Chicago Bulls: Young team gives glimmers of hope in surprise win over Pelicans

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 10: Denzel Valentine
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 10: Denzel Valentine /

After starting off the night the way we expected, the Chicago Bulls surprised everyone, fighting back to beat the New Orleans Pelicans 113-109.

Not entirely what you were expecting tonight, was it, Chicago Bulls fans?

Granted, this was just an ultimately meaningless preseason game against a New Orleans Pelicans team that has some issues. And the game itself, especially that sloppy first quarter, had its warts overall.

But, if just for tonight, the Chicago Bulls showed us all that the future may yet hold some promise. And if nothing else, they showed plenty of fight in their 113-109 comeback win tonight.

After a brutal first quarter in which they surrendered a ridiculous 46 points, the Bulls easily outscored the Pelicans the rest of the way. And behind the likes of Jerian Grant (11 points, nine assists), Justin Holiday (14 points) and Cristiano Felicio (game-high 15 points), Chicago stormed back in the third quarter to take a surprising lead.

Then, when the Pelicans mounted their own run in the fourth quarter, the Bulls withstood it just enough to win.

You might never hear of Jarell Eddie again after the next few weeks, but he at least helped give you this.

Sure, not everything about this one was pretty.

For example, just because Nikola Mirotic scored 14 points doesn’t mean he didn’t look like complete trash at times. Even when he does something that looks halfway decent, this kind of stuff happens…

Also, why did Bobby Portis play like he forgot he’s been in the NBA for two seasons already? Add that to the list of questions I hope we’re not still answering in a few weeks.

Honestly, nothing the Chicago Bulls did tonight negates the fact that they’re probably going to really stink this season.

But hey, for one night, let’s bask in the rays of hope while we can.

Stars of the Game: Jerian Grant, Justin Holiday


I promise I’m not just saying this because I’m a Notre Dame grad: Grant played a really good basketball game tonight.

Aside from just looking at his raw stats, his aggressive, decisive style, if it remains the norm rather than the exception, should earn him consistent minutes at one of the guard spots.

Rather than dribbling at a standstill on the perimeter as he often did last season, he attacked in the pick-and-roll and generally kept the ball moving on offense. And whenever he made a move toward the basket, he kept his eyes up and found open guys all night.

Also, despite handling the ball as much as he did tonight, he only turned the ball over once. Especially if he’s going to dish out nine assists, we’ll take that.

Plus, he continued showing off his evolving three-point range – something he didn’t have when he entered the league. He shot and hit both of his first two threes with no hesitation. In turn, that set up opportunities to get to the rim, as he used shot fakes to get layups.

Though Kris Dunn certainly didn’t look bad (11 points, three assists, two steals) – his tough perimeter defense helped key the Bulls’ stretch run – Grant simply played better overall on the night.

Dunn will get his chance to prove himself as the starter, of course. Again, this was just the first game of the preseason. But if Grant keeps this up, he could, and perhaps should, earn the starting role early on despite the Bulls’ love of Dunn. And, judging by tonight’s performance, that may not end up being an indictment on Dunn either.


After starting off the game cold, Holiday made up for it later on both ends of the floor with a nice all-around game.

On one hand, he displayed his usual active hands and defensive length all night. During the third quarter (aka the Justin Holiday Show) especially, he came up with two straight steals, contested shots at the rim and just generally was everywhere.

Plus, he had a tremendous offensive game, hitting a barrage of mid-range jumps in the second and third quarters. While I knew he had a decent three-point stroke (2-6 on the night), I didn’t entirely expect him to get in such a groove inside the arc.

Holiday won’t make the Chicago Bulls dramatically better this season. After all, he’s just a rotation wing player. But if he plays like this on a nightly basis, there’s no reason he can’t earn himself a longer-lasting role in Chicago.

Now, he just needs to take better care of the basketball.

Honorable Mention: Denzel Valentine

While I certainly don’t mean to minimize the performance of Felicio, who led all scorers with 15 points, I definitely want to take time to spotlight Valentine’s shooting in this game. Because his shooting – all 12 points came on threes (4-7 on the night) – was absolutely essential to this win.

Aside from his general playmaking ability, he has to be able to shoot well if he wants to claim minutes from Grant, Dunn and, later, Zach LaVine. And when he lets it fly as confidently as he did today, he elevates the play of the bench significantly.

Also, the Bulls allowed him to run the offense on occasion, as they did in summer league. And, as during the summer, he typically looked comfortable controlling the offense. No doubt, everyone will be watching that closely throughout the season as the team’s guard spots remain fairly open.

Next: Keys for the Chicago Bulls against the New Orleans Pelicans

The Bulls will hit the floor again tomorrow night against the Dallas Mavericks at 7:30 pm CT.