The Chicago Bulls went into the NBA All-Star break on a winning note. On Wednesday night, behind 36 points from their All-Star Zach LaVine, the Bulls defeated the New Orleans Pelicans 128-124
The Pelicans went down, but their All-Star Zion Williamson had himself a moment at the expense of the Bulls’ Daniel Gafford. In the first quarter, with the Bulls up 21-12, Williamson victimized Gafford with a vicious two-hand dunk.
The moment Williamson fired the ball through the net, you knew he’d just created a SportsCenter highlight, and Gafford would be the butt of the joke.
Clearly, Gafford knows the game, and he embraced the facial on Twitter after the contest.
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Other Reactions to Zion’s Monster Dunk
As expected, multiple online outlets retweeted and reacted to Williamson’s latest slam.
Williamson has become much more than a dunker. He’s on his way to the All-Star Game because he’s rounded into quite the all-around player. He was averaging 25.5 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 3.4 assists per game while shooting 61% from the field before Wednesday night’s loss.
Thankfully for the Bulls, he hasn’t found the right level of consistency on the free-throw line. While he has made just under 71% of his attempts from the charity stripe this season, he made just eight of 16 on Wednesday. His futility at the line was a major reason Chicago was able to hold on for the victory.
Gafford saw a ton of minutes earlier this season while Wendell Carter Jr. and Lauri Markkanen were out with injury. Markkanen is still on the shelf, but WCJ has taken those minutes back with a vengeance.
WCJ finished with the Bulls’ best plus-minus (+22) on the night, and he tallied 7 points, 15 rebounds, 4 assists, and a block despite struggling from the field on 3-for-11 shooting. Gafford had slipped behind Luke Kornet on coach Billy Donovan’s rotation.
However, Kornet didn’t play on Wednesday due to personal reasons.
That pushed Gafford back into action, and we saw what Williamson put him through for a portion of his stay on the court. Overall, Gafford played just six minutes, and it wasn’t a fruitful time for the Bulls.
He managed a minus-7 during that time while scoring three points, grabbing five rebounds, and registering one blocked shot. Quite honestly, Gafford’s faulty traditional low-post defense and limitations on offense create the biggest problem.
Chicago asks their bigs to make key passes in screen-and-roll, which is something we’ve seen WCJ and Thaddeus Young excel at this season.
Gafford doesn’t have that in his skill set, and despite his aggression and shot-blocking prowess, he doesn’t hold his position well against low-post scoring threats. Those problems have led to him slipping in the rotation.
Pelicans’ Impressive Big
The Pelicans nearly came back to win on Wednesday, and a big reason for their surge was Jaxson Hayes’ play. The uber-athletic big man controlled the paint with his shot-blocking.
Hayes hadn’t been playing much with just 12 minutes of action per night coming into Wednesday’s game. Pelicans head coach Stan Van Gundy might want to consider bumping him up in the rotation.