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NBA preview: Anthony Davis hopeful to lead Pelicans past Bulls and Jimmy Butler

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The outcome could boil down to the availability and effectiveness of each team’s biggest star.

NBA: Chicago Bulls at New Orleans Pelicans Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Pelicans (16-24) will meet the Chicago Bulls (19-21) on Saturday inside the United Center. The game has an early tip-off time of 4pm CST and will air on both Fox Sports New Orleans and Comcast SportsNet Chicago. It will also broadcast over the airwaves on WRNO 99.5 FM.

According to a Pelicans report earlier today, Anthony Davis was able to participate in the latest team practice, and afterwards he stated to Jim Eichenhofer, “It’s a high probability that I’m going to play tomorrow.”

That’s good news for New Orleans because it took special efforts by Tyreke Evans and Terrence Jones to overcome a 6-point deficit at the start of the 4th quarter to beat the Brooklyn Nets, 104-95.

Although they’ve won their last two on the schedule, the Pelicans have two more contests remaining on their 5-game road trip. As evidenced by a 7-12 record away record, wins outside of the Smoothie King Center have not come easily, so the likelihood of Davis playing is really important for the team’s chances of securing a victory.

As well as the Pelicans have been playing of late (winners of 7 of their last 11), the Bulls are trending in the opposite direction. Chicago has lost 11 of their last 17, including a 15-point loss to the Knicks this past Thursday; however, it hasn’t helped matters that Jimmy Butler has missed the last two games (illness) on their current 3-game losing streak.

With the Bulls, everything starts with Butler, who is in the midst of his best season as a pro. He is averaging 25.0 points, 6.7 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.7 steals. Earlier this month he had a 52-point explosion against the Hornets and followed it up with a 42-point performance versus the Raptors. It’s not a coincidence that Chicago won both of those games.

According to Nick Friedell, Butler is questionable to play along with Denzel Valentine (illness). Nikola Mitotic has already been ruled out (illness).

Things to Watch

Chicago’s point guard situation. Rajon Rondo is well on his way to proving to another NBA franchise that contracting for his services is a mistake. He was recently benched 5 games by Fred Holberg, returned to play in the last two from off the bench and is perplexed by his recent handling. His alternative, Michael-Carter Williams, hasn’t been much better as he continues to struggle with efficiency, both in the shooting and playmaking departments.

Dare the Bulls to shoot. The Bulls are dead last in the league in three-point makes, attempts and shooting percentage. Who could have predicted a lineup of Rondo, Butler, Dwayne Wade, Taj Gibson and Robin Lopez would have trouble spacing the floor?

Limit second chance opportunities. In addition to having the league’s worst 3FG%, Chicago ranks 29th in 2-pt percentage; consequently, the Bulls rely heavily on crashing the glass, ranking first in offensive rebounding percentage. Cut out the easy points, both in the form of putbacks and free throws, and New Orleans odds to pull out a victory dramatically increase.

Geaux Pelicans!