Pelicans Defeat the Bulls, This Time With Defense

Published: February 1, 2014

The first time these two teams met, Ryan Anderson drained everything and Luol Deng sliced up the Pelicans defense at will. The two teams went back and forth until finally a deep three fell short and the Pelicans escaped with a 128-125 victory. Tonight was very, very different. Tonight the Pelicans won a game with defense. They held the Bulls to 38.6% shooting, they defended the three-point line (Bulls were just 3-16), and they protected the paint by swatting 14 shots. The offense wasn’t good (it wasn’t even average), but it didn’t need to be because the defense was fantastic.

For one of the few times this year, there seemed to be good communication and it even looked like the players might have read the scouting reports. They played everybody on the Bulls the right way, save for the couple of times early on that they went under screens set for DJ Augustin. The only time the Bulls really got their offense going was late in quarters, where they were sometimes in the bonus.

Offensively, the Pelicans struggled due in large part to a lack of spacing. That is going to happen when you are playing Stiemsma and either Withey or Ajinca together for 3-5 minute stretches. It also is going to happen when the Bulls refuse to respect Tyreke Evans’ jumpshot and when Eric Gordon is air balling 20-foot step back jumpers. But non-All Star Anthony Davis was there to save the day, as he hit numerous jump shots down the stretch to help the Pelicans pull away. Against the NBA’s 2nd ranked defense, there weren’t really any sets that gave the Pelicans an advantage tonight. So, Monty just called clear outs for his superstar and Davis responded by scoring 7 of the final 12 points for the Pelicans and assisting on 2 more. And, oh yeah, he was pretty good defensively too.

They all were.

Other Notes and Observations

– People can pick apart certain guys’ games tonight, but the Bulls defense is fantastic and there is no shame in missing shots against them. Tyreke Evans is a prime example, as he got into the lane at will and set up his teammates several times, but also missed some tough shots at the rim. The Bulls are long and active, and they make it tough for everybody; Tonight was no exception. But the team kept playing through it and got just enough offense to get by. But not enough for Free Fries!!

– I don’t know if it was the All-Star snub or the fact that Monty held him out the last game, but AD came out playing angry tonight. He was ferocious from the tip and played with the energy and focus throughout the game that champions tend to have night in and night out. He scored 24 points tonight, and he had more blocks than missed shots. Let that sink in.

10-14 from the field, 4-4 from the line, 24 points, 8 rebounds, 6 blocks, 3 assists, and 3 steals. Can anybody else in the league put up a stat line like that? And question #2: Doesn’t that feel like this is becoming the norm for AD?

– Tonight out center trio went 8-10, scored 17 points with 10 boards and six blocks. All of that is great. It’s the 12 fouls that was incredibly frustrating. But beggars can’t be choosers. Those three are making a combined 4 million dollars this year, and with Ryan Anderson and Jason Smith out, you would take that every night.

– What’s better than tomorrow? Three Morrow! Sorry, corny joke but the three’s seem so rare nowadays that I get excited when he releases one, and even more excited when they splash.

– Aside from one shot that Austin Rivers threw up when his feet got tangled with a Bulls defender, he looked decent tonight. His catch and shoot three is vastly improved and his defense is praise worthy. It is the mid-range game that is a nightmare. All he has is that ugly floater/runner and he took one tonight from 10-12 feet out. Would be really nice to see him develop that this summer.

– For a small stretch in the second quarter, it honestly looked like it was becoming a one-on-one battle between DJ Augustin and Brian Roberts. Both were coming off of picks and shooting long two’s. Now you know part of the reason that the score was 88-79. On the positive side for Roberts, he really has taken care of the ball as of late. Just one turnover tonight.

– Eric Gordon started off hot in the first quarter, scoring 7 points in the first 2 minutes and 11 seconds. He only scored two more points the rest of the game. The worst part is that I am not even surprised about this trend anymore.

– Just one last thought: We are just beginning the Anthony Davis era. That is all.

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