Coming off a low scoring game in their previous game, the Chicago Bulls turned in a gritty performance over the New Orleans Pelicans Saturday night to improve to 13-8 on the season. The Bulls found themselves down most of the game, rallying behind a 34-point fourth quarter showing.
The Pelicans defense felt comfortable most of the night as they read Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg's plays. The Bulls struggled with turnovers early on, totaling 14 in the game as the Pelicans did a great job jumping those passing lanes. Home court advantage proved to lift the team, as they improved to 9-3 at the United Center. The Pelicans dropped to a woeful 6-17 on the season.
Hoiberg went with a starting lineup of Tony Snell (F), Taj Gibson (F), Pau Gasol (C), Jimmy Butler (G) and Derrick Rose (G). Hoiberg continued with Gibson as a starter and Nikola Mirotic in a role to come off the bench after his shooting woes. So far, the addition of Gibson in the starting lineup has seemed to work and should continue going forward.
Derrick Rose came out with a fresh look, as he didn't wear a protective mask and got a haircut that takes everyone back to the year he won the MVP. Rose had more of a secondary role today, as he had limited shots and looked to find his teammates more often. He went 4-of-10 on field goals totaling nine points, including a big shot with 11.5 seconds left to play to propel the Bulls to the victory.
Gasol added another double-double to his resume as he finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds for his squad. He continues to be the key part for the Bulls success this season, as he has consistently been productive on both sides of the ball. His teammates trust him to take over a game when needed. Jimmy Butler had an average night as he added 15 points off of 4-of-16 shooting, but managed to get to the charity stripe often, shooting 7-of-9 from the free throw line.
The story of the night was the Bulls bench, racking up a whooping 52 points throughout the game. Joakim Noah was one of the big keys to the victory as he brought enormous energy to the court and to his team. The veteran had 10 points and a gutsy four blocks on the defensive end. Guard Aaron Brooks got on a hot streak as he racked up 17 points, including 15 in the fourth quarter.
A poor night from Anthony Davis of the Pelicans also helped the Bulls out, as he went 8-of-24 from the field in 41 minutes of play. The star player carried most of the work load during the night, coming out playing well but fading off in the latter stages. Guard Tyreke Evans posed a big problem on the night, going for 22 points off of 10-of-22 shooting and dished out eight assists. Eric Gordon also added 14 points out of the backcourt.
Pelicans Maintain Early Lead
The first half of the game mainly belonged to the away team as Anthony Davis exploited the paint, exposing the Bulls big men for easy scores early on. The Bulls came out slow and lethargic, not playing with much joy on the court that led to sloppy play. Evans and Gordon batted passes on the defensive end that led to fast breaks. Coach Alvin Gentry's presence on his team was felt as they predicted the Bulls offensive patterns. The Pelicans gained a commanding 37-23 lead.
Butler then picked up his play, showing off leadership as he took matters into his own hands. A made shot by the Bulls star led to a 45-42 deficit going into the half. The Bulls started to lock down on defense and Rose got into the flow of things as well, forcing the ball around the backcourt. A 12-4 run to close out the quarter was helping in the Bulls efforts to remain in striking distance.
Bulls Bring The Energy
The second half became interesting right away. Rose showed playmaking ability as he pushed the ball out of the backcourt to Doug McDermott for three. Even with the focused play, the Pelicans remained ahead with a 10-point lead, 59-49. The key for the Bulls became being aggressive and drawing fouls. Hoiberg got his team to start feeding Gasol the ball more. Gasol started getting to the free throw line often, hitting a pair. Sophomore player McDermott kept bringing the heat as he hit another three ball to get within one, 65-64. The Pelicans got a few easy shots to end the fourth quarter, remaining on top yet again with a 70-64 lead.
In the fourth quarter the Bulls bench came to play. Chicago started the quarter on a 9-0 run to give them a 73-70 lead. That run was highlighted by two three-pointers from Brooks and the go-ahead three from Kirk Hinrich. The Pelicans started to lose their defensive grip on the game, eventually losing their long held lead.
The two teams would go back and forth and exchanged the lead a couple times. However, it was Brooks' driving layup that gave Chicago the 96-94 lead with 40 seconds remaining. Derrick Rose would seal the victory with a step back jumper over Davis with 11.5 seconds remaining.
That would be all she wrote as the Pelicans missed a bad three-pointer with seconds remaining. Chicago held on to win 98-94. The Bulls will continue their home stretch as they face one of the league's worst teams in the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday.