Bulls fall apart late, allow Zion Williamson & Co. to grab the win

The Bulls came out Wednesday intent on stopping Zion, and after a solid first half, it seemed like they would. Then the second half came, and Williamson took over.

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Pelicans forward Zion Williamson drives as the Bulls’ DeMar DeRozan, left, Patrick Williams and Nikola Vucevic, right, defend during the first half of Wednesday’s game.

Pelicans forward Zion Williamson drives as the Bulls’ DeMar DeRozan, left, Patrick Williams and Nikola Vucevic, right, defend during the first half of Wednesday’s game.

Nam Y. Huh/AP

It wasn’t the first time Patrick Williams faced the monster.

The Bulls hosted Zion Williamson and the Pelicans in the preseason opener, and Williamson was Williams’ main assignment.

Just in case, however, coach Billy Donovan replayed the film to remind the team of what was coming.

“There are certain teams or individual players that when you’re watching them on film, the film doesn’t do it justice, and clearly [Williamson is] one of those guys,’’ Donovan said. “Like a team that’s really fast in transition, and you know they’re fast, but, like, the film doesn’t do it justice. Then all of a sudden they get out there, and it’s like, ‘Whoa.’ Zion is that kind of player where, ‘OK, this guy is quick; he’s explosive; he’s big.’ But you don’t realize it until you’re actually in it.’’

In the second half Wednesday, the Bulls were knee deep in it. After holding Williamson to four points in the first half, Williamson and the Pelicans turned it around and held on to beat the Bulls 115-111.

Williamson scored 15 points in the second half, but the attention he drew on double-teams allowed the rest of his teammates to rally late.

And while the Pelicans (6-5) had Williamson, the Bulls answered with DeMar DeRozan.

With 1:24 left and the Bulls down by one, DeRozan drew a foul and made both free throws. Brandon Ingram and DeRozan then traded baskets, but after Ingram made a 19-footer with 39.7 seconds left, DeRozan drove in for a floater. One problem: Williamson redirected the shot, allowing Jonas Valanciunas to grab the rebound.

Williamson was fouled with 19.4 seconds left, splitting the pair to make it a three-point game.

Out of the timeout, it seemed like DeRozan would have the chance to play hero yet again. Goran Dragic inbounded the ball to him. He didn’t catch it cleanly, though, and it bounced off his foot and went out of bounds.

“There was a three-point shot on as well as a two, just a read-the-defense situation,’’ Donovan said of the play.

But it was a read DeRozan wouldn’t have a chance to make.

“That [turnover] was on me,’’ DeRozan said. “Wasn’t on anyone else. I tricked it off, should have caught it. It’s just frustrating when we don’t give ourselves a chance to see what would happen by making mistakes.’’

The turnover left the Bulls (6-7) with no choice but to foul, and Herbert Jones made both free throws.

Ingram had 22 points, but it was Williamson’s aggressiveness, especially in the third quarter when Ingram was in foul trouble, that turned the momentum.

“Zion can do it off the dribble, he can get in the paint, and you bring a big crowd at him, he shoots it, misses it, and he’s off the floor before anybody else,’’ Donovan said. “He’s such a unique player.’’

But they did contain him early.

Whether it was the Bulls’ defense or simply the flow of the game, Williamson took only two shots in the first half. The Bulls blitzed him with double-teams at times, but he also seemed to be easing himself into the game.

But all that changed in the second half. Williamson attacked the hoop and put the Bulls on their heels. The Pelicans jumped out to their biggest lead, going up by 11 before Donovan called a timeout to slow the bleeding.

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