An Actual Basketball Game was Played: Bulls 113 – Pelicans 109

It’s exciting to finally write about an actual game, and a Bulls victory at that! The Baby Bulls 2.0 pulled out a come from behind road win with pluck, luck, and just a pinch of moxy.

After a woeful defensive effort in the 1st quarter, the Bulls found themselves down 46-30. New Orleans big men, Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins punished our young heroes both inside the paint and from beyond the three point arc. The Bulls had no answer for the twin towers of terror. Fortunately, both of the Pelican big men stopped trying in the second half, allowing the Bulls to creep back into the game.

The Bulls started Bobby Portis and Paul Zipser at Forward, Robin Lopez at Center, with Justin Holiday and Jerian Grant as the Guards. Coach Fred Hoiberg chose to start experience with his system over fresh faces with large expectations, and it worked. Jerian Grant was the big winner tonight. He was very aggressive early in the game and played well throughout. He ran the offense, made plays, and made baskets.

Grant finished 4-5 from the field, 2-2 from three point land, for 11 points. He led the team with 9 assists and played 19 minutes. A very strong outing from a man competing for the starting point guard position.

The 2nd quarter featured physical defense from the Bulls, highlighted by Kris Dunn inducing a double technical foul with Cousins. Dunn had 11 points, 3 assists in 21 minutes of play. He was a mixed bag of good and bad basketball. He some times looked lost in the offense, dribbling into the lane and not knowing whether to pass or shoot. At one point, he dove into the lane but was so concerned with finishing his cut that he missed the perfect pass Niko Mirotic rifled at him. The ball sailed passed Dunn and out of bounds, one of the Bulls 14 turnovers in the game. Dunn was a bit careless with the basketball (he needs to work on dribbling). There were numerous times throughout the game when he lost control of his dribble and had to scramble to recover the ball. It wasn’t all bad for Dunn though, he played strong defense, collected 2 steals, and forced several turnovers.

The 1st half ended with the Pelicans in the lead 69-58.

The 3rd quarter was dominated by Bulls veterans Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday. Their relentless attack on defense and tenacious, aggressive play spurred the Bulls comeback. About 3 minutes into the 2nd half the Pelicans realized that the Bulls intended on playing hard the entire game, which is very unusual for a preseason game. Starters were pulled, back ups and G-leaguers were put in, and the Bulls found themselves in the lead midway through the 3rd quarter.

The lead proved as tenuous as Kris Dunn’s dribbling, swinging back and forth between the two teams until the Bulls finally pulled ahead for good in the 4th quarter. Jarell Eddie, a training camp invitee, sealed the victory with 7.5 seconds left, hitting a clutch basket off a Ryan Arcidiacono pass after what looked like a broken play.

So, a hard fought preseason victory: 113-109. I’ll take it, there might not be that many victories this season.

Other game notes:

Niko had 14 points in 14 minutes and collected 9 rebounds. Lopez had 3 blocks, including a key block from behind on Anthony Davis that he authoritatively spiked into the backboard. Antonio Blakeney has hops and hang time, recording some pretty finishes around the rim.

Cristiano Felicio led all Bulls scorers with 15 points.

David Nwaba, Paul Zipser, and Denzel Valentine also played… Lauri Markkanen did not, he was sidelined with back spasms.

The take away from this game should be this: The Bulls have a lot of room to grow. That being said, I saw some encouraging play from Jerian Grant, Justin Holiday and Robin Lopez. While My Guy Kris Dunn struggled a bit, he showed resilience by never giving up on plays. In fact, the entire team showed resilience, never giving up on the game even after being down by 16 points at the end of the 1st quarter. Maybe there is something to this “new culture” the Bulls created this summer…