The Chicago Bulls’ extended their winning streak to four Wednesday night against Toronto, holding on to a withering lead and leaning on the defense of Jimmy Butler to move three games above .500.
The Bulls are now tied for the second-best record in the East since January 1st at 16-7 (tied with Indiana), one game behind the Nets (15-6).
Wednesday’s game followed the typical pattern for the Bulls – building up a lead and allowing it to evaporate on the back of stagnant offense. Several times the Bulls led by double-digits only to be pegged back by the resilient Raptors.
The opponents tonight are trending in the opposite direction. The Nuggets have had a disappointing season fraught with under-performances and injuries to key contributors.
The trade deadline did little to reinvigorate their withering postseason push.
The Nuggets traded Andre Miller to the Wizards and announced Javale McGee had undergone season-ending surgery, joining Danilo Gallinari and Nate Robinson watching the rest of the season from the stands. Ty Lawson is still recovering from a fractured rib suffered on February 9th and is out.
The Nuggets did bring in Aaron Brooks in a deadline day deal with the Houston Rockets, sending wing Jordan Hamilton in return. Brooks could be in line to start if Lawson remains out, as he proved he could handle the starting role in the playoffs last year when Jeremy Lin came off the bench.
The Nuggets ended a five-game skid against the hapless Milwaukee Bucks, winning 101-90 on the road. That five-game stretch featured four consecutive double-digit defeats with deficits of 27, 15, 39 and 27 points.
The Bulls on the other hand have returned to their defensive best, holding opponents to fewer than 100 points in 18 of their 23 matches since January 1st.
With games against Miami, Oklahoma City, Portland, Memphis, Dallas, Golden State and two against Indiana still to come, the Bulls must capitalize on the weaker teams in the league. Denver can be a start.
PG: Kirk Hinrich, 11th season. 8.5 points per game, 4.4 assists per game.
SG: Jimmy Butler, 3rd season. 12.5 points per game, 5.0 rebounds per game.
SF: Mike Dunleavy, Jr, 12th season. 10.9 points per game, 4.0 rebounds per game.
PF: Carlos Boozer, 12th season. 14.9 points per game, 8.6 rebounds per game.
C: Joakim Noah, 7th season. 11.8 points per game, 11.4 rebounds per game.
PG: Randy Foye, 8th season. 11.7 points per game, 3.2 assists per game.
SG: Quincy Miller, 2nd season. 4.7 points per game, 2.6 rebounds per game.
SF: Wilson Chandler, 7th season. 14.4 points per game, 4.9 rebounds per game.
PF: Kenneth Faried, 3rd season. 11.0 points per game, 7.5 rebounds per game.
C: J.J. Hickson, 6th season. 11.7 points per game, 9.4 rebounds per game.