the game that began this stretch of six consecutive losses for the Pelicans, Utah is an excellent 4-2 on the road this season, including prevailing Oct. 27 in the Smoothie King Center. Conversely, this week’s two visitors in Louisiana, Chicago and Phoenix, have gone a combined 2-7 on the road, with no away wins against teams that are currently over .500. According to ESPN’s strength of schedule metric, New Orleans (4-6 overall) has played the league’s second-toughest schedule so far, trailing only Boston. Chicago (3-8) has faced the 18th-most difficult schedule. Not surprisingly, of the 15 teams that have had the toughest schedules, 10 are in the Western Conference.