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Bulls vs. Sixers game preview and open thread: Regular season begins in primetime

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Chicago starts off their season on the road.....and on TNT

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Chicago Bulls David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

After five pre-season games, it’s finally time for Chicago Bulls games to count towards the standings. This season will begin on the road for Chicago and it will be on primetime. Yes, the Chicago Bulls are back on national TV and on TNT at that. Now this won't affect the famed “TNT Bulls” streak as they aren’t playing in the United Center. But it is nice to see what the Bulls have to offer with the majority of the basketball world watching.

Chicago’s opponent will be the Philadelphia 76ers. Behind the young duo of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, Philly is expected to be one of the top five teams in the Eastern Conference. They made a huge leap in form last season, winning 52 games after 28 the year before, and finished 3rd in the East. After beating the Heat in 6 games, they were extinguished by the Boston Celtics in 5 games.

The scary thing about this team is that they are likely going to get better. Simmons and Embiid are both under 25 and former top draft pick Markelle Fultz is fit and healthy. Their own regular season didn’t get off to the best start as they looked rusty losing to the Celtics. After sticking with their division rivals in the first half, the Celtics scored 30 and 28 in the final two quarters respectively to pull away 105-87.

The Sixers will offer a good measuring stick of where this Bulls defense is. The Bulls are sticking with the frontcourt of Wendell Carter Jr. and Bobby Portis, keeping Jabari Parker on the bench. The obvious matchup will be Wendell Carter Jr. vs. Joel Embiid, an outstanding first test for the rookie as he faces one of the top big men in the NBA. Carter Jr. is going to have to be on his game from the start, as it’s likely Embiid is going to post him up in one of the first possessions and test his strength. Carter Jr. is also going to be tested in how he guards in space. He showed promise in the pre-season and Summer League, but this is going to be a completely different environment. Embiid can knock down some shots from the outside if you give him some space, so WCJ can’t fall asleep off the ball either.

Another question Chicago is going to have to answer against the 76ers is how they are going to defend Ben Simmons. At his height and skill set, Simmons presents a unique problem for many teams, especially Chicago, especially Chicago without Kris Dunn.

Dunn was ruled out this morning with a personal issue, which means Cameron Payne gets the starting nod.

Like WCJ, Payne is going to have a big task on his hand if the put him on Simmons, though perhaps Hoiberg moves him to guard off the ball and tries Holiday or LaVine in that defensive role.

In other injury news, Chicago will still be missing Lauri Markkanen who is still out with a right elbow injury. Denzel Valentine was questionable with an ankle injury despite not playing a single minute of preseason but he was declared out for this game this morning. Cristiano Felicio suffered a a left ankle sprain in Wednesday’s practice and his status for this matchup will likely be determined just before the game. Both players Chicago has under two-way contracts in Tyler Ulis and Rawle Alkins are both available tonight. If this game gets ugly, it wouldn’t be unreasonable given the injuries to the backcourt to see either getting minutes.

For Philly, veterans Wilson Chandler and Jerryd Bayless are out tonight with a hamstring and knee injury respectively. Also reserve big man Mike Muscala is doubtful with a right ankle injury.

Game Time: 7pm CT

TV: TNT

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