Stars on the mend as Bulls face Pelicans

Zach LaVine is one member of the Chicago Bulls who is especially happy not to have another set of back-to-back games until Dec. 10-11.

"We've had a tough schedule to start off," LaVine said. "Now we have a day or two off between every game. I'm happy with that because you'll see me in the lineup."

As Chicago continues to manage the All-Star's workload following offseason surgery on his left knee, LaVine still is showing he's more than capable of producing when asked.

He delivered his first 30-point game of the season on Monday after sitting out Sunday. On Wednesday night, he'll aim to keep rolling as the Bulls host the New Orleans Pelicans.

LaVine would prefer to suit up every game, although it's a decision beyond his control. He merely has to follow the plan. It is hard to argue the results after he scored 30 points Monday in a victory over the Toronto Raptors on 11-for-20 shooting to go with five assists and two steals.

"I try to play as much as I can. That's what I say," LaVine said. "Until we get to a point where we can figure out what is best-case scenario, back-to-backs are going to be a little in the air. But I felt good. And I felt even better (Monday). I wish I played (Sunday) and tried to make up for it (Monday)."

New Orleans knows what LaVine can accomplish when he's clicking. He averaged 35.5 points a game against the Pelicans last season as the teams split the season series, with each team prevailing on its home floor.

The Pelicans also can attest to helping a star player navigate the grind of a rigorous schedule after dealing with injury. While New Orleans has lost the first two games of its three-game trip, Monday's 129-122 setback at Indiana did include a sterling effort from Zion Williamson, who missed all of last season with an injured foot.

Williamson scored 26 points on 10-for-15 shooting with seven rebounds and seven assists in 34 minutes. He logged a season-high-tying 37 minutes in Saturday's 124-121 overtime loss at Atlanta.

Williamson said Monday "was a lot more comfortable" for him, adding, "I feel the game slowing down for me again. Like in real time. Like it was before I got injured. Individually, that's nice for me. But I just hate losing. I just want to win."

New Orleans has lost two in a row for the first time this season. Brandon Ingram paced the Pelicans at Indiana, scoring 29 points

"We know we have an opportunity to do something special," Pelicans coach Willie Green said. "But we can't just roll the balls out and beat teams. We have to work at it. We have to compete. We have to play hard. I just didn't think we did it up to our level tonight."

While the Bulls have lost seven of the past 10 in the series, they carry a two-game home winning streak against the Pelicans and a 25-19 edge all-time.

--Field Level Media