The Bulls opened their preseason against the Pelicans at the United Center on Tuesday night. After falling behind by 19 points in the first half, the Bulls made several pushes in the second half and even took a four-point lead in the fourth quarter after an emphatic Dalen Terry steal and dunk. However, they couldn’t hold the lead and suffered a 129-125 loss in an expectedly sloppy game that featured a ton of turnovers and fouls.
Terry was one of the bright spots for the Bulls, bringing immediate energy to the floor in the third quarter. In his 18 minutes of action, he had 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting to go along with seven boards, two assists and two steals. He did also have three turnovers as the Bulls racked up 27 giveaways, but he played his ass off and got the crowd going late in the game:
Hilariously, Andre Drummond got a technical from the bench after this play, his second of the game to earn an ejection. It capped off a roller-coaster ride of a night for the Bulls’ first free agent signee of 2022. His erratic decision-making was on full display and there were a handful of awful turnovers, but he also had seven boards, three assists and a nice block in 18 minutes. I have a feeling this guy is going to drive me bonkers this season, though he at least appears to be in good shape.
The Bulls’ other notable acquisition, Goran Dragic, was a train wreck. He racked up three turnovers to go along with a missed layup and a 3-pointer that caught nothing but backboard in 13 minutes. He finally got on the scoreboard right at the end of the first half, but overall it was a dreadful first showing. It was weird to see Dragic get so many minutes while struggling, but Coby White’s injury after just three minutes forced him to the bench early for the night and surely played a factor in the veteran playing so much in the first half. The White injury doesn’t appear to be serious:
Billy Donovan said Coby White wanted to go back in and hinted he might've if it was a regular season game.— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) October 5, 2022
Donovan also said it's a thigh contusion.
The first half was ugly in general for the Bulls. Ayo Dosunmu got the start in place of the injured Lonzo Ball, but the Pelicans came out firing and immediately ran out to a 13-4 lead. They didn’t stop all quarter, racking up 40 points in the opening frame to open up a 15-point advantage. The Bulls didn’t have any answers defensively for a Pelicans team that dominated in the paint while also shooting well from outside. Zion Williamson looked as explosive as ever, blowing past Patrick Williams on one possession for an easy bucket.
The Bulls kept this from becoming a total blowout in the second quarter, but the margin stayed in the double digits for the entirety of that quarter as well. There were some ugly lineups out there, though DeMar DeRozan managed to do his thing from mid-range and from the foul line. DeRozan wound up scoring a team-high 21 points while going 11-of-12 from the charity stripe.
The Bulls started to make their push in the third quarter, which didn’t feature Zach LaVine, who had a sloppy first half with four turnovers but a couple impressive shotmaking displays. Alex Caruso started the second half in place of LaVine and did his thing. Nikola Vucevic continued his strong game in the third quarter, and he wound up with a stat line of 15 points, 11 rebounds, four blocks, three assists and three steals in 23 minutes. He shot 6-of-10 overall and went 2-of-4 from 3-point range. Vooch contract year incoming?
The Bulls’ second-leading scorer was actually Javonte Green, who was the first sub off the bench to replace Williams midway through the first quarter. Green brought his normal energy to the floor and scored 18 points in 21 minutes while shooting 5-of-7 from the field and 7-of-7 from the line. Williams wasn’t particularly impressive, scoring five points on 2-of-7 shooting and 1-of-2 from 3 in 17 minutes. He grabbed five boards and didn’t get totally torched by Zion, but he got bullied a few times. Simply put, Pat needs to be better.
Ayo was rather quiet for a long stretch after an impressive catch-and-shoot triple in the early stages of the game, but he later knocked down two more smooth jumpers that bring some optimism for his shooting this season as he looks to make a leap.
There’s no reason to overreact after one preseason game, but some of the concerns with this roster construction were on display against a team that could be quite good this season. There were some pretty gnarly lineups with a glaring lack of shooting (4-of-15 from 3 in the first half, 10-of-27 for the game), and the defense looked rather hapless. There are also clearly a lot of kinks to work out when it comes to this new offense they’re trying to implement.
One last note: Marko Simonovic was a DNP, with Tony Bradley getting the third-string center minutes.
The Bulls’ next preseason game is Friday night against the Nuggets at the UC.