***Update: Nikola Jokic is OUT tonight and will not play from the wrist injury incurred last night

There’s no rest for the weary as the Denver Nuggets will complete their fourth back-to-back set of the early season this evening, one night removed from an embarrassing effort against the Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons-less Philadelphia 76ers. Whether tonight’s outcome will be the same largely depends on the Nuggets players not named Nikola Jokic.

Denver’s opponent is the upstart Chicago Bulls, a completely different team since they last played Denver. Arturas Karnisovas has architected a really solid roster, surrounding Zach LaVine with the likes Nikola Vucevic, DeMar DeRozan and Lonzo Ball. Vuc won’t be playing tonight after entering the NBA’s health and safety protocols last week, but the Nuggets can’t get complacent or else there’s a chance they’ll take back-to-back munder losses at home.

The Bulls will be looking to close out their five game Western road swing with a winning record after splitting their first four outings. Both wins came against the Los Angeles teams, sandwiched by losses at Golden State and Portland. Denver hopes to notch its tenth win of the year before hitting the road in Phoenix and Portland.

The Basics

Who: Chicago Bulls (10-5) at Denver Nuggets (9-6)

Where: Ball Arena, Denver, CO

When: 7:00pm MT

How to Watch: Altitude, etc.

Rival Blog: Blog a Bull

With no Vucevic, it should be real bones day for Nikola Jokic against Tony Bradley (you may remember Bradley as one of the Jazzmen who got completely played off the court by Jokic during the series against Utah in 2020).

The real challenge for Denver is going to be stopping both LaVine and DeRozan. There’s only one Aaron Gordon, and both guys are averaging nearly identical stats: 26.2 and 26.6 points per game, respectively. Lonzo Ball is also having an excellent year with his career-high 45.2% shooting from three. The Nuggets will definitely have their hands full defensively, and will certainly need more from PJ Dozier than they got against the Sixers.

On the offensive end Denver could find itself disadvantaged on the perimeter. Ball is a great defender, and alongside him is Alex Caruso, a much taller, pestier and more athletic version of Facundo Campazzo. Will Barton is having his best season to date, but him and Jokic together can only do so much. Bones Hyland could still be shaking off that rolled ankle after missing 7 field goals yesterday and going -21. Any resemblance he has to the Bone of old will be most welcome.