[Thanks to fsun for today's game preview -yfbb]
Tonight the Bulls welcome the Nuggets to the United Center hoping to break a skid of five straight series losses. The last time these two teams met, the Bulls were riding high on a five game win streak and were kicking off the annual Circus Trip, while Denver was still struggling to find its identity after a rough start to the season. Despite a good first half by Rose, Boozer and Deng combined for 10 of 36 from the field and Jordan Hamilton scored 17 off the bench to consign the Bulls to a 87-97 defeat.
The Bulls come into this game winners of four straight, while the Nuggets just broke a five game skid (almost all blowout losses) with a win against the NBA's whipping boy last night. Despite some good stretches, Denver has had a disappointing season and are six games out of the playoffs. Denver has been ravaged by the injury bug this year, with Danilo Gallinari, JaVale McGee, and Nate Robinson all undergoing season-ending surgeries. Starting point guard Ty Lawson is also out for tonight's game with a fractured rib.
Unlike the Bulls, the Nuggets also made some moves at the trade deadline, shipping out old man Andre Miller for Jan Vesely and trading bench gunner Jordan Hamilton for Aaron Brooks. Neither of the new Nuggets played last night against Milwaukee, but they're likely to see some action tonight, especially Brooks, given how weak Denver is at point guard.
Let's take a quick look at the matchups:
PG: Kirk Hinrich vs. Aaron Brooks
In Lawson and Robinson's absence, Denver has been lining up Randy Foye at the point. Foye is shooting well from 3-point range, but isn't really excelling out of position. Now that Denver's traded for a real point guard, I'm guessing Brooks gets the start if he's available so Foye can move to his natural position. Brooks was shooting 41% from three with Houston, and has shown he can provide scoring off the bench in limited minutes this year so far. He's never really been much of a distributor however, but the Nuggets could certainly use his scoring. Can the Captain continue his hot 2014 shooting streak, or will we see a hard regression to the mean tonight?
SG: Jimmy Butler vs. Randy Foye
Jimmy missed the last game against Denver with turf toe, so Thibodeau will probably be playing him for 80 minutes tonight to make up for lost time. Foye is relatively undersized for the 2 and is a bit of a streaky shooter, but should play better in his natural position, and even racked up a double-double last night against the Bucks (12 points, 10 assists).
SF: Mike Dunleavy vs. Wilson Chandler
Wilson Chandler is quietly having a solid season for Denver. In the absence of Gallinari, Chandler has been forced to take up more of the offensive burden and is the Nuggets' second leading scoring behind Lawson. Chandler scored 35 points off the bench in his last game at the United Center when the Nuggets beat the Bulls in overtime on a
shitty offensive interference call. I wouldn't be surprised if Thibodeau has Jimmy switch onto Chandler during the game.
PF: Carlos Boozer vs. Kenneth Faried
Despite multiple trade rumors swirling around Faried, it appears he's here to stay for Denver, at least until the end of the season. Faried is an absolute monster on the boards, but has remained a limited offensive player and questionable on defense. He brings plenty of energy, however, and and will probably do enough defensively to put Boozer off his game like the last time around. The Manimal is also riding a hot streak coming into this game, with 3 20+ point games in 2014 already.
C: Joakim Noah vs. J.J. Hickson
Although Denver has a perfectly serviceable center on the bench in Mozgov, Brian Shaw has been sticking with starting an undersized PF in JJ Hickson at center. Unfortunately for Denver, Hickson is similar to Faried in that he loves rebounding, but not defense (remind you of anyone?). Hickson is absolutely atrocious defending the pick and roll and is caught flat-footed too often, so look for DJ and Noah to exploit that.
The Nuggets' bench has been diminished by injuries, but still features some strong rotation players in Timofey Mozgov, Evan Fournier, and Darrell Arthur. Fournier in particular can heat up in a hurry, and Mozgov has been Denver's defensive anchor this year. I suppose Jan Vesely, the world's tallest small forward, may also feature tonight, but he's been dreadful his entire time in the NBA.
Denver has seemingly given up on this season, and the team's morale is low after a string of blowout losses. This is a good opportunity for the Bulls to finally beat the Nuggets and possibly catch Toronto in third. The Raptors are playing against the Cavaliers who have somehow strung six wins in a row.
Prediction: Bulls win 99-92, just miss out on adding to the nation's obesity epidemic.