Day One of the Chicago Bulls' rebuilding project was interesting, to say the least.
At the start of Tuesday night's preseason opener in New Orleans, the Bulls seemed to be playing the wrong sport. They launched 14 attempts from 3-point range, gave up 46 points and trailed by 16 points after the first quarter.
Then the Bulls settled down, got contributions from just about everyone on the roster and rallied to defeat the Pelicans 113-109. New Orleans took the game somewhat seriously, playing starters Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, Jrue Holiday and Rajon Rondo for 30-plus minutes.
The most positive part of this game for the Bulls was just about everyone in the rotation played well. They had seven players score in double figures, led by Cristiano Felicio with 15 points, while Justin Holiday and Nikola Mirotic added 14 each.
Jerian Grant started at point guard and may have been the Bulls' player of the game. He finished with 11 points and 9 assists in just 20 minutes of action.
It was a mild surprise to see Grant start ahead of newcomer Kris Dunn. Before the game, Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said he probably will change things up and start Dunn on Wednesday in Dallas. The other starters Tuesday were Holiday, Paul Zipser, Bobby Portis and Robin Lopez.
"We've been using different combinations." Hoiberg said. "Not that this is going to be our starting lineup on opening day."
Holiday, playing against younger brother Jrue, was very good in the third quarter when the Bulls outscored New Orleans 26-16 to take the lead. Lopez (12 points), Denzel Valentine (12), Dunn (11) and Zipser (10) were the others to score in double figures.
Hoiberg emptied the bench late in the game and some future Windy City Bulls finished off the victory. Antonio Blakeney's aggressive driving lay-in put the Bulls ahead 110-109 with 53.2 seconds left. After getting a defensive stop, Ryan Arcidiacono found Jarell Eddie for a game-clinching 3-pointer as the shot clock expired.
The Bulls shot 51.2 percent from the field and showed a willingness to launch from long range, which probably will continue all season. They finished the night 16-for-35 from behind the arc.
Davis led the Pelicans with 24 points, while Cousins added 20 and Rondo dished out 8 assists against his former teammates.
Most of the younger Bulls worked out together all summer, and Grant thinks they built some chemistry in the process.
"It's been different; obviously me being one of the older guys on the team this year, the coaches and the players have been looking at me to lead and be vocal," said Grant, who is starting his third NBA season. "(I'm) just playing my game, playing with confidence, not looking over my shoulder, being more vocal. Just little things like that."
Bulls rookie Lauri Markkanen sat on the bench and watched Tuesday's action. He will skip the first two preseason games to rest a sore back.
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