During the current six-game losing streak, New Orleans (4-6) has confirmed that wins against Western Conference opponents won’t come easy — especially on the road.
The Pelicans were confident, under the assumption the team would be healthy, going into the five-game road now behind us. To the contrary, Julius Randle, Darius Miller, Elfrid Payton and Anthony Davis all dealt with injuries throughout that span.
Davis struggled even in his return, making only 18 of his last 49 attempts, with his right elbow seemingly still playing a factor. The Pelicans do need Davis to return to his MVP form in order to beat quality opponents on their court, and that should come with his health.
“The big thing is that he wants to be out there,” Alvin Gentry said. “Since it’s not going to do anything to further hurt it or anything like that, we’re going to try to let him play. Obviously, I think that he’s very capable of playing a ton better than he is, but I also think that he’s not completely healthy either.”
Payton has been out since suffering a right ankle sprain against the Utah Jazz on Oct. 27. He was averaging 11.6 points, six rebounds and six assists, but it’s the way Payton stabilizes the backcourt and puts Holiday in his true position that proves so valuable for New Orleans.
Elfrid Payton officially listed as questionable for game vs. Chicago.— Andrew Lopez (@_Andrew_Lopez) November 6, 2018
Gentry said earlier the team was leaning towards not playing him unless he showed something more tomorrow.
Would expect he’d be a go Saturday. https://t.co/dPa7MfsFgQ
“It’s offensively and defensively,” Nikola Mirotic said. “Defensively, [Payton’s] a big-time guy. He can guard. He can rebound the ball. Offensively, he can really read the game. He can penetrate, he can pass the ball and before he was injured he was making three-point shots. He was a big part of those first four games that we won, so we just can’t wait to have him back.”
The Bulls (3-8) are fresh off a 116-115 win over the New York Knicks but had lost their previous four games. Yet, it’s important to note that a couple of those losses were close outcomes to playoff contenders in the Pacers and Nuggets.
Zach LaVine is Chicago’s leading scorer at 27.9 points per game and is coming off an impressive 41-point performance against the Knicks. Expect Jrue Holiday to be given the task of harrassing the 23-year-old guard for the most part.
Stretches of success have been seen along the way, but New Orleans sits twelfth in the conference standings as it returns home for a two-game home stretch against Chicago and Phoenix. At 4-6, the time to panic has still not arrived. The Pelicans can get back to .500 by defending home court, and the odds have them favorites to do so.
What: New Orleans Pelicans vs Chicago Bulls
Where: Smoothie King Center
When: Saturday, November 7, 2018, 7:00 p.m. Central
How: FSNO, 99.5 FM WRNO