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The New Orleans Pelicans got back in the win column Wednesday night with a 123-108 victory over a floundering Chicago Bulls team.
The back-and-forth contest wasn’t the prettiest game either team will play all year. Both squads struggled to find an offensive rhythm while continually turning the ball over.
There was hope at the beginning of the week that Wednesday would serve as rookie phenomenon Zion Williamson’s first game of the season, but the team has still been treating its franchise player with an abundance of caution in the wake of his preseason knee injury.
Until Williamson is able to play meaningful minutes, it’ll be hard to truly assess where the Pelicans are in their rebuilding process following Anthony Davis’ offseason move to the Los Angeles Lakers.
- Zach LaVine, G, Bulls: 32 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds
- Kris Dunn, G, Bulls: 15 points, 6 assists, 5 steals, 4 rebounds
- Brandon Ingram, SF, Pelicans: 29 points, 11 assists, 8 rebounds
- Derrick Favors, PF, Pelicans: 12 points, 9 rebounds
- Jaxson Hayes, C, Pelicans: 14 points, 12 rebounds, 4 blocks
Third-quarter woes continue for Chicago
At this point, you have to start wondering what exactly head coach Jim Boylen is telling his team at halftime. For the fourth time in five games, the Bulls were hammered in the first frame after the break, allowing New Orleans to take a 44-27 run into the fourth quarter.
In the last five games—all losses for Chicago—the Bulls have been outscored by a combined 51 points in the third quarter.
That can’t continue if Chicago hopes to have any chance at staying in games late. As much as Boylen preaches laying the building blocks for success and often harps on how hard his team is playing, the results just aren’t there.
What makes Wednesday’s third-quarter collapse even less palatable is that Chicago cut the Pelicans’ lead to single digits midway through the fourth quarter. There may not be more winnable games on schedule than a date with injury-riddled New Orleans.
Chicago wasted an opportunity Wednesday, and Boylen will only get so many chances before the Bulls are forced to make a change.
Jaxson Hayes shines off the bench
Zion Williamson isn’t the only first-round draft pick looking to make an impact with the Pelicans this season. Center Jaxson Hayes has played 35 games to start the year and is gradually showing some of the potential that made him a one-and-done player at Texas.
It wasn’t just Hayes’ stat line that stood out (his 14 points were his most since scoring 17 in early December); it’s the agility and smoothness to his game.
Hayes’ soft touch around the rim was exceptional. Add that to his ability to block without fouling, and he has the makings of an elite big man. The issue remains getting him the right amount of minutes to continue his development. While Hayes has started 10 games this season, he’s taking a backseat to Derrick Favors and averaging just under 20 minutes per game.
His floor time will surely decrease as New Orleans begins incorporating Williamson into the rotation, which will continue to make Hayes’ development an intriguing subplot for the rest of the season.
The Bulls will hurry home for a Friday evening matchup against the division rival Indiana Pacers at United Center before embarking on a two-game road trip to Detroit and Boston. Meanwhile, the Pelicans will head east for a three-game trip to New York, Boston and Detroit.