Denver Nuggets Status Check:
Home Record: 21-3
Last 10 Games: 8-2
Streak: Won 7
Last game: 112-104 win over Milwaukee
PPG: 104.2 (3rd)
Opponents PPG: 100.7 (25th)
Offensive Rating: 108.7 (7th)
Defensive Rating: 105.1 (13th)
Pace: 95.0 (2nd)
Effective Field Goal Percentage: .506 (9th)
Turnover Percentage: .137 (10th)
Defensive Rebound Percentage: .719 (26th)
Offensive Rebound Percentage: .314 (2nd)
Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt: .212 (10th)
Opp. eFG%: .491 (16th)
Opp. TO%: .140 (10th)
Opp. FT/FGA: .195 (10th)
Leading scorer: Danilo Gallinari (17.1)
Stats from Basketball-Reference
Denver Injury Report:
The Bulls couldn’t be running into a hotter team at a worse location. Denver has won seven in a row, topping the Thunder, Rockets, Pacers and Bucks on that stretch (all teams the Bulls have fallen to) and is 13-2 over their last 15 games. Denver also has the third best home record in the league (21-3). Maybe playing the Spurs (eleven straight wins) would be worse, but the Bulls will find that out on Monday.
According to STATS LCC, the Nuggets are averaging 113.1 on their current streak. Denver hasn’t scored less than 102 points on that streak, while the Bulls have scored more than 102 points nine times all season.
The Nuggets most recent home loss was actually to the Wizards though, on January 18 and they have lost two games at home since the start of January. So they haven’t been as good in the Pepsi Center as they were to start the year.
Denver is coming off a 112-104 win over the Bucks at home, even as they allowed Samuel Dalembert to have a career game. Dalembert recorded 35 points on 17-21 shooting and 12 rebounds, but the Nuggets rode a fourth quarter run to victory. Denver trailed by seven heading into the fourth, then outscored the Bucks 33-18 in the final quarter.
The Nugs shot 60 percent in the fourth, while holding the Bucks to 30.4 percent. Danilo Gallinari (eight points), Ty Lawson (eight points) and Corey Brewer (seven points) each carried a big load in the fourth. Those three guys, along with Andre Iguodala recorded a +15 plus/minus in the final quarter and Kenneth Faried recorded a plus 16. Denver scored 20 points in in the paint the fourth to Milwaukee’s six, and the Nuggets scored eleven fastbreak points compared to zero for the Bucks (they scored 33 fast break points in the game).
“We didn’t play really good defense in the first two quarters,” Gallinari said. “We talked about our defense and said that we have to play our best defense to get back into the game.”
Speaking of defense, the Bulls’ defense was not on top of its game against the Pacers. Indiana scored its third highest total of the season (111) and shot 52.7 percent from the field. The Pacers recorded a 121.1 offensive rating in the game. They are 25th in the league in offensive rating on the season (102.6).
“I feel like we’re short-handed right now, but we’re competing hard and that’s all you can ask for and I feel like our best basketball is yet to come,” Joakim Noah said. “We’ve just got to keep fighting and I think we’ll be all right.”
Playing small worked against the Hawks, didn’t work against the Pacers, and probably won’t work out too well against the Nuggets. Denver is second in the league in offensive rebounding percentage (31.4). They are, however, 26th in the league in defensive rebounding percentage, so what the Bulls give up on one end, they may be able to get back on the other.
The small-ball line-up may not be the biggest issue though. It could be the short-handed aspect of it. The extended minutes that have been given to a few of the Bulls (Deng, Taj, Jimmy, Nate) could be extra tough tonight given the altitude in Denver. It’s harder to run up there, and if you add in the fact that the Nuggets are 2nd in pace (95.0) and first in fast break points per game (19.3), the Bulls could be in for some extra running.
Belinelli may not be able to go because of a sprained ankle. Marco played through the injury, scoring 13 points in the fourth, while playing the entire quarter. Marco scored more than half of the Bulls points in the fourth (13 of 25), but it’s unclear how much more damage he did to that ankle. With the Bulls injury situation the way it is, Belinelli may have felt like he had to go.
Joakim Noah is expected to be back, and Carlos Boozer should have a better showing than his first game back from a hamstring injury, which was less than impressive (ten points, 4-12 FG, five rebounds in 23 minutes). So the Bulls will have their big-man rotation back, but Noah may not get the same amount of minutes he had been getting. Or at least we should hope he doesn’t.
Uh-oh stat of the night: The Nuggets have won 11 of the last 12 at home against Chicago.
Shooters shoot: Gallinari is shooting 43.9 percent from three over his last ten games. Ty Lawson is shooting 47.1 percent from beyond the arc over his last ten.
That’s what the Knicks shot from three-point range last night. For those of you who enjoy simple math, that’s a 66 percent rate of accuracy.
Let’s compare that to how well New York shot threes in their first three games: 7-for-24 (29 percent), 9-for-27 (33 percent) and 7-for-28 (25 percent).
So yeah. I’d say their shooting performance was a bit of a surprise.
