After three days of platitudes about effort and energy, the Chicago Bulls again laid an egg.
The New Orleans Pelicans put the hammer down in the third quarter, outscoring the Bulls 37-25 and building their lead up to as many as 19. The Bulls had no answers on the road, and looked disinterested in trying to find any.
Eventually, they lost 124-110, falling to 6-9, their first three-game skid of the season.
This was a bad loss — their second embarrassing defeat in as many games.
Here are my takeaways from the game:
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Bulls against Math volume LLIIIXCILIVUWISDFKLJ
The Bulls are often at a deficit when it comes to three-point shooting volume, a fact I have lost my voice yelling about since last season.
But the problem is more than just 3>2 (though that in itself is a huge problem). It’s the overall shot profile, both for and against.
To start the third quarter, the Pelicans made three straight threes. At that point, the Bulls need to produce something, so they go to DeMar DeRozan for a mid-range jumper. That’s fine, in theory, it is one of their most reliable shots. But the Bulls aren’t going to mid-range jumper their way back into a game where they lose the three-point (Bulls: 11-of-32, Pelicans: 17-of-33), and free throw (Bulls: 11-of-17, Pelicans 21-of-24) battles.
The Bulls had a higher volume of shots in all the low-efficiency zones, while the Pelicans led the Bulls in all of the high-efficiency zones: shots at the rim, from the corners and from above-the-break.
All of these elements feed into each other and exacerbate the problems.
For DeRozan to do what he does, he shoots from the elbow. Yes, he can draw a bunch of fouls, but normally does a better job of that when he is getting to the rim. But the Bulls didn’t get to the rim. That means they never had a chance in any of the three most efficient zones of the court.
The Bulls had not run any zone heading into the game but decided to whip some out with the second unit bridging the starter and closer minutes in the first half.
Though it worked at times — the Bulls forced a few turnovers — the Pelicans were able to beat them in transition and by shooting over the top.
In general, I think this kind of change-of-pace tactic is a good one.
A better way to use Zach LaVine
Zach LaVine has not looked his springy self for the majority of the season, as he recovers from his offseason knee surgery. Wednesday night was different. We finally got to see some of the explosive layups and dunks we’ve grown accustomed to over his Bulls tenure.
LaVine finished with 25 points on 9-for-22 shooting. He’s still putting his head down a little too much and trying to force things, but at least he’s more athletic when he does. But I’d prefer the Bulls turn LaVine into a supercharged version of the Pelican’s guard CJ McCollum.
Watching McCollum zip over screens, attack advantages and make plays with a head of steam, it’s hard not to imagine how good LaVine would be in a similar role. He’s got the movement shooting and attacking ability to do a great job, and it will put him in a better position as a facilitator as well.
After losing three successive games —including five of the last six — some changes may be required. Whether that’s a shift in lineups or play styles, the Bulls need to stop the bleeding.