Ball drops triple-double on Pels; Bulls roll in home opener

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Bulls guard Lonzo Ball, right, shoots against New Orleans Pelicans forward Naji Marshall during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Chicago, Friday, Oct. 22, 2021.

    Chicago Bulls guard Lonzo Ball, right, shoots against New Orleans Pelicans forward Naji Marshall during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Chicago, Friday, Oct. 22, 2021.

 
 
Updated 10/22/2021 11:50 PM

The Bulls showed off some fast-moving basketball IQ at the end of their home opener Friday night.

Alex Caruso brought it downcourt on the fast break, dished it off to former Lakers teammate and current Bulls teammate Lonzo Ball in plenty of time for Ball to toss up an alley-oop pass for Caruso to slam home.

 

It brought a huge cheer from the biggest home crowd in 19 months and the assist completed a triple-double for Ball in his official United Center debut with the home team.

"I think it was just the right play," Ball said. "AC got bounce, so anytime I can throw it up to him, I'm going to do it and it ended up working out for us tonight."

The Bulls had fun on a night that provided plenty of opportunity. New Orleans without an injured Zion Williamson figured to be a good chance at a big win, and the Bulls delivered a 128-112 victory.

Zach LaVine led the way with 32 points on just 19 shots. DeMar DeRozan added 26 points, and Ball, playing in front on his parents, added 17 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for the eighth triple-double of his career.

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Caruso, meanwhile, got some MVP chants when he went to the foul line in the fourth quarter. What's next, "A-Y-O for -R-O-Y?"

"I'm more than fine with that," LaVine said. "Caruso's a fan favorite with the headband and everything. We love him too."

In a limited time with his new team, Ball has been impressive with the way he does so many things well, from defense to rebounding to 3-point shooting. When he first got to the NBA, he had one of the ugliest long-range shots anyone has every seen. But now he doesn't hesitate to put it up, and he knocked down a respectable 3-for-8 from long range Friday.

"It definitely comes with confidence," Ball said. "For me, I'm at a point where I think I'm one of the best shooters in the league. So if it's open, I'm going to put it up and I think I'm still missing some good looks, but they're going to keep going up."

Ball spent the past two years in New Orleans, before joining the Bulls in a sign-and-trade deal for Tomas Satoransky and Garrett Temple, who both had quiet games off the bench for the Pelicans. These teams met in a preseason game two weeks ago, so it wasn't necessarily anything special for Ball.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"No, I think just it being the home opener, everybody was going to come out with a little extra hype today," he said. "I'm where I want to be and I'm happy to be here."

The Bulls (2-0) seemed to get lethargic in the third quarter, thinking the game was beyond reach, while New Orleans trimmed a 20-point deficit down to 10.

Unlike in Detroit on Wednesday, the Bulls' bench did its job this time, with Javonte Green, Alize Johnson and Troy Brown Jr. lighting a spark that pushed the game back to blowout mode. Green scored 10 points, while Johnson had 8 points and 8 rebounds.

After hitting some important baskets in his NBA debut, rookie guard Ayo Dosunmu was not in Friday's rotation. He finally checked in with 2:26 left.

This was the first regular-season Bulls game with no attendance restrictions since March 10, 2020. The crowd was announced as a sellout of 20,995, but there were a few blocks of empty seats in the upper-deck end zone. The fans made plenty of noise, though.

"We've just got a totally different energy with the team," LaVine said. "This is the most excited I've been playing basketball, and I'm having a lot of fun out there and we're really competitive on both ends of the court and I think it shows."

• Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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