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Bulls vs. Nuggets injury report, game preview, lineups

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Bulls going for 5 in a row

BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge 2017 Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

[Thanks to Matt for today’s game preview. There are some slots open for the next few games if you’d like to sign up and do a preview -yfbb]

Start Time: 7 PM CST

Watch: CSN Chicago

Injuries:

  • Bulls: Michael Carter-Williams (knee, out), Paul Zipser (ankle, out)
  • Nuggets: Kenneth Faried (back, out)

Recent Form:

  • JB and his merry band of misfits have spent the past few games feasting upon the scraps of both conferences, with wins over the millennial-hating Suns and the Lebron-less Cavs. Once again, this team has seemingly escaped the clutches of death, with Bulls fans preparing themselves for yet another offseason spent in NBA purgatory.
  • Led by r/NBA crush Nikola Jokic, the Nuggets, like most mediocre NBA teams, suffer from the dreaded disease commonly known as inconsistency. A curious loss to the new-look Kings preceded a blowout win over the Nets. A close loss to the Grizzlies has many over at Denver Stiffs questioning whether or not this team is ready for the playoffs. The same "veterans vs. young players" dilemma that has plagued the Bulls all season also exists in Denver, but to a much larger extent.

The Matchup:

  • Undoubtedly the superior offensive team, Denver boasts a top-7 rating in offensive efficiency while averaging 110 points per game. The Bulls simply don't possess enough athleticism (or talent) to chase around the Nuggets for 48 minutes.
  • The Bulls' saving grace is Denver's atrocious defense. Only Phoenix and Brooklyn hemorrhage more points per game, with Denver being even less efficient defensively than those two teams. The Nuggets struggle mightily when their opponents stifle their pace; this was especially evident in that aforementioned Grizzlies game, when Mike Conley and Marc Gasol broke down Denver's young defenders in isolation throughout the fourth quarter.
  • Hoiberg's offensive gameplan should start and end with Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade. Denver doesn't have a player that can shut down either of them, so they'll be able to get plenty of scoring opportunities through isolation mismatches. This will also slow down the pace of the game, forcing Denver's offense to operate in the half-court.
  • While Jokic has been fantastic over the past months, he's lacked aggression the last few games. Malone tends to set up Jokic at the top of the key to run Denver's offense, which tends to draw the opposing team's center out onto the perimeter (since Jokic can space the floor thanks to his shooting ability). This allows Denver's guards and forwards to cut towards the basket without having to face a rim-protector. While it's not ideal for Lopez to be drawn out of the paint, Jokic is infinitely more dangerous closer to the basket. It's in the low post where he can be a playmaker for his teammates, many of whom struggle to create their own shot when needed. Jokic may be talented, but does he possess the mentality to take over a game when needed? Not currently. Forcing Nikola to generate his own offense around the perimeter and the high post is the best bet for the Bulls from a defensive perspective. Again, this is much easier to pull off if the Bulls force Denver's offense to work in the half-court.

Depressing GarPax News of the Day:

Gary Harris is having himself a solid year. While he isn’t taking a high volume of 3-pointers, he’s shooting a respectable 43% from beyond this arc this season. An athletic 2-guard who excels playing off the ball? Sounds like a perfect fit next to "Point Jimmy." (Sigh)