No Zion, no problem? Not for Bulls, who were embarrassed in latest loss

Patrick Williams and the Bulls seemingly caught a break on Wednesday.

All 285-pounds of one.

Hours before the Bulls took the floor at the Smoothie King Center and were blown out 124-110, the Pelicans announced that Zion Williamson would miss the game with foot soreness. It sounded like it could be a good night for the Bulls, and even better news for Williams.

Since coming into the league, Williams has faced Williamson three times. The final score has worked out for Williams, winning two of them, but the individual matchup?

One-sided would be an understatement.

Williamson had dominated the Bulls’ former No. 4 draft pick, averaging 25.3 points, six rebounds and 2.7 assists per game.

That included last week’s game in which Williams did a slightly better job with the New Orleans standout, holding him to 19 points.

“[Zion] is a great player, an elite player,” coach Billy Donovan said of their meetings. “I think it’s very hard to put all that on Patrick’s shoulders.”

They didn’t have to.

Which makes the embarrassment of this latest loss even tougher to swallow.

It was New Orleans playing the second game of a back-to-back, not the Bulls (6-9). It was the Pelicans missing a franchise starter, not the Bulls.

Yet, right from the tip it was an all too familiar formula for the visiting team, which meant a lethargic looking effort from the starters.

By the time the first stanza came to an end, the Bulls were down 32-28 and all five starters were on the minus side of plus/minus, thanks to allowing the Pelicans (9-6) to hit 6-of-11 from three-point range.

A theme that carried the night, with New Orleans finishing the game a ridiculous 17-of-33 (51.5%) from long range.

There was life with the second unit, which has also been a very familiar formula. That meant the grouping of Goran Dragic, Andre Drummond, Javonte Green, Alex Caruso, along with LaVine, clawing their way back into the game.

Thanks to a 9-0 run to start the second, they did just that, actually building a five-point lead. But there it was again, the starters taking the floor and looking allergic to defense.

That first unit was back in with four minutes left in the half and the game tied, only to go into the locker room down five, summed up by one play with 24 seconds left. Trey Murphy III had a nasty block on a LaVine jumper, grabbing the loose ball, and went streaking down the floor with the dunk over Nikola Vucevic.

There was no looking back for the home team after that.

New Orleans came out for the second half on a 9-0 run, outscoring the Bulls 37-25 in that third.

C.J. McCollum led the Pelicans with 23 points, while Jonas Valanciunas added 22. Meanwhile, the Bulls got 28 from DeMar DeRozan and 25 from LaVine, but on a 9-for-22 shooting night.

The bigger concern for Donovan coming out of this third-straight loss, however, remained the lackluster effort by his starting group and with multiple days of rest and practice.

The Bulls lost to the Pelicans last Wednesday, had three days off to recover and work on things, only to come out with a dismal performance at home against Denver on Sunday. Monday would usually be an off-day with two days in between games, but Donovan brought his team into the Advocate Center on both Monday and Tuesday for extra work.

And this was again the effort given?

The Bulls won’t play again until Friday, when they host Orlando. A change to the starting lineup? More minutes for several reserves? Thursday could get very interesting.

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