The New Orleans Pelicans knocked off the Chicago Bulls by a final score of 125-119, but the margin isn’t remotely indicative of how well the regulars had dominated the action for the majority of the contest.
With 3:54 remaining in the game, the Pelicans led 119-96. Then the Bulls proceeded to close things out on a 23-4 run. Granted the coaching staff decided on a finishing lineup of Frank Jackson, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Nicolo Melli, Jaxson Hayes and Jahlil Okafor (?!) in the final 2:23 of regulation, but New Orleans did have an 18-point lead at the time. Seeing nearly that entire lead evaporate shouldn’t happen regardless of who’s out there on the court. For instance, the bench allowed seldom used Chicago shooting guard Adam Mokoka to go 6-6 from the field for 15 points in five minutes of action!
“In this league, when you get an opportunity to play, you have to take advantage of it,” head coach Alvin Gentry said. “I didn’t see that with some of the guys that we put out there.”
Gentry referred to the lapse in performance as a very teachable moment, but he did conclude his thoughts on the subject by stating that if the players can’t do better they won’t play moving forward.
Before broaching the positives, the only other negative news to share was that Brandon Ingram, who had twisted his right ankle late in the first half, failed to finish the game and his status could be up in the air for the upcoming matchup against the Indiana Pacers in two days’ time.
Re: Brandon Ingram's ankle— Andrew Lopez (@_Andrew_Lopez) February 7, 2020
Team source says severity of the injury is unknown at this time - they have to wait until swelling goes down - but Ingram was fighting to stay in the game. Team wouldn't allow it.
In postgame media, Gentry said that he didn’t have any new information regarding Ingram’s status.
After an indifferent start where they trailed 9-4 on 2-8 shooting, New Orleans found their stride in the middle of the first quarter. The Pelicans then proceeded to beat the pants off Chicago until that ugly fourth quarter collapse. New Orleans posted a new season-high in field goal percentage (56.3%), the passing was on point (38 assists on 49 field goals) throughout, and the defense improved greatly in the second half.
Zion Williamson led New Orleans’ scorers with 21 points on just 11 shots.
Lonzo and Zion are a gift. pic.twitter.com/rllS5PZpBC— Preston Ellis (@PrestonEllis) February 7, 2020
Zion was unstoppable, powering through the Bulls Kleenex-like defense to the rim with ease — a far cry from the spectacle observed against the length of the Milwaukee Bucks from two nights ago.
JJ Redick, who was a spark plug in the morning’s shootaround per assistant coach Jamelle McMillan, dropped a quick eight first-quarter points en route to an 18-point and five-assist performance. It really is a treat to watch him maneuver screens to create space and, of course, drill every open attempt with the touch of a sniper.
Brandon Ingram was on his way to another stout game on the season, scoring 15 points and dishing out five assists, before succumbing to that ankle injury after 21 minutes.
Derrick Favors only appeared 19 minutes, but he put on a rebounding clinic (15 boards) which set a new team record. He was the main reason the Pelicans defense held the Bulls to 19 third-quarter points.
Derrick Favors has 8 points and 15 rebounds in 19 minutes tonight.— Will Guillory (@WillGuillory) February 7, 2020
He's about to become the 1st player in franchise history to grab 15+ boards in less than 20 minutes.
Lonzo Ball finished with nine points and ten assists, Josh Hart added 12 points, seven rebounds and six assists, and Nicolo Melli was on the mark yet again, totaling 12 points on 5 of 8 shooting.
However, the highlight of the night definitely belongs to JJ Redick as his facial expression perfectly described everything all onlookers must have been feeling after witnessing Jaxson Hayes’ stupid-good putback slam.
“Man, when he jumped, I was like, ‘what is he jumping for?’” Zion Williamson said. “But he caught it so I was like, I didn’t know how to react to be honest. If you look at the replay, I probably sat there for a second, like no way, he caught that.”
The Bulls were led by Zach LaVine’s 22 points, but as mentioned, this game will probably be referred by Chicagoans as ‘The Adam Mokako Game’ in the future.
Let’s just forget the final four minutes ever happened — but hope the coaching staff and players who were in the game at the time never do.
Up next, the Pelicans travel to Indiana to face the Pacers on Saturday for a 6:30 p.m. Central tip.