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Bulls vs. Bucks game preview and open thread

East hell week continues as Jabari returns to Milwaukee

NBA: Preseason-New Orleans Pelicans at Chicago Bulls Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

The Bulls’ hellish week against top Eastern Conference competition continues Friday night with a date against the Bucks at the new Fiserv Forum.

The Bucks are out to a 10-4 start to the season under new head coach Mike Budenholzer, which is good for second in the East behind only the Toronto Raptors. Bud has transformed Milwaukee into what looks like a juggernaut after disappointing years under Jason Kidd/interim coach Joe Prunty.

The Bucks are launching over 40 3-pointers a game and playing at one of the fastest paces in the league to take advantage of their weapons, resulting in a second-ranked offensive rating of 115.1 points per 100 possessions, per Giannis Antetokounmpo is obviously at the center of it all, but Khris Middleton is a stellar No. 2 option and Eric Bledsoe is finding his groove again. Brook Lopez was also a total steal of a signing at the biannual exception of $3.38 million, and he’s bombing seven triples per game at nearly 42 percent to help open up the offense for Giannis and the other creators.

The Bucks’ defense has also performed well, as they currently sit at No. 5 in defensive rating. It has always been somewhat of a mystery why their defense wasn’t better given their personnel, but they’ve had success so far this season.

The Bucks certainly aren’t missing Jabari Parker, who makes his first official return to Milwaukee as a Bull (he says he’s happy for them). The Bulls did play the Bucks in Milwaukee in the preseason, a disastrous showing for Parker and the team in general. Parker shot 1-of-12 from the field as the Bulls lost by 34 points.

Parker almost certainly won’t play that poorly this time around, though there’s not much reason to expect the end result to be much different for the Bulls. They’re still undermanned and outgunned, and a blowout is a reasonable expectation here. If they can keep it close, or even pull out an upset win, more power to them.

Unfortunately for the Bulls, this game will be televised on ESPN, so the nation could get a good look at just how ugly things have been lately in Chicago. Since edging the Knicks, the Bulls failed to reach 100 points in each of their last four games and posted a putrid offensive rating of 92.6.

If things do go south again, one thing to keep a closer eye on is Tony Snell’s plus-minus, just because it continues to be funny watching him fare well in that statistic while putting up minuscule counting stats. Snell even has the best on-court net rating on the team.

The Bucks are dealing with a few injuries of their own, though the top of their rotation is intact. Big man John Henson needs wrist surgery and will be out around three months, while rookie Donte DiVincenzo will also miss Friday night’s game and more with a knee injury.

Tip-off is at 8:30 p.m. CT.