The Pelicans posted an impressive runaway win against the hapless Chicago Bulls, winning 123-108 at the Smoothie King Center. Both teams are now 13-25, although stuff feels better for us Pelicans fans.
Brandon Ingram had 29 points, eight rebounds, 11 assists, and two blocks, the Pels got hot in the second half, favorite rookies Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Jaxson Hayes showed out, and the game was a laugher in the last few minutes after a tight, ugly first half. Walking scoring machine Zach LaVine finished with 32 points, five rebounds and six assists for Da Bulls.
Jrue Holiday and Wendell Carter Jr. were both out.
(No, we still don’t have a date on Zion’s return. More on that below.)
Ingram Now, Better Later
Brandon Ingram did not start the game like a potential All Star, but he sure finished like one.
Through a rough 1-of-6 start, Ingram made moves against all Bulls defenders, making shots, cuts, dunks, and showed off his greatest player development achievement: playmaking. By the time it was 92-75 after three quarters, he had 24 points, eight rebounds, 10 assists and two blocks.
How Real Are The Rookies
Jaxson Hayes and Nickeil Alexander-Walker: Can this duo get a nickname?
X-Men? Probably copyright infringement.
Big and Easy? Eh... too... sensual.
Crescent City Connec— ... anyway.
Just do a quick search for these two, as they hooked up to form a handful of co-highlights, including three in the first quarter, alone. Here’s my favorite:
There goes Jaxson doin' what he does best pic.twitter.com/ME3A3SisbL— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) January 9, 2020
Hayes and NAW helped (Ingram had 16 in the 3rd) spur a big third quarter, in which the Pels dropped 44 big ones on Chicago and asserted themselves over a perpetually losing Chicago side.
NAW was +8 in 19:59 and had 11 points, four rebounds, and six assists. In 23:58, Hayes had 14 points, 12 rebounds, and four blocks.
The Bulls’ Profound/Problematic D: Turnovers and Free Throws
The Bulls force more than 18 turnovers a game by their opponents (best in the league), including another league-high 10 steals per game - this number was nearly matched at halftime, with Chicago making eight in 24 minutes. Kris Dunn is the primary reason why, coming in second in the league in total steals (he’s now 1st) and first in the league in steals per 100 possessions before tonight’s game — he had five before halftime; he’d only finish with five, as apparently the Pelicans decided to stop going his way as much.
The guy is a Jrue-level individual stopper who can pick a ballhandler clean or fill a passing lane at any moment; when he’s around, the ball seems to squirt free.
Along with all those steals, though, comes fouls. The Bulls ranked third from last in opponent free throw attempts per game at 26.2 per game. The Pelicans made 26 in 32 attempts.
Chicago’s defensive style shone through both good and bad, although the 48-point first half came because Nola was busy missing most of their threes (3 of their first 20; they’d make 12 of their next 24).
NICO MELLI TIME
That’s all. Just, he played.
(3 p, 1 r, 2 f)
Let’s Go, Zo
Lonzo Ball has been breaking out, until tonight when he didn’t look quite as polished. Tonight he had 11 points, five rebounds, seven assists, one steal and one block. But his previous five were verrrrrry good. I did much less research than our own Ben Pfeifer, who broke down some keys to Ball’s uptick:
Over his last five games, Ball’s counting stats have taken a massive leap, up to 21.6 points, seven assists and six rebounds, shooting 57.1% on two-pointers and 46.7% on threes (on a massive nine attempts per game), with a spectacular 64.3 true shooting percentage. Much of Ball’s uptick in production can be explained by an unsustainable hot streak; Lonzo isn’t going to sustain his efficiency from two or three point range, bolstered by his still horrid 55.6% free-throw clip. However, Lonzo is making tangible strides on the court that suggest the early stages of true transformation.
A good Ball is good for y’all. Just wait ‘til he teams up with Zion!
The Pelicans leave for Madison Square Garden to face the Knicks on Jan. 10.