NEW ORLEANS -- — The consistent scoring and rebounding that Chicago Bulls center Nikola Vucevic has provided through 13 NBA seasons was on full display in a gritty and gratifying road victory over a Pelicans squad that has been in good form lately.
Vucevic had 22 points and 13 rebounds for his 31st double-double this season — not to mention the 500th of his career — and Chicago defeated New Orleans 114-106 on Sunday night to sweep the season series.
“It’s a nice achievement for sure," Vucevic said of his career double-double milestone. “It speaks about the work I put in and being consistent, and it’s something I take a lot of pride in, mainly because of the rebounding. As a big man, it’s a big part of our job.”
DeMar DeRozan scored 24 points, including a 3-pointer with 30 seconds left to give the Bulls a 111-106 lead. To him, the game exemplified the Bulls' determination not to quit on a season marred by major injuries.
High-scoring guard Zach LaVine had season-ending foot surgery in early February, and Sunday's game was the first since Chicago learned that regular reserve forward Patrick Williams also would miss the rest of the season with his foot injury.
“It’s always easy when you have any type of adversity to fold, to make excuses, to give in, to pack it in, to whine, complain, you know,” DeRozan said. “You don’t hear that from none of us. We just try to figure it out the best way we can.”
Ayo Desunmu added 21 points for Chicago, which also finished with a significant edge at the foul line, hitting 19 of 21 free throws while New Orleans made 10 of 14.
Zion Williamson scored 19 points, tied a career-high with 11 assists and grabbed nine rebounds for the Pelicans, who dropped their second straight game after winning eight of nine. Brandon Ingram, back from a two-game absence caused by a non-COVID illness, scored 22 points but committed nine turnovers. Jonas Valanciunas had 14 points and 17 rebounds for New Orleans.
The Pelicans took their largest lead at 12 points when rookie Jordan Hawkins hit a driving floater to make it 82-70 late in the third quarter. But Chicago responded by scoring the last 11 points in the period, starting with Vucevic's 3 and ending with Jevon Carter's rainbow pull-up near the baseline to make it 82-81.
"That segment definitely swung the moment a bit, but it came down to us," Pelicans coach Willie Green said. “We turned the ball over, not giving ourselves to come down and run good offense. They're getting out in transition and getting easy baskets.”
“We can’t use that as an excuse,” Green said. "We can come down and execute. We can come down and make simple plays.”
Williamson and Jones served as primary ballhandlers on a starting lineup that also featured Valanciunas, Ingram and Trey Murphy III.
The Pelicans committed 19 turnovers in all — seven in the first quarter, which the Bulls closed on an 18-3 run. Dosunmu hit twice from deep during the spurt. DeRozan made a 3 and converted a three-point play on a pull-up jumper.
The Pelicans had a turnover-free second quarter, when they outscored the Bulls 39-29. Ingram scored 13 points during the period and Murphy's third 3 of the half gave New Orleans a 60-57 lead at the break.
Bulls: Host Detroit on Tuesday night.
Pelicans: Visit New York on Tuesday night.
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