Shorthanded Bulls aim to end skid as they host Pelicans (Jan 14, 2017)
CHICAGO -- The New Orleans Pelicans found a way to win without their best player. Now they'll face a Chicago Bulls team that has been short-handed for three straight games and could be for more.
The Pelicans enter Saturday's game with the Bulls at the United Center having won back-to-back games, the second of which -- a 104-95 win over the Brooklyn Nets Thursday night -- came without the services of All-Star forward Anthony Davis.
Davis was sidelined Thursday with a bruised hip he suffered on Monday night against the Knicks. Still, the Pelicans got more than enough help as Tyreke Evans scored a season-high 29 points and Terrence Jones, who started in Davis' place, finished with 24 points and 12 rebounds.
New Orleans (16-24) won their second straight road game to improve to 6-13 away from home as they enter the fourth game of a five-game road stretch.
"It's really, really difficult to win games on the road in this league," Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said after Thursday's win, according to NBA.com. "When you're missing your best player and able to do it, it really doesn't matter who you're playing."
While Jones more than doubled his season scoring average of 10.7 points, it was Evans who made the most impact. Evans, who had been shooting less than 40 percent from the floor, finished Thursday's win 10-of-15 from the field and 7-for-7 from the free throw line.
Asked by reporters what worked for him Thursday, Evans replied, "Just attacking the rim, just talk to the bigs, a lot of pick-and-roll step-up so I can go downhill and attack and make plays."
The Bulls (19-21), meanwhile, enter Saturday's game having lost three straight games, including a 104-89 setback Thursday night against the New York Knicks. Chicago played its second straight game without All-Star swingman Jimmy Butler, who left Monday night's game against the Oklahoma City Thunder due to the flu and hasn't played since. The Bulls were also without reserves Nikola Mirotic and rookie Denzel Valentine, both of whom have been plagued by the flu as well.
The Bulls announced Friday that Mirotic won't play against the Pelicans. Butler and Valentine are both questionable.
The depleted lineup has played a major role in the three losses that have dipped the Bulls to two games under. 500. In addition to playing short-handed, the Bulls continue to struggle to shoot the ball well. That's been most evident with Doug McDermott, who went 0-for-5 from the field against the Knicks and who is 4-for-22 over Chicago's three-game losing streak.
"This game is a lot about confidence. The big thing is trying to put him in position to get him some shots," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said of McDermott, according to the Chicago Tribune. "He's too good of a shooter to stay in a slump like this. I'm confident he'll get out of it and so are his teammates."
With the Bulls dealing with illness throughout the lineup, veteran guard Rajon Rondo has gotten back into the rotation after being benched for five games. Hoiberg told reporters Thursday Rondo likely would remain in the rotation moving forward.
"That's something that we thought a lot about is getting him in there with that second group," Hoiberg said. "When we get Niko back healthy and obviously with Doug going back to his bench role when we get Jimmy (Butler) back, get him out there and be the leader of that second unit. I talked to him about the lift and the spark that he gave us with the energy and the pace, the push that he had with that second unit."