• If the Bulls want to avoid following their first three-game winning streak of the season with their 4th three-game losing streak of the season, then they must beat the New Orleans Pelicans tonight. The matchup doesn’t feel like the worst way to head into the All-Star break, especially when we consider that the Bulls exploded for a 129-116 victory over this team back on February 10th. And that win even came without starting big man Wendell Carter Jr. in the lineup. However, it’s not every night a team knocks down a franchise record number of 3-pointers and shoots 59.3 percent from the field, which is what it took last time to beat this 6th-ranked Pelicans offense.
• The Bulls also got a 46-point performance from Zach LaVine in that one and a 30-point showing from Coby White. Can that duo really lead the team to another high-powered shooting performance? I doubt we will see just as productive of a showing as we saw that night, but I guess we can’t rule it out. The Pelicans offense may have some impressive firepower, but their defense is still considered to be second-worst in the league. The pesky Eric Bledsoe and lengthy Lonzo Ball haven’t been enough to keep opposing teams from dominating the perimeter. Teams are shooting nearly 40 percent from 3 against the teams this season, which is the 3rd-highest opponent percentage in the league. Relatedly, the Pelicans have a hard time disrupting passing lanes and breaking up ball movement, ranking just 20th in deflection per game and allowing 27.7 assists per game. So there is an opportunity that the Bulls offense has another strong showing tonight.
• Unfortunately, the same can be said for the Pelicans offense. The Bulls have played better on the defensive side of the ball as of late (now ranked 19th in the NBA), but their biggest weakness on that end of the floor is arguably the Pelicans’ greatest strength. Chicago allows the 4th-most points in the paint per game, which likely has New Orleans, a team that averages the 5th-most PITP each night, salivating. Zion Williamson dropped 29 points against this Bulls team the first time they played, and with his role on the offense only increasing since their first meeting (we should see him bring the ball up way more tonight), he’ll be looking for even more in this one.
Zion Williamson in February:
He is the first player to average 25+ points on 60% shooting in a month since Shaquille O’Neal in January 2005 (min 15 games). pic.twitter.com/Ft495ineJP
— StatMuse (@statmuse) February 28, 2021
• FWIW: The Chicago Bulls technically list Lauri Markkanen as doubtful for tonight’s matchup. The latest update we received on his health status came several games ago when head coach Billy Donovan told reporters that it’s “highly unlikely” Markkanen returns before the All-Star break. Clearly, a doubtful designation still means it’s far more likely that he doesn’t see the floor, but listing him as such for this game could signify that he will be a full-go by the time the second half of the season starts on March 11th. I have a feeling Donovan will provide some kind of update on that in his pre-game media availability later today.
• Coby White is finding a rhythm. The Bulls second-year guard has scored 19 or more points in five-straight games. His 3-ball has struggled to fall over these contests (shooting just 35.5 percent), but one could make the case that it is actually kind of encouraging to see him find his way onto the scoreboard without relying on this long-range shot. What has been most impressive about White’s last few games, though, is his rebounding. Believe it or not, White is averaging a pretty absurd 8.3 rebounds a night over his last four games. In fact, he recorded his 3rd and 4th double-double over that stretch, with 10 rebounds against both the Houston Rockets and Denver Nuggets. I do not know what to attribute this rebounding burst to, but I do know that I like to see it. I think it just goes to show that White has been aware of some of his struggles this season and that he continues to try to find ways to positively impact the game. Respect.
• ICYMI: Zach LaVine will join an absolutely STACKED 3-point contest field.
Zach LaVine is Giving the Three-Point Contest Another Go (This Time as an All-Star)https://t.co/aGA4H8yt5j
— Bleacher Nation Bulls (@BN_Bulls) March 3, 2021
• Adam Mokoka with a well-rounded showing in the G-League bubble, but I suspect he will not be in Orlando much longer. The NBA announced yesterday that it would eliminate the 50-game limit for players on two-way contract, which means both Devon Doston and Mokoka can rejoin the Bulls roster for the entirety of the season.
Windy City Bulls two-way player Adam Mokoka making a splash in the @nbagleague bubble!
🏀10 Points | 6 Rebounds | 5 Assists🏀 pic.twitter.com/Q8Oi1rfAOu
— Windy City Bulls (@windycitybulls) March 2, 2021
• Yeesh, Shaq sounds so out of touch. Thanks for telling him what’s up, Candace.
Shaq and Candace Parker debate how defense is played in today’s NBA 🍿
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) March 3, 2021
• He hasn’t even retired yet?
— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) March 2, 2021