Chicago Bulls offense takes giant leap in loss to Zion, Pelicans
Anyone who bought a ticket for the Zion Williamson Show was not disappointed.
The deservedly hyped New Orleans rookie dominated his second professional preseason game, scoring 29 points while hitting 12 of 13 shots. Williamson had just 2 relatively soft dunks Wednesday night at the United Center, but he showed impressive shooting touch and body control.
The Chicago Bulls, meanwhile, took some giant leaps with their offense in a 127-125 loss to the Pelicans. The Bulls led by as many as 23 points but were outscored 41-18 in the final quarter.
In the loss to Milwaukee on Monday, the Bulls didn't have much coordination to the offense. It looked more like guys taking turns taking shots.
Newcomer Tomas Satoransky started at point guard in this one and seemed to be a good fit. Satoransky (11 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds) and Otto Porter Jr. (16 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds) stuffed the stat sheet, while Zach LaVine scored 28 points in 24 minutes.
"I think we kind of showed the way we want to play on the season, moving the ball well, having open shooters and just play with a pace," said Satoransky, who arrived in a sign-and-trade this summer from Washington.
The usual qualifiers of this being preseason apply, but the Bulls were passing the ball out like Halloween candy in this game. After finishing with 24 assists in Monday's loss to Milwaukee, the Bulls dished out 24 by halftime against New Orleans. They faded late but still finished with 38 assists, which would have beat last year's season high by 5.
And 24 assists isn't bad. Twelve teams didn't average 24 per game last season. Golden State led the league, of course, with 29.4.
The Pelicans finished with 40 assists Wednesday, so maybe these numbers are nothing to take seriously. There were just eight times when a team recorded 40 assists during last year's regular season.
The Bulls were sloppy at the start, giving away 10 turnovers during the first quarter. But once they got the hang of how to move the ball, they were able to spread the court, make the extra pass and get some wide-open looks.
"I thought we kind of settled down, figured it out and played really good basketball for about 30 minutes," coach Jim Boylen said. "I thought at moments we looked like a team and we looked like how we want to look."
Another Bulls newcomer, center Luke Kornet, didn't start but looked good in his first preseason action. He had 9 points and 4 assists in 16 minutes. Lauri Markkanen scored 12 points and Thad Young had 11.
The Bulls tried to get rookie Coby White (13 points) a shot on their last possession, but they didn't execute very well and ended up with Ryan Arcidiacono missing a desperation heave from near half-court at the final buzzer.
The final result doesn't matter in preseason. The Bulls looking like an unselfish offensive machine has a chance to be meaningful. They hit 100 points with 2:13 left in the third quarter.
"We're still trying to improve our sets, run them with pace, and I think today we did a much better job spacing, being in the corner and being able to attack off the catch and go," Satoransky said. "I'm still learning how Zach is quick, so you have to give him the pass early. I think we did a good job of moving the ball well and playing much better defense."
New Orleans knocked down 8 of 10 shots from 3-point range in the fourth quarter to power the comeback. Former Laker Josh Hart and rookie Nickeil Alexander-Walker hit 3 each.
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