Time: 9 p.m. ET
Venue: Ball Arena, Denver, CO
Where to watch: Altitude, NBC Sports Chicago
Opening Odds at USA Sportsbooks
BetMGM: Nuggets -4.5
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Bulls - Nuggets preview and analysis
Bulls: lost 112-107 at Blazers on Wednesday
Nuggets: lost 103-89 vs. 76ers on Thursday
The Denver Nuggets have found ways to be a streaky team this season.
Win a couple, lose some, win some more, lose some, win a lot and then lose a couple. The Nuggets have lost two straight after winning their previous five and are now playing the second game of a back-to-back against the Chicago Bulls on Friday in Denver.
We completely botched Thursday’s winner between the Nuggets and Philadelphia 76ers, thinking the Nuggets would be able to dominate a struggling Philly team that was without Joel Embiid and a bunch of other important role players, all while losing six straight games.
Nikola Jokic had another dominant game with 30 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, but the reigning MVP got no help from anybody else. Will Barton was next in line with 19 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, which is great; but Aaron Gordon shot 4 of 13, Monte Morris was 5 of 13, and the Nuggets as a whole shot 36 percent from the floor and only 33 percent from 3-point range.
"If we look at no Ben Simmons, no Joel Embiid, no Matisse Thybulle, no Danny Green, they've lost five in a row, well, if we start thinking about that stuff that's when you get your (butt) kicked," Nuggets coach Mike Malone said.
You’d think in the altitude and having a couple of days off -- after losing against the Dallas Mavericks on Monday -- that the Nuggets would be able to dominate on offense and defense, while taking advantage of matchups at their disposal without Embiid, Simmons, etc.
But the 76ers shot almost 51 percent from the floor led by a team-high 22 points from Tyrese Maxey. Tobias Harris added 17 points and seven rebounds, while Seth Curry finished with 20 points on 6 of 9 from inside the 3-point line.
Expecting the Nuggets to lose three straight may seem a little asinine, but the team coming into Denver is not so bad itself even after a close loss the other night. The Bulls are coming off a 5-point loss to the Portland Trail Blazers in which they did everything right; from holding Damian Lillard to 6 of 18 shooting despite a double-double, to CJ McCollum only scoring nine points in 38 minutes.
But Portland made 27 of 28 from the free-throw line and outrebounded Chicago 44-36. Zach LaVine finished with a game-high 30 points on 11 of 20 shooting, and DeMar DeRozan had 22 points despite shooting 7 of 19.
"It was a game we definitely feel like we should have won. We were in control of the game the whole time," LaVine said. "We feel like we gave one away, but give them credit for fighting back. We've done that all year."
You can bet that the Bulls are going to be ready for this game, and it’s not just because of the opponent. Chicago’s small-ball lineup it’s rolling out without the services of Nikola Vucevic, and it may be athletic enough to keep Jokic at bay while having enough perimeter defense to slow down Will Barton and Aaron Gordon. I like Chicago to hold on with Denver working on that back-to-back. Bulls by 8
The Bulls are 22-9 ATS over the past three seasons following consecutive non-conference games.
The Bulls are 23-7 ATS in their last 30 following a loss by six points or less.
The Nuggets are 38-41 ATS at home the past three seasons despite going 59-23 straight up.
Projected starting lineup
PG: Lonzo Ball
SG: Alex Caruso
SF: Zach LaVine
PF: DeMar DeRozan
C: Tony Bradley
PG: Monte Morris
SG: WIll Braton
SF: P.J. Dozier
PF: Aaron Gordon
C: Nikola Jokic
Bulls: Nikola Vucevic (COVID, out), Alex Caruso (day-to-day), Patrick Williams (wrist, out)
Nuggets: Michael Porter (back, out), Jamal Murray (ACL, out)
Points: DeMar DeRozan -- 26.6
Rebounds: Nikola Vucevic -- 13.8
Assists: Lonzo Ball -- 4.5
Points: Nikola Jokic -- 26.1
Rebounds: Nikola Jokic -- 13.8
Assists: Nikola Jokic -- 6.3
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