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Chicago Bulls vs. Denver Nuggets preseason preview: it’ll be a Nikola Jokic-free matchup

can Chicago’s defense improve tonight?

NBA: Chicago Bulls at Denver Nuggets Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Following a disappointing 129-125 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans in their preseason opener Tuesday, your Chicago Bulls are back in action tonight against a probably Nikola Jokic-less Denver Nuggets club.

Beyond the Bulls’ two All-Stars, the most fascinating players to watch tonight are their younger additions. As our Cash Considerations podcast team noted, if Chicago has any hope at all of improving over its performance in the second, Lonzo Ball-free half of the 2021-22 season, it will only be because of the growth of Patrick Williams and/or Ayo Dosunmu, plus the contributions of enticing 6’8” rookie wing Dalen Terry.

Terry had a big game on Tuesday. Though he played a bit out of control at times (he had three turnovers in just 18 minutes), his motor and moxie helped the United Center crowd get invested late in the game. He scored 11 points while shooting 5-of-7 from the field, and also chipped in seven rebounds, two dimes and two steals.

Holding onto the rock, plus defending pick-and-roll coverages and perimeter players, are going to be big keys for Chicago tonight. The Bulls’ starters quickly let the Pelicans get anything they wanted in the first quarter Tuesday, as New Orleans hung a 40 points on Chicago in the frame. It may behoove head coach Billy Donovan to sprinkle in a bit more Alex Caruso and a bit less Ayo Dosunmu if he wants to prevent that from happening again, especially against a Nuggets team that now boasts fresh offseason addition Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, along with newly-healthy incumbents Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr., along the wing.

Denver arrives in Chicago coming off a 112-101 preseason loss against the rebuilding Oklahoma City Thunder. Zeke Nnaji, a 6’9” third-year power forward out of the University of Arizona, will most likely take over as the team’s starting center, assuming All-NBA center Nikola Jokic opts to rest his injured wrist.

This writer is (ahem) Bullish on the prospect of Contract Year Vooch tearing things up this year. Really, after an absolutely miserable shooting start to the season, Nikola Vucevic’s shooting efficiency did improve in the season’s second half. Unfortunately, it was too little, too late at that point, and he remains a minus defender. He’s off to an excellent start: in just 23 minutes Tuesday, Vucevic scored 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting (2-for-4 from long range), 11 boards, four blocks, three dishes and three steals. With Jokic most likely sidelined tonight, the 6’10” big man should have his way against Nnaji and, uh, DeAndre Jordan.

Injury Report:

For the Bulls, Lonzo Ball and two-way signing Justin Lewis are both sidelined with long-term injuries. Coby White, who left the first quarter of Tuesday’s Pelicans loss with a left knee contusion, practiced with the team yesterday and is expected to suit up today, after an MRI indicated there were no structural issues.

On the Denver side, Nikola Jokic is listed as doubtful with a right wrist sprain. Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports tweets that his skepticism that the two-time MVP risks exacerbating the injury in an exhibition game. Nuggets two-way rookie Collin Gillespie, recovering from a recent surgery to correct a leg fracture, will be unavailable.

Game Time:

7 p.m. CT, NC Sports Chicago, 670 AM The Score


The Bulls are listed as four-point favorites tonight at home. The over/under set for the cumulative game score is 221.5 total points. (All info via DraftKings. Check out DraftKings Sportsbook, the official sportsbook partner of SB Nation.)