NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Zach LaVine capped a 36-point performance with a driving layup and four free throws during the final minute, and the Chicago Bulls held off a late rally to beat the mercurial New Orleans Pelicans 128-124 on Wednesday night.
“I’ve got to stay aggressive,” LaVine said, noting that he might have been too eager to pass when the Pelicans tightened the game up in the final five minutes. “It makes the play a little bit easier, because if they don’t stop me, then obviously I’m at the rim or have an open shot.
“I feel comfortable taking those free throws at the end of the game,” LaVine added.
Coby White scored 25 for the Bulls, who led by as many as 19 and were still up 18 in the fourth quarter before the Pelicans’ late surge pulled them as close as 117-113 on Jaxson Hayes alley-oop dunk as he was fouled with 1:49 left.
Hayes missed the free throw, however, and Zion Williamson, who scored 28 points, missed two free throws with a chance to cut it to two with 1:23 left.
“I really feel like I let my team down, man,” said Williamson, who missed eight of 16 free throws in the game and returned to the empty court afterward to work on his foul shots. “I’ve got to be better in that situation. If I want to be one of those great players and I take a lot of responsibility, I’ve got to be ready for those moments.”
The Bulls, pulled out of a three-minute dry spell that included five missed shots and three turnovers when Wendell Carter Jr.’s putback made it 119-113 with 1:05 to go.
“Obviously, we wish it were a little bit easier than that because we worked so hard throughout the game and we had them down,” LaVine said. “But I think we responded well.”
It was the middling Bulls’ second victory this season over the mystifying Pelicans, who came out flat after knocking off the NBA-leading Utah Jazz on Monday night.
New Orleans missed 16 of 22 3-point shots and 12 of 38 free throws.
“We got absolutely destroyed on the boards,” said Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy, whose team was outrebounded 45-35 and allowed the Bulls to turn 13 offensive rebounds into 20 second-chance points. “We didn’t give ourselves a chance. … It’s all right there on the stat sheet.”
Brandon Ingram scored 21 points in 25 minutes, but sat out much of the fourth quarter while the Pelicans rallied back into the game, helped by Hayes’ 10 points and three blocks.
“I probably should have played him earlier,” Van Gundy said of Hayes. “We finally got some life with that unit. Our starters had been absolutely dominated all night.”
Thaddeus Young scored 18 points and Carter grabbed 15 rebounds for Chicago, which began to pull away for good when White’s four-point play on a 3-pointer as he was fouled by Ingram pushed the Bulls’ lead to 51-41 with 3:37 left in the first half.
Young’s layup as he was fouled by Williamson and Garrett Temple’s free throws capped a 20-4 run to close the half and put Chicago up 64-45.
Bulls: LaVine hit 12 of 19 shots, going 4 of 8 from deep and hitting all eight of his free throws. He also had eight assists. … Patrick Williams scored 13 points and Denzel Valentine scored 11. … Chicago improved to 8-8 on the road. … The Bulls shot 51.1% (48 of 94), hit 12 of 28 3s and 20 of 22 free throws. … Chicago blocked eight shots, with Williams and Young each blocking three.
Pelicans: Williamson had nine rebounds and five assists. … Josh Hart scored 13 points, while Lonzo Ball and Eric Bledsoe each scored 12. … New Orleans shot 55.4% (46 of 83) overall.
While Van Gundy praised Williamson individually for working on his free throws after the game, he expressed concern about his offensively prolific squad’s priorities.
“One of our problems is our guys will beat themselves up about missing shots, missing free throws, all of that, but the defensive stuff just doesn’t get to them in the same way,” Van Gundy said. “It doesn’t bother them that we gave up 128 points tonight. … I’m not sure individual players are holding themselves accountable for the right things.”
Bulls: Begin their All-Star break and don’t resume play until March 11 at home against Philadelphia.
Pelicans: Host Miami on Thursday in their final game before All-Star weekend.
More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports