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Bulls vs. Pelicans final score: Chicago’s bench blows big lead to lose 127-125

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the starters tho

New Orleans Pelicans v Chicago Bulls Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

If you only looked at the final score of the Bulls’ second preseason game, you probably wouldn’t be all that impressed by a 127-125 loss to the Pelicans. However, despite dropping to 0-2 this preseason, there was a lot to like in this one.

First, let’s get this out of the way. The Bulls’ bench got torched by the Pelicans’ bench 41-18 in the fourth quarter to blow a massive lead. The Bulls led by as many as 23 points in the second half, but the Pelicans caught fire and completed their comeback when Chicago fumbled its last chance in the final seconds.

Of course, there was that whole building that 23-point lead thing.

The Bulls started Tomas Satoransky at point guard after Kris Dunn started last game, and after a sluggish start featuring a gaggle of turnovers from Sato and others, they really found a groove and scored at will.

Zach LaVine led an explosive Bulls attack with 28 points on 10-of-16 shooting overall and 4-of-7 from 3-land, with 16 of those points coming in a second quarter that saw Chicago pour in a whopping 45 points. The Bulls were pushing pace, whipping the ball all over the court and knocking down triples, finishing with 24 assists and 11 3-pointers in the first half alone (they finished with 38 assists and 14 3-pointers).

Just about everybody was getting into the action. Otto Porter finished with 16 points, eight assists and seven rebounds after a sluggish opener. He was also a team-best plus-22. Lauri Markkanen had 12/4/4. Satoransky bounced back from his ugly start to finish with 11 points (5-of-6 shooting), eight assists and five boards. Even Luke Kornet showed off his value, going for nine points and four assists in his debut. The Bulls ran 5-out lineups with Kornet at center (he started the second half over an awful Cristiano Felicio), and they proved dynamic as the Bulls got just about anything they wanted on the offensive end.

With Satoransky starting, we saw Dunn and Coby White man the backcourt off the bench. White clearly outplayed Dunn during the first stint, showing off his trademark aggressiveness and executing some nice finishes around the rim. The rookie had nine points and three assists in the first half, compared to a goose egg on the score sheet for Dunn as he looked mostly invisible on the offensive end.

White came back down to earth in the second half, forcing a few ugly misses to finish with 13 points on 6-of-15 from the field and 1-of-5 from 3-land. Dunn picked up his playmaking a bit to finish with five assists, but he had just two points on 1-of-5 shooting to go with four turnovers. Needless to say, Satoransky was the best of the point guards on this night, and nothing I’ve really seen so far makes me think he shouldn’t be the starter on opening night.

Thaddeus Young and Denzel Valentine were the final two Bulls in double figures. Young’s shooting hasn’t been pretty to start (5-of-12 in this game, though he did hit a 3-pointer), but his heady play is evident when he’s on the floor. I loved this pass out to Porter for an open 3:

Valentine made some nifty passes of his own and knocked down a couple of 3-pointers, which are his two best skills. I’m curious to see just what kind of role he gets, though, because his defense is porous and his decision-making isn’t always the best.

Still, watching the Bulls run a modern offense has been a sight for sore eyes in these first few games, and the increase in skill on the roster is evident. Plus, they don’t even have Wendell Carter Jr. in there yet, and he’ll add yet another dimension and will obviously help the defense, which had its moments but overall still needs work. Let’s hope Chandler Hutchison can also play a key role defensively.

As for the Pelicans ... Zion Williamson was ridiculously good. The rookie had 29 points on 12-of-13 shooting, with all of those buckets coming around the rim. While he had a few rim-rattling dunks, he also showed off his breathtaking speed, strength, touch and body control to get into the paint and finish around the basket. He went through one stretch in the third quarter where nobody could stop him, which resulted in a 13-point quarter on 6-of-6 shooting. He also chipped in four assists, with several high-level passes in traffic. His defense was another story (bad), but that’s something that will improve with time.

Overall, this was a really enjoyable game to watch. We got to see a fun brand of Bulls basketball, and we got to see Zion put on a show. Can’t ask for much more than that out of a preseason game, even it was unfortunate that the Bulls couldn’t finish off a victory.

The Bulls play the Pacers on Friday in preseason game No. 3.