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Bulls vs. Pelicans preview and thread: will the Bulls get revenge?

can the Bulls get out of this mini-slump?

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

Your 6-8 Chicago Bulls will be looking to avenge their 115-111 late-game Friday home loss to the 8-6 New Orleans Pelicans at the Smoothie King Center tonight.

It will be interesting to see how Chicago hopes to bounce back to avoid a third consecutive defeat. A botched inbounds pass from Goran Dragic to DeMar DeRozan, with the Bulls down just three points and 18.7 seconds remaining in regulation, essentially sealed the Bulls’ fate:

Aside from this DeMar fumble, Chicago’s best players all performed fairly well on Friday, though Nikola Vucevic only took nine shots. They’ll all need to be at their best against a deep and hungry NOLA club tonight.

Chicago at least will have a rest advantage heading into the game. The Pelicans will be playing the second game of a back-to-back set. Last night, they won the first, beating one of their conference’s best clubs, the Memphis Grizzlies, 113-102. CJ McCollum was the standout last night, scoring 30 points on 11-of-23 shooting (including 7-of-13 from three) and dishing out nine assists against the Memphis backcourt, which in this case was Ja Morant and John Konchar (Desmond Bane is out for 2-3 weeks with a sprained toe).

Beyond Chicago’s three stars, only Goran Dragic broke into double-digit scoring Friday. The reserve point guard has been a pleasant surprise for the Bulls this season, and played with pace and accuracy Friday, to the tune of 14 points on 6-of-11 shooting and six assists.

Chicago has struggled lately with underwhelming first quarter starts. Obviously some of us at BaB would prefer that the team swapped out Javonte Green for Patrick Williams. Though Williams long-term profiles as the better defender and has had some nice moments on both ends lately, for now Green is the superior player.

If Billy Donovan opts to stick with the Paw in the starting lineup, the team needs him to step up tonight against a talented and huge New Orleans frontcourt. The Pelicans elevated upstart 6’8” second-year forward Trey Murphy III to a starting role alongside likely 2023 All-Star Brandon Ingram last night as Zion Williamson sat out with a minor injury. Williamson, the Pelicans’ best player, will also be sidelined today. Beyond that duo, 6’11” center Jonas Valanciunas has proven that he can effectively hound Nikola Vucevic with his physicality and size. Versatile reserve Larry Nance Jr. (who score 19 points on 8-of-10 shooting last night) will be the primary front line backup.

Size and athleticism may be New Orleans’s biggest strength. To that end, the club out-rebounded the Bulls 50-35 on Friday. Neither the Bulls or Pelicans are particularly high-volume three-point shooters. Chicago is currently ranked 28th with 28.8 triple attempts a night, while New Orleans is right behind the Bulls at 29th (28.6 tries). The Pelicans’ biggest vulnerability, though, might just be rim protection (opponents are connecting on nearly 70% of their looks, per Synergy). Thus it would behoove DeMar DeRozan, still one of the best in the league at drawing contact (he ranks sixth in the NBA in total free-throw attempts this year, with 115), to drive to the rack as much as possible tonight. On Friday, DeRozan scored a team-high 33 points on 14-of-26 shooting, but “only” got to the line six times, a bit below his season average of 8.2 attempts.

Injury Report: Reserve combo guard Coby White is still sidelined as he deals with that pesky left quad contusion.

Zion Williamson has officially been ruled out as he continues to manage a right foot contusion. Kira Lewis is rehabbing with the Pelicans’ NBAGL team, the Birmingham Squadron. E.J. Liddell, dealing with an ACL injury, will also not play.

Game Time: 7PM CT

TV: NBC Sports Chicago

Odds: New Orleans is listed in most sports books as three-point favorites tonight (via the Action Network).