I was all prepared to write about how the Nuggets have a chance to catch the Bulls with their pants down a little bit seeing as how they have five new players on their roster. With that much turnover they are bound to require some time to adjust. Well, upon further review, that may not necessarily be the case.
According to the Bulls game notes they will start a lineup of Derrick Rose, Ben Gordon, Luol Deng, Tyrus Thomas and Joakim Noah. I may not be an expert on the Bulls, but I am pretty sure none of those guys are new to the team. A quick scan of their schedule shows that those five will be starting their 17th consecutive game together. Not much shake up there.
In fact the Bulls have basically replaced Larry Hughes and Thabo Sefolosha with John Salmons and Aaron Grey with Brad Miller. In my book those are a couple of significant upgrades. The Nuggets job may not be as easy as I had initially hoped.
Salmons traditionally does well against Denver so his addition is timely for the Bulls. Brad Miller on the other hand has been abused by Nene this season. Miller has played to a -34 in 44 minutes against Denver this season.
Denver has had a game to get re-acclimated to playing instead of sitting on their couches and have had a day of rest. They should be ready to go against the Bulls. The last time they visited the Bulls J.R. Smith poured in a career high 43 points, but it was not enough as Denver was abused for 135 points.
The Nuggets have been playing great defense over their last three games and I would not expect another offensive explosion from the Bulls tonight. Denver did clamp down on the Bulls in the first and fourth quarters, but in the second and third Ben Gordon and Drew Gooden lit Denver up and the Bulls threw up 65 points in those two stanzas.
Denver will have to collapse on Derrick Rose when he penetrates and recover out to Gordon and Salmons. Why not keep him out of the lane you ask? No matter how determined Chauncey Billups and Anthony Carter are, he will get in the lane. He is just too quick.
The Nuggets should be able to score on the Bulls. Rose for all his physical talents does not have the mental aspect of playing NBA defense down. Noah and Miller do not have the girth and/or quickness to cover Nene. Deng is a solid player, but he cannot contain Melo. The one player who can play tremendous perimeter defense is Kirk Hinrich and it will be interesting to see if they assign him to cover J.R. Smith when he is in the game.
The Nuggets were a little banged up in Philly, but Carmelo Anthony is probably with a knee bruise and Kenyon Martin is not even listed on the injury report after straining his back.
With the news that Manu Ginobili will miss two to three weeks with an ankle injury the second seed is there for the taking. Denver must win games like tonight and Sunday in Milwaukee to put some distance between them and their challengers.
Previous Matchup: Game 15 – Den 114 Chi 101