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Preview: Denver Nuggets visit Chicago Bulls with playoff hopes hanging by a thread

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Let’s beat a tanking team, yes?

NBA: Chicago Bulls at New York Knicks Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets’ two-game losing streak could not have come at a worse time. Currently seeded tenth in the Western Conference, Denver is still well within striking distance of a postseason. However, the Nuggets can ill-afford another lapse in effort like the one that caused them to fall behind early and ultimately lose to the Memphis Grizzlies. Tonight will be another test of focus as the Nuggets are visiting the lottery-bound Chicago Bulls.

The Bulls entered the season expecting to be bad. They sent star guard Jimmy Butler to Minnesota and their big return piece, Zach LaVine, was still recovering from reconstructive ACL surgery. Draft pick Lauri Markkanen has been quite good for a rookie, but having Bobby Portis bust Nikola Mirotic’s face before the season started didn’t really improve team chemistry. It’s been a struggle from there. The Bulls are trying to lose and have an injured squad - which is why Denver desperately needs to run away with this game. Having just lost two days ago in double overtime the team will be both tired and disappointed, but if they are going to have any hope of reaching the playoffs it has to start tonight.

The Basics

Who: Denver Nuggets (38-33) at Chicago Bulls (24-46)

When: 6:00 PM MDT

Where: United Center

How to watch/listen: Altitude TV and KKSE Altitude Radio AM950

Rival blog: Blog a Bull

Injury Report

Gary Harris - out (le sigh), Tyler Lydon, - out (knee), Kris Dunn - out (toe), Zach LaVine - out (knee tendinitis), Lauri

One Thing to Watch

Does Denver want it? This is not an in-depth breakdown. The Bulls will be missing pieces, and Denver is not. The Bulls want to lose and will try to “subtly” put their team in position to do so - so what does Denver want? An angry Denver team should steam-roll the Bulls, but the Bulls are still 4-6 in their last 10 so they’re still not flat-out throwing games, and 15 of their 24 wins have come at home. If Denver comes out like they did against Memphis and the Chicago players start feeling like they’ve got a shot to take this, they will try. Players don’t care about tanking, players want to win - and Denver lets every team back into games these days. Denver has a chance to make a statement about the viability of their playoff desires tonight. Whether they make it or not is immaterial at the moment - if they WANT to make it, they’d better play like it in Chicago.

Prediction: Nuggets win, 113-99. Gotta win one on this trip, right?