After opening the NBA preseason against the Oklahoma City Thunder with a loss, the Denver Nuggets are looking to bounce back with a win against the Chicago Bulls in the second game of their preseason. The Nuggets practiced three days in a row, and are going into the United Center with a want to win.
Nuggets fans can look forward to seeing both Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. play again. Coach Malone at practice yesterday said that both of them will likely see a minutes increase, including some run in the third quarter. They both looked great against the Thunder and will look to carry over their success to the game later today.
Nikola Jokic, however, is going into this game listed as questionable with a right wrist sprain. It’s apparently nothing serious, and the team is just being cautious with him. He was planning on missing some preseason games already, so it’s nothing to be concerned over long term. Michael Malone talked about it at practice and said that Nikola Jokic would be considered doubtful. Time will tell if he suits up or not.
Who: Denver Nuggets at Chicago Bulls
When: 6:00 PM MST
Where: United Center, Chicago, Illinois
How to Watch/Listen: Altitude, Altitude Sports Radio 92.5FM
Rival Blog: Blog a Bull
Projected Starting Lineups:
Bulls — Ayo Dosunmu, Zach Lavine, Patrick Williams, DeMar DeRozan, Nikola Vucevic
Nuggets — Jamal Murray, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Michael Porter Jr., Aaron Gordon, Nikola Jokic (if he plays)/Zeke Nnaji (if Jokic is ruled out)
Three Things to Watch
How does Zeke Nnaji look?
Zeke Nnaji has had a lot of buzz forming around him as of late. He has become a NBA hipster darling. With his versatile skill set, and all the talk around the Nuggets’ organization about Zeke’s improvements this off-season. Fans and media have both been calling for him to be the Nuggets’ backup center this season — a role that the Nuggets drafted him to fill three seasons ago.
With ten pounds of muscle added this off-season, he has put an emphasis on playing with more physicality this season. This has allowed him to pull down more rebounds, getting six rebounds in 17 minutes against the Thunder on Monday — five of which were offensive rebounds. If this improvement can carry over for not only this game, but moving forward in general, then he would be the best choice for the backup center in my opinion.
Given that Coach Malone said he would get some more reps with both the starting and bench units if Nikola Jokic wasn’t able to go, fans will likely get to see a lot of Zeke Nnaji. He’ll have the opportunity to prove himself and show that he belongs in the rotation moving forward.
Jamal Murray’s Play
Jamal Murray finally returned on Monday after 539 days of not playing on an NBA court. In his return, he looked good — especially in the second quarter. In his first stint, the nerves were still there for him. He missed his first couple of shots, but did have a few good passes in the first quarter.
When he checked back in to the game for his second stint though, he had the opportunity to calm down. He caught his breath and steeled his nerves. After which, he had 10 points on 4 of 5 shots from the field. He was cooking defenders just like he was before he was injured.
The team and fans alike will look for him to carry this success over. Given the minutes increase, it will be a good look to see how far along his stamina is. The more looks people get at Jamal Murray, the more accurate of a picture we can get for expectations of the season.
Does the bench offense look better?
Bones Hyland had a quick hook on Monday. Coach Malone pulled him for veteran point guard Ish Smith, and the young point guard struggled to create for the bench unit on Monday. Malone said that he will be better moving forward — a reasonable expectation. The lack of space made it difficult for Bones to operate at times; his signature shiftiness was notably absent.
The bench’s offense was very stagnant, and if they were to run more actions they may see more success. Maybe Bones Hyland handles the ball with Bruce Brown and Zeke Nnaji running a Spain pick and roll with him. Just more movement to get the ball popping.