After a surprising and intriguing win over the Spurs, the Bulls are now hosting the Denver Nuggets. Usually, I'd make a note of how this could be a trap game, seeing as the Bulls have a tendency to return to Earth after big wins, but I'm not going to do that. Scrappiness and defense won the game against San Antonio, and I have a feeling those things have returned for good.
Chicago is currently sporting the 5th best defense in the NBA, which admittedly no one really anticipating going into the season, and the cost - at least so far - has been the glorious offensive improvements expected to be implemented by Fred Hoiberg. We've seen moments and flashes of that gloriousness, but that's about it. 60% of the starting line-up remains sub-40% shooters, and a fourth (Pau Gasol at 41.9%) is nearing that mark pretty damn quick too. Due to that, reverting back to a Thibodeau-styled defense has been crucial. It's kept the Bulls from free-falling in the standings, and for the first time in 18 months, these Bulls are actually looking like they give a damn on that end of the court.
Which brings us to tonight's keys:
- Keep the defensive consistency going. The Bulls have allowed a hundred points just twice over their past eight games - both losses - and against an offensive-lacking Nuggets squad, this should be an area in which they won't allow more than 80-85 points. Pack the paint, keep Will Barton from the glass (this isn't a joke), and make sure to never collapse on Emmanuel Mudiay, and they should be fine.
- More touches for Taj Gibson. Outside of Jimmy Butler, Gibson is the Bulls' most effective two-way player. While his offense is unspectacular, it's enough to dent the Nuggets' bench unit considerably, and his defense allows for lead-protection. If this game should end up getting close, Gibson should also close out the game.
- Sit Jimmy Butler. The next game is against Charlotte on Saturday, giving Jimmy a full four days off to take care of that heel. Not having him around would make this game closer than it perhaps should be, but Jimmy's long-term health is quite simply more important than early-season wins. In fact, I'd probably sit him against Charlotte too if I had any say.
The Nuggets are one of those teams where you can allow yourself some wriggle room to sit players or test things out. So if, by some chance, it'd be possible to give Bobby Portis some extended run tonight, this should be prioritized.
Filed under: Uncategorized