Game On: Chicago Bulls at New Orleans Pelicans (Plus Babbitt, Gordon, Super Bowl picks, and More)

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Published: February 1, 2014

The last time these two met, the Pelicans pulled out a close victory in triple overtime, thanks to a remarkable effort by Ryan Anderson. Tonight, the Pelicans will be without him and the Bulls will be without their star of that game – Luol Deng. Still, both these teams have been playing surprisingly well of late, despite being short-handed. Also, ¬†Anthony Davis will likely be fired up to play his hometown team (And the All-Star snub won’t hurt, either.)

Chicago has taken on a bit of a new offensive identity since Luol Deng left, as they space the court a bit more, but they still play Tom Thibodeau basketball on the defensive end. They have the second slowest pace in the league and have the second highest defensive rating. They want to keep this game in the high 80’s or low 90’s and will force the Pelicans to be patient on the offensive end. This game kicks off a four game home stand for the Pelicans, and this is what they will have to do to start that home stand off the right way:

Keys to the Game

1. Defend the Arc

Surprisingly, not much has changed for the Bulls since they traded Luol Deng. They were about a .500 team with him and they have been a .500 team without him. They are giving up about two more points per game, but they are scoring about two more points per game. The big difference is that they are shooting more three’s and they are also making them at a higher rate. The main culprit is DJ Augustin, but Tony Snell has seen some increased time when Deng is gone and he can get hot too. Throw in Jimmy Butler, Mike Dunleavy, and Kirk Hinrich and the Bulls have a couple of guys who can stretch the floor. The Pelicans rotations have to be crisp tonight.

2. Don’t Get Destroyed on the Glass

It might be a little much to expect the Pelicans to win this match up. Instead, the goal should be to just be respectable on the boards tonight. The trio of Boozer, Gibson, and Noah average 8 offensive rebounds per game. Keep them around their average, and this game is winnable, but if they are getting 20+ offensive rebounds again, those extra possessions could be the difference.

3. Take Care of the Ball

The Pelicans turnover percentage was just 8.1% in the last meeting. Chicago plays good, solid defense, but they don’t really pressure the ball or gamble enough to force errors. They rely on you to make errors, and if you can keep yourself from making unforced one, you will likely beat them. You likely won’t get anything easy in this game, but that means you should be patient and not force the issue. For that reason, a guy like Tyreke Evans will be key tonight.

Other Thoughts and Observations

– There are some rumors floating around that the Pelicans are trying to sign Luke Babbitt. Babbitt will likely require a hefty buyout from his Russian team, but this is where we see that transactions are dominoes, not just events isolated in a vacuum. People didn’t get the Tyshawn Taylor trade, because it seemed pointless to trade for a guy just to cut him. But in that trade, the Pelicans netted approximately 600K in cold, hard cash. Now, they can use that money to buy out a guy like Babbitt and use him as a poor man’s Ryan Anderson of sorts for the rest of the year. If not Babbitt, someone else. Or maybe they buy a second round pick in June with that money. Either way, always remember that trades are often setting something else up in the not to distant future.

– I got a lot of money on the Seahawks money line this Sunday, and a little bit on the under and a parlay of the two. This super Bowl reminds me of the Raiders/Bucs Super Bowl in some ways. Great offense vs. Great defense, and the team with the great D has a QB that can manage the game and a big back who can wear the other team down. A big part of this game will come down to how the refs call it. If they let things go, I actually think the Seahawks might blow Denver out. If they call it like a regular season game, it will be close. Scary to have money riding on a game where the Zebras will be such a big factor.

– Anthony Davis will likely take Kobe’s spot in the All-Star game. Going on past precedent, the NBA usually waits 4-5 days to name the replacement. Add that to the fact that the league rarely makes announcements over the weekend, and I expect to hear his name on Monday or Tuesday.

– Trade deadline is just 19 days away. Still gotta believe that the Pelicans are willing to pull the trigger on an Eric Gordon if another team makes a solid offer. I have been saying for a while that I think it is Charlotte or bust, but I think Cleveland and Detroit could enter the picture. Cleveland’s GM is desperate right now, and those are the kind of guys you target if you want to unload an overpaid player. Detroit is also interested in moving Josh Smith and would likely do a straight up swap in a heartbeat. But, I don’t know if Dell goes for it. The way Smith is playing, he might actually have a worse contract that Gordon. The trouble is that Detroit doesn’t have much to sweeten the pot with. Their pick will likely go to Charlotte this year, meaning they couldn’t give us a 1st rounder until 2016. Smith and KCP for Gordon and Withey would be nice, but I doubt Detroit adds their recent pick just to unload Smith. Still, a team to watch.

– Speaking of possible moves on a smaller scale, the Nuggets just lost Nate Robinson for the season. They are overloaded at SF and have a clear need at backup PG. They also have some future picks to dangle. With Tim Connelly and Dell Demps having such a close relationship, it wouldn’t be out of the question for those two to discuss a deal built around Roberts or even Pierre Jackson going to Denver.

– Seven games left before All-Star break and every one is winnable. Pelicans get Spurs at home and they are banged up. Heck, they lost to this same Bulls team at home the other night. Toughest games after that are at Nets and at Toronto. Playoffs are a long. long shot, but 5-2 or better over these next seven at least keep them in the conversation. If they do that, they would probably have to go 20-10 after the break to have a shot at the 8th seed. Again, not impossible if Holiday comes back. Just worth keeping an eye on.

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