The Denver Nuggets head to the Windy City to take on the Chicago Bulls in their preseason finale Friday night. The Bulls are in for a tough season. After Lauri Markkanen sustained an elbow injury that will keep him out for some time, the team has already begun experimenting with their lineup, including putting Jabari Parker, the forward they signed for $20 million a year, on the bench. His replacement, Bobby Portis, is quite good, but it’s not the message Parker and the Bulls wanted to send this year. They’re likely in for another tough year which should end in a top five selection in the 2019 NBA Draft.
Denver, on the other hand, is attempting to move in the other direction. With all of their starters healthy for the second game in a row, this is the team’s final opportunity to operate in a game setting before the regular season. After some up-and-down preseason affairs, it’s time for the Nuggets to put it all together and show fans why the hype around the team is legitimate. Nikola Jokic may become an All-Star. Jamal Murray may have a shot at Most Improved Player. The team may crack the 50-win threshold for the first time since the 2012-13 season.
This is their tune-up game, and it’s time to set the tone on the 2018-19 season.
Who: Denver Nuggets at Chicago Bulls
When: 6:00 PM MT
Where: United Center, Chicago, IL
How to watch: NBA League Pass
Injury Report: Isaiah Thomas - out (hip), Michael Porter Jr. - out (back), Jarred Vanderbilt - out (foot), Lauri Markkanen - out (elbow)
Keep an eye out for:
Starting lineup chemistry
Nikola Jokic has struggled to find his groove in Denver’s previous two contests, and seeing him settle into what he does best would put Nuggets fans at ease going into the season. The starting lineup is Denver’s best weapon, and Jokic is the engine behind it. When he’s at his best, Denver has a chance against anybody. Against the Bulls, Jokic will match up against Wendell Carter Jr. and should put the rookie through the ringer. He just has to be aggressive. His ability to put pressure on the defense will set up Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, and Will Barton consistently.
Paul Millsap’s inefficiency issues
It could just be “preseason rust,” but Millsap’s numbers have been less than encouraging. He’s struggling to get all the way to the rim on his drives, and he consistently attempts tough shots from 3-10 feet, a recipe for inefficiency. The outside shot hasn’t fallen either, though a four game perimeter shooting sample isn’t as concerning. If the efficiency takes a turn for the worst, Denver may have to get creative with how they use Millsap during the season. Right now, Millsap appears to have a green light on most shots in the post and on the perimeter. If he continues to struggle, the Nuggets may need to scale that back if other options are better for the offense.
A dominant offensive performance
Chicago’s defense is simply awful.
The Bulls' defensive issues are very real. Bucks got two wide open corner 3's from each corner and a tip-in layup on this possession. I'm no lip-reader, but Hoiberg's reaction at the end of this play says it all. pic.twitter.com/TDJQjnFSWE— Stephen Noh (@StephNoh) October 4, 2018
Denver’s starting offense needs a spark, and there’s no better team in the NBA to get going on that end of the floor than the Bulls. There are some good individual pieces, but Zach LaVine and Jabari Parker make Nikola Jokic look like Scottie Pippen. If Denver plays fast and with purpose, cutting hard and getting out in transition, they will light the nets on fire in Chicago.
Which member of the Nuggets starting five will score the most points tonight?
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