How Zach LaVine and Coby White made 3-point history in Bulls’ win over Pelicans

The past few weeks have been a bit of a struggle for the Chicago Bulls, but on Wednesday night they got back on track in a major way with a 129-116 win over the New Orleans Pelicans. It turned out to be a historic victory, both on a team and individual level.

Shooting 25 of 47 from beyond the arc, the Bulls set a franchise record for 3-pointers. In the process, Zach LaVine and Coby White combined to etch their names in the record books by becoming the first pair of teammates to each hit at least eight 3s in a game. LaVine finished with nine triples and a season-high 46 points, while White made eight shots from downtown en route to 30 points of his own. 

It perhaps wasn’t a surprise that the Bulls’ brilliant shooting display came against the Pelicans, who allow the most 3-point attempts (41.3) and 3-point makes (15.3) per game in the league. But the Pelicans giving up a lot of 3s doesn’t tell the whole story. Let’s take a closer look to see how LaVine and White made history. 

Off-ball errors

Unless your job is to analyze basketball, you probably aren’t paying too much attention to what’s going on off the ball, but that’s where countless possessions are determined each game. The Pelicans found this out all too well, as simple errors and poor communication resulted in a number of open looks for the LaVine and White. 

Here’s an example from late in the first quarter. The Bulls run a dribble handoff action on the left side of the floor, while LaVine sits in the weak-side corner. Eventually the ball finds its way to Thaddeus Young at the top of the key, at which point LaVine changes places with Denzel Valentine and pops up to the wing. 

There really isn’t even a screen here, but Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart don’t communicate properly. Ball wants a switch and points for Hart to take LaVine, but Hart isn’t on the same page, which results in a wide open 3. 

Later on the first, the Bulls run a pick-and-roll at the top of the key with Young screening for Tomas Satoransky. As Satoransky begins to drive, Patrick Williams sets an off-ball screen for LaVine, who pops up to the wing from the corner. The Pelicans do not navigate this properly.

Zion Williamson gets caught showing too much help on the ball and can’t recover to the shooter, and Hart has no chance to get around the screen in time. As a result it’s another open 3 for LaVine. 

Paint touches

A very simple truth about basketball is that if you can get the ball into the paint, good things will happen. The Bulls proved it again on Wednesday night, especially in the second half. Their ability to get the ball inside collapsed the Pelicans’ defense, which in turn led to open shots on the perimeter. 

Basketball looks so simple when everything’s working like this. 

Impressive individual shot-making

Obviously your opponent has a big impact on how games evolve, but history-making performances aren’t just gifted away. LaVine and White both made some really tough shots over the course of the game. 

Offensive rebounds

For all their faults, the Pelicans are a terrific rebounding team and check in at No. 3 in the league in rebounding rate and offensive rebounds allowed. That didn’t change on Wednesday night, as the Bulls only managed to grab seven offensive boards. 

The problem for New Orleans was that Chicago made them count. Those seven rebounds turned into 16 second-chance points, a number of which came on open 3s for LaVine and White. Scrambling to match-up in these situations is extremely difficult, and these clips are excellent examples of why rebounding is so important. 

Sometimes teams are going to have rough nights on the defensive end, and sometimes players are just going to be feeling it from 3-point range. On Wednesday night, both of those things happened in the same game, which is how LaVine and White made history at the Pelicans’ expense. 

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