Graham, McCollum lead Pelicans past Chicago Bulls 126-109
NEW ORLEANS - Devonte’ Graham hit five 3-pointers on his way to a season-high 30 points, CJ McCollum scored 25 and the New Orleans Pelicans defeated the Chicago Bulls 126-109 on Thursday night.
Jonas Valanciunas added 16 points and 19 rebounds for the Pelicans, who won for the fourth time in six games as they try to solidify their hold on a Western Conference play-in spot.
Zach LaVine scored 39 points and Coby White added 23 for Chicago, which played without leading scorer DeMar DeRozan (left groin) and lost for the fifth time in six games. The slumping Bulls are in danger of sliding out of a top-six seed in the East (the seventh and eighth seeds have to host the play-in round).
Pelicans undrafted rookie Jose Alvarado scored 13 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter, hitting a driving layup, floater and 3 in succession to help fuel a pivotal surge in which New Orleans built a 15-point cushion. Graham’s deep 3 and Valanciunas’ 10-foot turnaround capped the spurt and made it 107-92 with 6:26 to go.
Javonte Green and Alex Caruso each hit a 3 to help Chicago pull to 109-102 before Graham hit a momentum-halting driving layup as he was fouled. Graham added two more free throws and McCollum’s bank shot made it 116-102 with 2:01 left.
LaVine scored 16 points in the first quarter, when he hit five of his first six shots, including all three 3s he attempted, and helped Chicago build a lead as large as nine.
But the Pelicans erased the deficit in the second. Graham’s 29-foot 3, followed by his driving floater while being fouled, put New Orleans up 52-50.
The Pelicans were ahead by four late in the period on Herb Jones’ putback, but White drained his fourth 3 to pull Chicago to 63-62 at halftime.
Bulls: Caruso finished with 11 points. ... Tristan Thompson was ejected in the final half-minute for yelling at officials from the bench. ... Coach Billy Donovan indicated the decision to hold out DeRozan, whose 26.7 points per game leads Chicago, was precautionary. "He’s been experiencing some tightness for a little bit, but nothing more than tightness," Donovan said. "He didn’t think it was anything too severe. He received imaging, and there was nothing significant. There is a strain. The wisest choice was not to push him and for him not to push himself."
Pelicans: Larry Nance Jr. made his Pelicans debut, playing for the first time since Jan. 5, when he was with Portland. He had nine points, four rebounds and blocked shot. Nance was part of a trade that also brought McCollum to New Orleans, but he was rehabbing from knee surgery at the time. "He brings another dynamic," coach Willie Green said. "He can run the floor. ... He can guard multiple positions, tremendous athletic ability, whether it’s rebounding the ball or a lob threat." ... Brandon Ingram, who leads the Pelicans with 22.8 points per game, missed his ninth straight game with a sore hamstring, but Willie Green stressed prior to tipoff that there is urgency to get him back. "I’m not necessarily sure exactly what day or game that is, but as soon as he’s ready to go we want him back because we understand, for us, it’s go time and he’s a big part of that," the coach said. ... New Orleans outrebounded Chicago 43-33.
Bulls: Visit Cleveland on Saturday night in the third of five straight road games.
Pelicans: Host San Antonio on Friday night in the second of three straight at home.