The New Orleans Pelicans and the Bulls return to their own class when they meet Thursday in Chicago.
The Pelicans are coming off a 120-108 home loss against NBA-leading Milwaukee on Tuesday night. The Bulls’ last game was a 129-102 loss Saturday night at Toronto, which has the second-best record in the East.
Both New Orleans (20-31) and Chicago (19-33) need to win games like this to have any shot at making an uphill playoff push.
The quest for the Pelicans will be harder if forward Zion Williamson is unavailable. The Pelicans added the rookie star to the injury report on Wednesday and he is listed as questionable with a sprained toe on his right foot.
Against Milwaukee, the Pelicans led by as many as 10 points and took a 61-58 halftime lead, but the Bucks outscored them 42-24 in the third quarter to take command.
“They came out and they pushed it down our throat,” New Orleans point guard Lonzo Ball said. “The game plan was to get back. I feel like we didn’t do that as well in the third quarter as well as the first half and that opened up layups for them, corner threes for them, and that kind of got the game out of hand for a little bit.”
The Bucks had 33 fast-break points.
“I’m not real sure if you can survive that,” Ball said.
All-Star forward Brandon Ingram led New Orleans with 32 points. Williamson added 20, his third consecutive game with at least that many, but he made just 5 of 19 field goals, the first time he has shot below 50 percent in his seven games.
Williamson said he wasn’t sure if the Bucks were the best defensive team he has faced, but “they are definitely the tallest defense I’ve faced.”
“It was one of those nights where I couldn’t get my second-jump layup to fall,” Williamson added. “It was very frustrating.”
The Bulls’ loss to the Raptors capped a frustrating 0-3 road trip that dropped them to a season-worst 14 games below .500. The trip started with an overtime loss to Indiana, which was followed by a loss to Brooklyn in which Kyrie Irving scored 54 points.
“When opportunity knocks you’ve got to open the door and we just stood there,” Bulls guard Zach LaVine said. “We might have jiggled the handle a little bit, but that’s about it.”
LaVine scored 18 points against Toronto, which ended his streak of 17 straight games with at least 20 points.
Chicago is playing without a few key players. The game against the Raptors was the first one missed this season by guard Kris Dunn, who was diagnosed with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee.
Lauri Markkanen (stress reaction, right pelvis) has missed the last six games and Wendell Carter Jr. has not played since Jan. 6 because of a high ankle sprain. Otto Porter Jr. played in just nine games to start the season before suffering a fractured foot.
“Nothing has been easy for us this year,” LaVine told the Chicago Sun-Times after a shortened practice that included just eight players Tuesday. “I don’t want to say we’re used to playing undermanned, but it’s almost like we are.
“We’ve got to keep moving forward. It’s not going to get easier. Teams aren’t going to be like, ‘Oh, let’s take a break because they’re injured.’ We’ve got to go out there and play. We have to have dudes step up in multiple ways.”
–Field Level Media