The Denver Nuggets are coming off a hard fought loss against the Utah Jazz. Despite playing a grind it out defensive affair down to the wire against the Jazz, the Nuggets once again were doomed by poor late game execution. Now they head back east for a four game road trip, but on the way they’ll stop in Denver and play the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls are dealing with a myriad of injuries but in no way does this mean an easy win for the Nuggets.

Jimmy Butler, the super star shooting guard for the Bulls, was sidelined in their most recent contest due to knee soreness. Butler is a game time decision tonight in Denver. When healthy he is one of the best two way players in the league and a top three shooting guard. To add to Butler’s talent the Bulls have veteran big man Pau Gasol (also a game time decision) and point guard Derrick Rose.

Rose of course has a career that once looked brighter than any in the NBA only to be severely darkened by injuries. However, recently Rose has begun to look like he is fully healthy and mentally focused which has served up many flashes of the player who was the youngest ever to win the MVP award. Rose started the season averaging just over 13 points a game but his improved play has him up at over 17 points in January.

The Basics

Who: Chicago Bulls (27-21) at Denver Nuggets (19-31)

When: 7PM MST

Where: The Can, Denver CO

How to watch/listen: Altitude TV and KWGZ AM 950

Rival blog: Blog a Bull

Chicago Bulls Denver Nuggets Advantage
PG Derrick Rose Emmanuel Mudiay Bulls
SG E’Twaun Moore Gary Harris Nuggets
SF Jimmy Butler Danilo Gallinari Bulls
PF Taj Gibson Kenneth Faried Even
C Pau Gasol Nikola Jokic Bulls

Bobby Portis, Doug McDermott, Kirk Hinrich, Aaron Brooks, Tony Snell, Cameron Bairstow, Cristiano Felicio

Will Barton, Jusuf Nurkic, Randy Foye, Joffrey Lauvergne, Mike Miller, Darrell Arthur, J.J. Hickson Nuggets

Injured players: Darrell Arthur – questionable (quad), Jameer Nelson – out (wrist), Wilson Chandler – out (hip), Pau Gasol – questionable (hand), Jimmy Butler – questionable (knee), Mike Dunleavy – out (back), Nikola Mirotic (appendectomy and hematoma…yikes), Joakim Noah – Out (shoulder)

Key match up: A trifecta

There are three very intriguing match ups tonight pitting the youth of the Nuggets against players who in many ways represent what Denver hopes their young talent can develop into. Nikola Jokic vs Gasol, Gary Harris vs Butler and Emmanuel Mudiay vs Rose are all match ups that feature similar playing styles with the advantage in favor of Chicago for each one…for now. Imagine though a team with all three of those Bulls in their prime and if everything went right Denver could potentially have a similar core to that in the making. Much like when the Nuggets faced the Washington Wizards, this game stands as an excellent measuring stick for Denver’s development of their youth.

Key thing to watch for: E'twaun Moore

Moore is coming off of his best games as a professional, scoring a career high 24 points. If Butler is a no go then Moore should once again see an enlarged role on offense. Even if Butler plays, one would think Moore has earned at the very least a look to see if he can keep the hot hand going for a second game in a row. He's generally going to live at two places on offense, either cutting to the basket to get to the rim where he takes 28% of his shots, or beyond the three point line where he takes 25% of his shots. Despite getting fewer minutes this season he is having one of his best years, improving his shooting in virtually every statistical category.

Can the bench keep it up?

After a strong start to the season the Nuggets bench fell off dramatically in January. The team’s second leading scorer, Will Barton, was at the helm of that drop off when he turned in his worst month of the season in January as well. After a solid performance against the Toronto Raptors, against the Jazz the bench mustered up a grand total of fifteen points including a goose egg from Joffrey Lauvergne and Randy Foye in their combined 34 minutes of service. Denver will hope to get Darrell Arthur back for the game which should help some with the reserves picking up their play, but either way the second unit needs to step it up against a depleted Chicago roster

Prediction: I like Denver to win this quick stay at home, 107-101.