Speaking of surprises, how about Danilo Gallinari. Check out the kid’s game log. Going into last night’s game, he had scored 18 points on the season while going 5-for-25 (20 percent) from the field and 2-for-11 (18 percent) from downtown. Last night, Gallinari scored 24 points – 21 in the first half – on 7-for-11 (63 percent) shooting, including 4-for-4 from beyond the arc.
It doesn’t stop there.
Toney Douglas had been playing better than Gallinari. He’d scored 32 points in New York’s first three games while going 14-for-28 (50 percent) from the field…although only 3-for-12 (25 percent) from three-point range. Last night, Douglas wet 9-for-14 (64 percent) from the field and 5-for-9 (55 percent) on threes. He finished with a career-high 30 points.
Said Douglas: “I make sure that every time I shoot it that I have confidence that it’s going in. I can miss 10 in a row. I’m going to shoot the next one and make it.”
Added New York coach Mike D’Antoni: “Once you start to see the ball going in from different people it makes it a lot easier for everyone else.”
The confidence of every Knicks player seemed to go up with every made three. I mean, shooting nearly 70 percent from long distance? It’s hard enough to do that in an empty gym, let alone against living, breathing defenders in front of their home crowd.
The crazy thing is, the Bulls had a great offensive night themselves, shooting 52 percent from the field and nearly 50 on threes (9-for-19). Derrick Rose (24 points, 14 assists) was great, Kyle Korver (18 points, 7-for-10) was on fire, Taj Gibson was firing on all cylinders (18 points, 10 rebounds) and Joakim Noah was Joakim Noah (12 points, 13 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks).
But New York’s long-distance shooting killed them. It’s not like the Bulls weren’t playing any D at all. They held New York to 42 percent shooting (24-for-56) inside the arc, even forcing Amar’e Stoudemire into a 5-for-21 performance. Yes, they were slow to rotate on several three-point attempts. And some rotations were missed. But several of those threes were also contested. The Knicks were just unconscious. Raymond Felton — a 32 percent career three-point shooter — went 4-for-6. Bill Walker and Landry Fields each went 1-for-1.
It was demoralizing. Especially at the end of the first half, when everybody in a Bulls uniform looked shell-shocked. What can you do when your opponent is shooting beyond lights out? Every Chicago run was answered by another three-pointer or two or three or…they just kept coming. Next thing you know, the Bulls were leaving their feet, reaching in, and hacking their way to giving up 29 free throw attempts.
The Knicks were even on fire from the line, going 24-for-29 (82 percent) after shooting 18-for-27 (66 percent) and 14-for-25 (59 percent) in their previous two games.
The Bulls further hurt their cause with careless passing, giving up 26 points off 20 turnovers. The starters combined for 14 of those turnovers. Don’t get me wrong. The extra passing is leading to offense — Chicago had 27 assists on their 42 buckets — but you don’t want it leading to offense for the other team too.
Well, that’s what happened last night. Especially during the final stunning minutes of the second quarter. With the Knicks leading by 20-ish and closing in on a 70-point first half, the Bulls became sluggish and confused, leading to a terrible sequence of possessions. Noah was called for a three-second violation. Gibson traveled. Deng had the ball stolen by Gallinari and then committed an offensive foul on the next possession.
Not only were the Bulls unable to make a pre-halftime run, they couldn’t even get shots off.
It’s no wonder Tom Thibodeau yanked Noah, Rose and Deng for all or most of the fourth quarter. Credit the reserves — and Korver’s shooting — for making something of a game out of this abomination. A three-pointer by Korver cut New York’s lead to 95-87 with 11:21 to go in the fourth…but Douglas nailed a trey on the Knicks’ next possession.
That’s just how it went.
And now the Bulls play the Celtics in Boston tonight. Could be trouble.
From the Elias Sports Bureau (via ESPN’s Daily Dime):
The Knicks outscored the Bulls 70-52 in the first half en route to a 120-112 victory in Chicago. It was only the second time in the past 20 seasons that the Knicks scored 70 or more points in the first half of a road game. The other instance was at Orlando on Dec. 27, 2004, when they scored 71 first-half points in a 119-111 win over the Magic.
The Knicks’ 120 points marked New York’s highest output in any regular-season or playoff game against its long-time rival in more than two decades. They last reached 120-plus points versus the Bulls in Game 5 of the 1989 Eastern Conference semis, a 121-114 victory for the Knicks at Madison Square Garden, in which Patrick Ewing had a team-high 32 points. New York also scored 120 or more points against the Bulls three times during the 1988-89 regular season.
Mike Kurylo of KnickerBlogger: “Oddly enough the Bulls sat out their star players Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah for most of the 4th quarter. Coach Thibodeau stayed with his reserves down the stretch, perhaps because many of them helped to come back from a 28 point half time deficit. The Bulls fans were cheering for Rose with about 3 minutes left, to no avail. Chicago relied on Kyle Korver’s shooting late in the game, but were unable to come back from such a large deficit.”
Also, Sebastian Pruiti of NBA Playbook shows how the Bulls shut down Amar’e Stoudemire. Hey, Sebastian, can you draw up a way to stop the Knicks from hitting 60+ percent of their threes?
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