[Thanks to Easy Eis for today's game preview. Hinrich's supposedly back tonight. -yfbb]
Happy New Year Blogabull! We're in store for quite a day in the sports world between the first annual College Football Playoff and the NHL Winter Classic (featuring the Chicago Blackhawks), but obviously nothing matters more today than the matchup between the Denver Nuggets and the Chicago Bulls. Luckily, the game itself isn't until 7 PM CST this evening, so that should give you all plenty of time to view the other sports action from around the country as well as recover from whatever hangovers you incurred from last night.
The Bulls already played the Nuggets earlier this season in Denver in a game in which the Bulls lost. However, it's important to keep in mind that this game came in the midst of the annual circus road trip as well as on the second night of a back to back, and yet the Bulls still only lost by five points. That's before we include the fact that the Bulls just traditionally don't play well and are fairly unlucky in Denver in recent years. This was also one of the more infamous games of the Bulls' season thus far where Derrick Rose played only ten minutes before checking out of the game permanently in the second half due to trying to come back too early from a hamstring injury. He still managed to brick three 3 pointers before exiting. Oh, and Cameron Bairstow also STARTED THE GAME due to frontcourt injury struggles at the time, so maybe using this previous matchup for clarity on the next one isn't exactly the best idea.
Efficiency stats will tell you the same thing. Denver is currently ranked 22nd in both offensive and defensive efficiency ratings at 101.5 and 105.1 respectively. Their true shooting percentage against the Bulls was an absurd 58.8% due to most of their midrange jumpers falling, while their season stats will tell you they generally fall around 51.7%, good for 25th in the league. However, Denver also posts a top 10 rebounding rate of 51.1 thanks in large part to Kenneth Faried, and they are also tied for the fourth fastest pace in the league with Minnesota. That translates to Denver relying on putting up quick shots and making opponents pay for missing theirs, which can be deadly with hot shooting but isn't a consistent model for success. This would explain the team's current standing of 13-19 and their awful record of 5-11 for the month of December.
Meanwhile the Bulls were riding a seven game win streak going into Tuesday night's game against the lowly Nets, but completely fell apart to the tune of 82 points on 38.4% shooting from the field and a god-awful true shooting percentage of 44.3%. Yuck. And while Derrick Rose furthered the narrative that he's oblivious to his 3-PT jumper being broken well beyond repair, Joe Johnson was throwing more elbows in the post than a muay thai kickboxer and Aaron Brooks got ejected early. Even this season's version of Jimmy Butler was somehow terrible. It was just an awful showing from a Bulls team that probably needed a day off to recuperate, so hopefully we should see a renewed effort from a Bulls team looking to bounce back early in their ongoing homestand.
Look for the bigs to be more involved in this game as the Bulls try to slow down the pace of the Nuggets, especially now that Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson are available this time around. If the Nuggets can't sink their midrange shots and if the Bulls can avoid their awful cold stretches of the previous two games, they should be able to build a reasonable lead and stay ahead for most of the game. But if Denver has one of those randomly hot shooting nights given their style of play as they did last time, we could be in for a fight.
Regardless, enjoy the game and the new year. Go Bulls!