Game On: Pelicans at Bulls

Fresh off of an entertaining 2-point win over the Wizards, New Orleans now will be further tested in Chicago against a tough Bulls team tonight. The Bulls enter tonight’s game 3rd in the NBA in defensive rating, but also have the league’s 3rd worst defensive rating. Scoring against this Chicago team won’t be easy, especially since he Pelicans are going to be missing Ryan Anderson (stomach virus) and Jrue Holiday, as he is still on a back-to-back restriction. New Orleans will likely run out their same starting lineup of Evans, Gordon, Gee, Davis, and Asik, though expect Gentry to continue to mix up his rotations as he tries to find something that works best. To account for the abscence of Anderson and Holiday, I would expect Cunningham to see extended minutes at PF, opening up more minutes at the 3 for Luke Babbitt, and then more minutes for Ish Smith and Norris Cole at PG.

Key Questions:

  1. To crash or not to crash? Tonight is one of those games when I wonder if the Pelicans would be better off straying from their new philosophy this season of abandoning the offensive glass in favor of getting set on defense. The Bulls have a very good defense, but are only 20th in the league in defensive rebound rate, and are therefore vulnerable to give up second chance looks against better offensive rebounding teams. Given Tyreke Evans’ style of play and guys like Davis and Asik who are historically strong offensive rebounders, will the Pelicans attack the offensive boards more than we’re used to seeing under Gentry and Erman?
  2. Which team benefits more from the game’s pace? This may come as a surprise to some, but the Bulls actually play at a slightly faster pace than the Pelicans, as both teams are in the NBA’s top 10 at just about 100 possessions per 48 minutes. Expect the game to move pretty quickly, but it remains to be seen which team’s style of play wins out as a result.
  3. Can the Pelicans defend the 3-point line? Though the Bulls generally struggle offensively, they are 5th in the NBA in 3-point percentage, shooting 36.5% on 22 attempts per game. Conversely, the Pelicans allow the second worst opponents 3-point percentage in the league at 39.6% on 24 attempts per game. If New Orleans can’t keep Chicago from getting open looks from long range, then this game will be a pretty difficult one to win.

Enjoy the game!

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