Denver seeks to get back on track on the road during short Midwest road trip beginning on Halloween
— Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) October 31, 2018
As the Nuggets endeavor to end their six-season playoff drought, they’ll need to rack up victories against overmatched opponents, and tonight’s game in the Windy City provides the squad with an excellent opportunity to do just that. This is the first of two road games this week for the Mile High crew as they head to Cleveland to face the Cavaliers on a back-to-back game Thursday night.
The Bulls (2-5) come into tonight’s matchup coming off of allowing Golden State’s Klay Thompson to torch them for 52 points on a record-breaking 14 three-pointers. The Nuggets (5-1), on the other hand, defeated the shorthanded New Orleans Pelicans, playing without superstar forward Anthony Davis, 116-111 on Monday night.
The embarrassing loss last time out should force the Bulls to play with an edge and initiate the pace tonight, but despite their road struggles, the Nuggets are favored by Vegas and should come away with the victory. Nuggets star center Nikola Jokić always seems to bring his A-game to Chicago, the city with the world’s largest Serbian population outside of Serbia. In his last two trips to the city, Big Honey has put up averages of 20.0 points, 11.5 rebounds and 7.5 assists.
The Bulls are without several key pieces as Lauri Markkanen, Kris Dunn, Denzel Valentine and Bobby Portis are all sidelined with various injuries. The Nuggets will again be without the services of Will Barton following his injury in the home opener as well as Isaiah Thomas, Michael Porter Jr. and Jarred Vanderbilt.
Let’s hope the Joker remains engaged and aggressive on the offensive end tonight after seeming disinterested while meandering around the perimeter on Monday night. It’s difficult to play Jokić ball without the fuel that propels the offensive engine. Fortunately, Chicago comes in with the league’s worst defensive rating and also gives up the third-highest average of points per game. Bulls opponents are knocking down nearly 40 percent (38.2) of their shots from deep this season, and tonight provides a great occasion for the Nuggets to burst out of their early-season shooting slump.
The Nuggets look to slow Zach LaVine down on the defensive end as the Bulls guard is putting up 28.1 points per game on the young season. LaVine has scored at least 20 in every game this year and is shooting better than 50 percent (51.9) from the field.
It will be interesting to see how the Nuggets handle their rotation on the wing following Torrey Craig’s struggles and Malik Beasley’s success on Monday. Beasley played well in his 31 minutes of action while Craig was pulled in favor of Beasley early in the third quarter.
I’m also interested in watching how Denver slows down the Bulls’ three-point attack. The Bulls are one of the best teams in the league when it comes to three-point percentage (seventh), and the Nuggets have struggled to defend the deep ball in season’s past. Denver does, however, have the eighth-best opponent three-point defense this season, checking in at 33.3 percent.
Denver is 0-1 on the road this season, but I would argue that the Los Angeles Lakers are a much better team than the Bulls are. Chicago is 1-2 at home this season, but I envision many fans in attendance tonight will be there to see Denver’s big #15 strut his stuff.
The Nuggets have already beat the Bulls in Chicago, winning 98-93 during preseason play.
Tonight’s game tips off at 6 p.m. (MST) at United Center in Chicago. The game will air on Altitude TV and on NBA League Pass.
PG – Cameron Payne
SG – Zach LaVine
SF – Justin Holiday
PF – Jabari Parker
PG – Jamal Murray
SG – Gary Harris
SF – Torrey Craig
PF – Paul Millsap
C – Nikola Jokić
After coming out slow on Monday night against New Orleans, the Nuggets need to start hot in order to take advantage of an undermanned Bulls team on the road. The longer the Bulls hang around, the more confidence they’ll gain and the Nuggets will have to expend more effort ahead of their second night of a back-to-back matchup with Cleveland tomorrow.
The Nuggets opened as 7.5-point favorites for this game, but Denver constantly seems to struggle in road games. The Nuggets allowed big leads to slip in each of their previous two road outings, and LaVine and the Bulls certainly have the offensive firepower to make the first half of Denver’s Midwest back-to-back uncomfortable.
I expect the Joker to have a big night offensively as he rebounds from a lackluster performance (at least by his lofty standards) Monday in front of what could be thousands of his Serbian compatriots. Each team will put up points, LaVine will likely drop 20 again, but the Nuggets are the vastly superior squad. The Bulls starting front court is not likely to slow down the Joker, and Denver should win this one easily.