What’s up with the Denver Nuggets?
The Nuggets were looking to get rolling, peeling off four straight wins heading into their last game against the Boston Celtics. Because of early foul trouble on Nikola Jokic, Denver couldn’t get their offense going early in the game and were blown out by Boston.
Even with that loss, the Nuggets have looked better in the past few games after a 4-3 start to the season. Jokic isn’t carrying such a heavy load this season with the return of Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. While the Joker is still leading the team in scoring, rebounding, and assists, he has ample support with five other players scoring in double-digits.
In their four-game win streak before the loss to Boston, Murray was averaging 18.5 points to go along with 5.3 assists per game. Porter Jr. was adding 16.8 points per game during that stretch as well. The playmaking of Murray and the dynamic scoring of Porter Jr. add a different dimension to Denver’s attack, something they sorely missed last season.
The Nuggets are out to bounce back in the second leg of their current Eastern road trip and improve on their 8-4 record.
What’s up with the Chicago Bulls?
The Bulls are also coming off a tough loss in their last game. They blew an eight-point third-quarter lead to the New Orleans Pelicans to drop their seventh game. Unlike the Nuggets, the Bulls have yet to gain momentum this season.
Chicago is one of the best defensive teams in the league, allowing only 109.5 points per 100 possessions (6th in the NBA). Unfortunately, they’re having trouble getting their offense going. They’re ranked 17th in the league in offensive rating, only mustering 111.1 points per 100 possessions.
DeMar DeRozan’s output has taken a step back this season. After averaging nearly 28 points per game last season, he’s down to just 24.5 points per game this season. The same goes for Zach LaVine (24.4 PPG last season, 22.0 PPG this season). If the two main guns of the team are misfiring, then the Bulls really do have some problems.
As it stands, Chicago is just a play-in team 13 games into the season so far. That’s a precarious perch to be on as underneath them are teams like the Brooklyn Nets, Philadelphia 76ers, and Miami Heat. All of those teams could go on a tear and drop the Bulls out of the play-in spot they’re in right now.
Storyline to watch out for
This is the battle of the Nikolas.
On one corner is the Jokic, who’s averaging a near-triple-double of 21.8 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 8.5 assists per game. The home team boasts of Nikola Vucevic, putting up 17.6 points and 11.0 rebounds a contest.
The pressure is on Vucevic to make life difficult for Jokic. If he can play physical and get Jokic out of the game, similar to what the Celtics did, then Chicago has a chance to shut down the Denver offense.
If Jokic can get rolling early in the game, then no matter how solid the Bulls defense is, he can pick it apart with his scoring and passing.
Which Nikola comes out on top?
The Nuggets are finding their rhythm. Jokic is still playing at an MVP level, but this time he has a lot more help. Beyond Murray and Porter Jr., he still has players like Aaron Gordon, Bones Hyland, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to rely on. That’s just too many weapons for the Bulls to deal with.
While Chicago can play tough, pesky defense, that’s all they have in their bag right now. Once the Joker figures their defense out, the game is done.
Where to watch
You can watch the Bulls host the Nuggets live on NBA League Pass or on NBA TV Philippines at 12:30 PM.