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NBA Preview: New Orleans Pelicans seek to find win column behind Jahlil Okafor and ‘Jrue Krewe’ against lackluster Bulls in Chicago

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The Bulls are losers of 15 of their past 17 games and should offer little resistance to the Pelicans. Can they capitalize?

NBA: Chicago Bulls at New Orleans Pelicans Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

It’s hard to focus on the games with the trade deadline looming, but the Pelicans have been thriving as best they can behind Jrue Holiday and his group of try hards.

Since defeating the Houston Rockets, the Pelicans have lost three matchups against playoff teams by an average scoring margin of just -4.3 points, with impressive performances by Frank Jackson (25 points against SAS), Kenrich Williams (21 points against DEN, 16 rebounds against HOU) and then there’s Jahlil Okafor:

Darius Miller is averaging 13 points over the past seven contests. Heck, even Ian Clark has come back from the dead, scoring 15 points or more in three of the past four contests!

The Pelicans’ 1-3 record over the past week and a half is a poor indicator of just how solid the Pelicans have looked without five of their six leading scorers.

To make matters more interesting (or complicated based on your lens), reinforcements could soon be on the way.

Remember, this is a game preview, not an opinion column. It’s not for me to decide whether it’s in the club’s interest for Davis and Randle to suit up. The two continue to swirl in trade rumors, but Gentry has been noncommittal as to their futures.

But even without the Pelicans two leading scorers in the front court, the Pelicans have every bit the resources to defeat the Chicago Bulls. The 12-41 squad have lost 15 of their previous 17 contests and hold the fourth-best lottery odds.

However, their squad is not without NBA-level talent, boasting last year’s seventh overall selection in Lauri Markkanen to go along with 2016’s fourth selection in Kris Dunn. Add Zach LaVine, Robin Lopez, Bobby Portis, and familiar face, Wayne Selden, and the Bulls have enough to challenge the Pelicans ‘green’ squad.

The Bulls are 21st in pace, 30th in offense and 23rd in defensive rating. They’re bottom five in nearly every offensive category sans scoring in the paint (20th).

Defensively, they do a good job of limiting points in transition (eighth) a product of their sluggish pace, and in the paint (11th), thanks in large part to Robin Lopez and Wendell Carter Jr (out, thumb).

The bulk of the scoring will come from LaVine (22.8 ppg), Markkanen (17 ppg) and Portis (14 ppg), but Dunn (12 ppg) and Antonio Blakeney could also be a factor (eight ppg). Dunn has improved his distance stroke to 36% this season, while Blakeney is up to an impressive (45%).

It’ll be up to Okafor and Cheick Diallo to limit the Bulls big men from overwhelming the Pelicans in the paint. Kenrich and Solomon Hill will have their hands full with Portis, and Jackson will be put to the test against LaVine, who will use the pick-and-roll often to get away from Jrue Holiday’s grasp.

Easy win for the Pels? Comment with your predictions below!

Starters:

Pelicans - Holiday - Jackson - Miller - Williams - Okafor

Bulls - Dunn - Lavine - Selden - Markkanen - Lopez

Let’s geaux, Jrue Krewe!

Where To Watch

What: New Orleans Pelicans (23-31) at Chicago Bulls (12-41)

Where: United Center, Chicago, IL

When: Wednesday, February 6th, 2018, 7:00 p.m. Central

How: FSNO, 99.5 FM WRNO