Bulls home-opening blowout win over Pelicans highlights new high-powered offense

CHICAGO --  It's no secret that in the last few seasons if Zach LaVine went through a cold shooting stretch in the game, or was getting pressured by the defense, it typically meant the Chicago Bulls offense was stagnant. Chicago's success used to hinge on LaVine's performance on a game-to-game basis, and while that may still prove to be true as the season wears on, the Bulls home-opening 128-112 blowout win over the New Orleans Pelicans showed that he'll certainly have some help when he's struggling.

LaVine went scoreless in the first quarter of the game, but Chicago still managed to eke out a 28-17 lead, thanks to a 10-point first quarter from DeMar DeRozan, and six points from Javonte Green off the bench. To think that the Bulls managed to hold a lead with their best scorer struggling to sink a shot to start the game was inconceivable just a season ago. But as LaVine put it after finishing the night with 32 points, six rebounds and five assists, the vibe with this team is just different.

"We just got a totally different energy with this team, goals that we're trying to go out there and do it's a next game mentality," LaVine said. "We expect to play this way...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."

He's not wrong about Chicago being competitive on both ends of the floor. On offense, four of Chicago's five starters scored in double figures, with Lonzo Ball registering a triple-double (17 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists). DeMar DeRozan also tacked on 26 points of his own. Then there was the support from the bench from guys like Green (10 points), Alex Caruso (nine points) and Alize Johnson (eight points).

On defense, Ball and Caruso were irritants all night long, causing deflections, coming away with steals and generally just knocking New Orleans out of its rhythm. It was expected that when the Bulls signed Ball and Caruso they would help elevate Chicago's defense, and against the Pelicans their presence was heavily felt on the defensive side of the ball.

"[Being active with their hands] disrupts the rhythm of it, even if they're not getting the steals they're so active you got to be aware of them," LaVine said. "Even for guys like me and DeMar, it helps to be in the passing lanes more, get some extra rebounds because guys' rhythm's off so their effort and energy bleeds through the rest of the team."

Even if this win did come against a Pelicans team without their best player in Zion Williamson, the Bulls showed that they're capable of being a dangerous offensive team, and a better-than-expected defensive team, too. Coming into the season there were mixed reactions to Chicago's roster overhaul, as many wondered how all this talent would fit together, specifically Ball, LaVine and DeRozan as all three players excel with the ball in their hands. But through two games so far, it hasn't been an issue, in part because Ball's elite court vision and passing ability helps put guys like DeRozan and LaVine in position to get easy buckets. 

Like this easy transition dunk by DeRozan in the first quarter:

Or this perfectly placed dime to a cutting LaVine for the reverse layup:

Ball helps push the tempo for the Bulls, and in transition he's a dangerous passer, as evidenced from the assist to DeRozan. As the season progresses, the chemistry between these guys is only going to get better, which will only make Chicago that much more potent on offense. 

While it's too early to be making any definitive proclamations about Chicago's standing in the Eastern Conference, seeing that LaVine has legitimate help on offense with the likes of DeRozan who can create and Ball who got hot in the fourth quarter and can stuff the stat sheet in a variety of ways, shows that this Bulls team is head and shoulders above where they were a season ago.