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Bulls vs. Pelicans preview, injury report, game thread

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Zion time

Milwaukee Bucks v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Chicago Bulls (19-33) vs. New Orleans Pelicans (20-31)

7:00 p.m., NBC Sports Chicago

The Last Time

In one of the uglier losses of the season, the Bulls went into New Orleans and suffered a 123-108 loss against the Pelicans. It was the Bulls’ fifth straight loss at the time amid a seven-game losing streak.

A 44-27 Pelicans rampage in the third quarter sunk the Bulls in this one. Brandon Ingram had 29 points and veteran sharpshooter JJ Redick hit six 3-point field goals as the Pelicans spanked the Bulls even without Jrue Holiday and Zion Williamson playing.

Preview

Zion mania has infected New Orleans.

The Pelicans are 3-4 since the 2019 No. 1 overall pick returned from injury. Not eye-popping by any means, but when you only have 20 wins as a team it’s significant.

In those seven games, the one-and-done Duke product has averaged nearly 20 points per game on over 54 percent from the field. In his debut, he hit all four of the 3-point field goals he attempted. He hasn’t hit one since, but he has done plenty of damage inside the arc. The Pelicans are six points better offensively and eight points better defensively per 100 possessions when he plays.

Couple Zion with first-time All-Star Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, and Lonzo Ball, and the Pelicans suddenly look like they have a bright future.

Holiday, Redick, and Derrick Favors are the veterans who help glue this roster together. Holiday is the team’s third-leading scorer at nearly 20 points per game.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention former Bull E’Twaun Moore in an article talking about the Pelicans. He is still a 37.4 percent 3-point shooter averaging nearly 10 points per game as an extremely solid backup guard.

Meanwhile, the Bulls’ point guard position is a well-advertised mess. Tomas Satoransky is solid but nothing special. Kris Dunn is hurt with a second MCL sprain in as many years, Coby White plays more like a shooting guard than a lead guard who can orchestrate the offense, and the highly likable Ryan Arcidiacono just isn’t it.

For all intents and purposes, Zach LaVine is the point guard right now. He’s 10th in the NBA in usage percentage and scores at an elite level. Of course, the criticism is the rest of his game hasn’t caught up to his scoring.

The Bulls have 30 games left to salvage whatever they can from a nightmarish third season of this rebuild, and they just passed the trade deadline without doing anything.

Purely because of Zion mania, this very well could be one of the more well-attended Bulls home games we see out of the home games remaining on the schedule.

Injury Report

In addition to the usual suspects at this point (Otto Porter Jr., Wendell Carter Jr., Lauri Markkanen, Kris Dunn), Denzel Valentine (hamstring) and Daniel Gafford (ankle) are doubtful.

Zion was initially listed as questionable with a toe sprain on Wednesday, but he’s good to go. Kenrich Williams is out with back soreness.