Rematch With the Pelicans, It’s Not Billy’s Fault, Defensive Rating, and Other Bulls Bullets

Billy Donovan screams from the sideline.
Billy Donovan screams from the sideline.

The Chicago Bulls will battle the New Orleans Pelicans for the second time in three games tonight. The two teams gave us quite the entertaining matchup last week at the United Center, with the Pelicans squeaking by with a 115-111 victory.

It’s now up to Chicago to prove they can make the proper adjustments and finish on the right side of the scoreboard, which will (unfortunately) be a lot easier said than done.

  • New Orleans devoured the Bulls in the paint two games ago. Not only did they shoot 50.8 percent from the field, but they were also +15 in the rebounding column. The offensive glass, in particular, may have proven to be the difference in the game, as the Pelicans snatched 13 boards to the Bulls’ 6. If Chicago even wants to think about putting itself in a position for a bounceback win, it will start with a more ferocious effort underneath the rim. Role players like Javonte Green, Derrick Jones Jr., and Patrick Williams will have to have a far more active presence in the paint. And, hopefully, Andre Drummond can also clock more than just 12 minutes of action now that he’s had a couple of games to shake off some post-injury rust.
  • The Bulls might also have a couple of important things working in their favor tonight. Not only are the Pelicans on the backend of a back-to-back, but the availability of Zion Williamson remains up in the air. Not to mention, I find it impossible that the game could be called worse than last week’s meeting. Every single call seemed to land in New Orleans’ favor, which led to the team shooting an absurd 36 free throw attempts (sinking 28). As physically imposing as this Pelicans team is, the Bulls have done a pretty good job of keeping opponents off the free throw line this season (10th in fewest FTAs allowed). I expect to see a far more even matchup in that department this evening.
  • I’ve seen a lot of Billy Donovan slander going around from this fan base. Look, I get that pointing a finger at the head coach is the easy thing to do when a team isn’t performing to a particular standard. And sometimes that is the totally fair thing to do. In this case, however, I’ve seen no genuine justification for why the Bulls’ 6-8 start is Donovan’s fault. I’ve actually liked a lot of what he’s tried to implement this season. He’s gotten this team to play less ISO ball, put more pressure on the rim, and somehow perform to the level of a top-10 defense (we’ll see how long that lasts). It’s not his fault that players are clanking shots and turning the ball over.
  • If anything, I think the finger needs to be pointed toward Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley. As much as I respect what they have done to start their Bulls tenure, the way they constructed this roster induces a head scratch or two. The lack of shooting around their three All-Stars is a serious problem, as is the lack of length defensively on the wings. They had a chance to address both issues this summer. And, while they seemingly added two strong reserves in Drummond and Dragic, some of last year’s biggest problems still exist.
  • Speaking of defense, I do fear that the team’s unexpectedly high defensive rating is a bit of a facade. The Bulls deserve a ton of credit for having forced as many turnovers as they have, especially against high-caliber teams, but these opponent turnovers can kind of inflate the overall defensive rating. The fact of the matter is that this team still struggles to hit rotations at times and stay in front of players in the halfcourt. We’ve seen this really hurt them when the game slows down in clutch situations, where Chicago currently holds the second-worst defensive rating.
  • In case you missed it, I talked a lot more about both this season’s offensive and defensive stats in the post below …
  • WE NEED THE INSIDE THE NBA CREW!
  • *pretends to be shocked face*
  • VOTE JUSTIN FIELDS, YOU COWARDS!
  • Tab is going to speak to the Blackhawks’ legend, so give him some questions to ask below!
  • written by

    Elias Schuster is the Lead Chicago Bulls writer at Bleacher Nation. He started with BN full-time in 2019 immediately after graduating from the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign with a degree in Journalism (yes, he started with the Jim Boylen Era). Since joining, Elias has been the driving force behind Bulls and NBA content for both the site and social accounts. You can follow him on Twitter/X @Schuster_Elias.

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