Bulls-Nuggets Preview

Denver Nuggets Status Check:
Record: 31-18
Division: 5-5
Conference: 22-11
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:
None

Overview:
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.

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