Another day, another frustrating loss.
The Bulls looked great through three quarters, down just one heading into the fourth quarter. The Pelicans’ 40-point fourth quarter had the Bulls completely rattled en route to a 126-109 win for New Orleans.
There were some encouraging takeaways, including Zach LaVine’s season-high 39-points, that were ultimately overshadowed by mistakes that let the game spiral out of control.
Here’s how it happened and what it means:
Pelicans turn up the game sliders
Spurred by Jose Alvarado, the Pelicans went on a 2016 Warriorsesque 21-9 run to start the fourth quarter. They suffocated the Bulls and hit nearly every shot. Incredible display of tough-shot-making.
In fact, they were 11/18 from the field, 4/7 from deep and 14/15 at the free throw line in the fourth quarter alone.
“It’s a two-point game, all of a sudden it goes to nine,” Billy Donovan said during post-game press availability. “Then it goes to 15, then 17. Then we get it down to 10 but at that point in time we’re just trying to play catchup.”
A troubling trend is emerging where attention to detail leads to a mistake. The mistake leads to a run and the run effectively ends the game when the Bulls are unable to stay composed, reset and have a next play mentality.
Little things and attention to detail
The Bulls have struggled to keep their composure late in games, costing themselves possessions that lead to runs that they simply can’t shut off.
“There were too many things we did in that fourth quarter, the fouling, some of the loose balls, the missed shots, some of the turnovers, a lot of things that we self-inflicted.”
These self-inflicted wounds came in the form of allowing the Pelicans 34 free throw attempts and 10 offensive rebounds while only shooting 4/16 from deep in the second half.
“We had so many plays that broke momentum for us and gave them momentum,” Donovan said.
It’s a shame the Bulls didn’t win this game for LaVine, who finished with a season-high 39 points on 12/23 shooting, including 4/11 on threes and 11/13 at the line.
He was putting his head down and getting to the rim with ease. He was drawing contact and getting to the line, and probably should have been rewarded with even a few more free throws.
He even stepped up to the plate defensively, locking down CJ McCollum on multiple occasions.
Hopefully, his 40 minutes weren’t too much of a burden, because this is the version of LaVine the Bulls need, even when DeMar DeRozan is back in the lineup.
Obvious statement: The Bulls really missed DeRozan.
Sure, the points would have been nice, but I say this because of the poise and decision making DeRozan plays with, especially in end-of-game scenarios.
DeRozan doesn’t make mistakes in the clutch. But the way defenses are keying in on him, the other Bulls need to show up.
Offensively, the three key scorers did just that tonight. Alongside LaVine’s 39, Nikola Vucevic started the game hot, and finished with 16 points on 7/11 shooting. Coby White chipped in 23 points on 9/15 shooting and 5/8 from deep.
The Bulls missed out on an opportunity for LaVine and the rest of the role players to build up some confidence that they can succeed without being overly-reliant on DeRozan. They have had moments where the offense looks great but the defense is struggling or vice versa, but can’t seem to put both sides together at the same time.
They’ll look to put it all together on Saturday in a must-win game against the Cavaliers.