The Denver Nuggets are back at it tonight for the third game of their road trip, a matchup against the Chicago Bulls, and will have another opportunity at snapping a losing streak that has now accumulated to 7 games. The Nuggets are in an extreme offensive slump, struggling to score the basketball during long stretches in games, and have been unable to play consistently through four quarters. On Monday night, the team struggled against the Milwaukee Bucks' pressure on defense, turning the ball over and missing shots, and it will only get tougher tonight against one of the league's best defenses. In fact, only one team (the Miami Heat) allows a lower field goal percentage from their opponents than the Bulls, whose opponents shoot 41.1%.
The Bulls are playing the second game of a four-game home stand and sit on a record of 10-5. Despite Derrick Rose struggling from the field (he's shooting 35.7% and 20% from threes), the Bulls have been riding an MVP-like season from Jimmy Butler so far, as well as a double-double average in points and rebounds from Pau Gasol. They have gone through some changes since last season, with a new head coach in Fred Hoiberg and Joakim Noah now coming off the bench with Nikola Mirotic taking his starting spot. It's hardly a question anymore who the best player on the Bulls is, as Butler is one of, if not the, best two-way player in the league. With Gary Harris unlikely to play again with a concussion, and Randy Foye likely to start in his place, it's unclear if the Nuggets will be able to find anybody that will give him trouble on offense or defense.
Who: Denver Nuggets (6-12) at Chicago Bulls (10-5)
When: 6:00 PM MST
Where: United Center, Chicago, Illinois
Where to Watch: Altitude TV
Rival Blog: Blog A Bull
Joakim Noah, Aaron Brooks, Doug McDermott, Kirk Hinrich, Taj Gibson, E'Twaun Moore, Bobby Portis, Cameron Bairstow, Cristiano Felicio
Injured players: Wilson Chandler, hip (out), Jusuf Nurkic, knee (out), Gary Harris, concussion (doubtful), Jimmy Butler, heel (probable), Mike Dunleavy, back (out), Aaron Brooks, hamstring (questionable), Kirk Hinrich, hip (questionable)
Key Matchup: Nikola Jokic vs. Pau Gasol
Gasol is one of only eight players to be averaging a double-double in points and rebounds this season, and he's coming off an 18-point, 13-rebound performance in a win against the San Antonio Spurs on Monday night. Jokic, meanwhile, is averaging 7.8 points and 5.1 rebounds and has showed some serious skill in his rookie season. Going up against Gasol, however, will be a big defensive test for him.
Despite the loss against the Bucks two nights ago, there was a bright spot in the second quarter when Jokic made this move against John Henson. Gasol does not have the quickest feet in the league by any means, so Jokic should look to take advantage tonight with more moves similar to this one.
Thing to Watch: Struggling point guards
As I mentioned, Rose is struggling from the field this season, shooting a lower three-point percentage than our own starting point guard, Mudiay (who's shooting 25.4% from that area). Rose is still managing 13.4 points and 5.9 assists a game, however, which makes this yet another tough matchup for the rookie. Mudiay struggled with ball pressure from the Bucks on Monday night, finishing with more turnovers than assists, and it would be shocking to see the Bulls not execute the same game plan against him. It will be interesting to see if he handles it a little better tonight, while also seeing whether or not Rose or Mudiay can get into more of an offensive rhythm. Will we see a continuation of both players' slumps, or will one of them finally start knocking down shots on a more consistent basis?
Key Question: Will the losing streak increase to 8 games, or can the Nuggets end it with an impressive win over one of the better teams in the league?