Carmelo Anthony have so far this season entered the early MVP race by averaging 31.4 points a game as well as emerging as a leader of the Denver Nuggets. The 25-year old small forward has also gotten to the line 12.6 times a game, which has proven as an indicator of his new offensive understanding.
The Bulls are coming into tonight 4-2 after a hard-fought win against the Charlotte Bobcats. It required a career game from center Joakim Noah (21 points, 16 rebounds) to acquire the important victory.
Second-year man Derrick Rose is currently in a funk which has seen the 21-year old shoot just 42.5% from the field and holding a 3.2 turnover rate. Chicago last played on Saturday which could have given Rose time to get his legs under him. Tonight, the point guard will have his work cut out for him, as he'll match up against all-star Chauncey Billups. The 33-year old former NBA Finals MVP is averaging 19.7 points and 5.1 assists in his first seven games.
Both teams will be without their usual starting power forwards tonight, as Tyrus Thomas is out for 4-6 weeks, and Kenyon Martin is listed as 'doubtful'. Renaldo Balkman and Joey Graham have both started for Denver this season, and Balkman is a candidate to take the place of Martin tonight. Bulls rookie Taj Gibson will start his fourth career game alongside Noah and Luol Deng in Chicago's frontcourt. With Denver's Nene on the opposing side, the Bulls will focus on defensive rebounding to limit Denver's second chance shots.
North Carolina product Ty Lawson has been off to an efficient start for the Nuggets. Lawson has put in 11.4 points in just 22.4 minutes thus far, on 55% from the field. With shooting guard J.R Smith coming back from a seven-game suspension, the Bulls will need strong defensive play from their perimeter players. Guard Kirk Hinrich has held his own this season, but has struggled on the other end, much like Salmons who broke his slump on Saturday with 27 points.
Luol Deng has guarded Gerald Wallace and LeBron James with success this season and tonight his goal is to stop Carmelo Anthony. The Nuggets are coming off two straight losses, so they'll be extra hungry when they enter the United Center. Anthony especially will be looking to capatilize on his scoring touch and force the Bulls to win this game on the defensive end.