Keys to the Game: Bulls vs. Nuggets (02.28.17)
CHICAGO -- Offensive production hasn't been an issue of late for the Denver Nuggets. Winning, on the other hand, has been another story.
The Nuggets enter Tuesday night's game against the Chicago Bulls having lost three of their last four games. During the same stretch, Denver has averaged just more than 106 points per contest, including a 129-point outburst last week against the Brooklyn Nets. That total was three points shy of the 132 the Nuggets produced earlier this month in a win over Golden State.
But coming off a loss on Sunday to the Memphis Grizzlies when they produced 98 points and struggled in stretches to score, the Nuggets realize if they're going to hang onto the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference, point production is going to be a must.
That will again be a focal point Tuesday against the Bulls, who have been putting up plenty of points in their first four-game winning streak of the season. And coming off Sunday's loss, the Nuggets understand that if they're going to advance to the playoffs for the first time since 2013, they can't afford to experience scoring droughts like they did against Memphis.
"We didn't play our style. (The Grizzlies) made us play their style," Nuggets center Nikola Jokic told reporters after the 105-98 setback, according to the Denver Post. "That's really why they won the game."
The Nuggets failed to score during a five-minute drought early in the second half when they watched a lead disappear. And although Denver kept close throughout the fourth quarter, the Nuggets couldn't generate enough offense. Now, heading into a two-game road trip starting Tuesday at the United Center, the Nuggets understand the importance of turning things around.
"We definitely need to find that second wind," guard Gary Harris told the Denver Post. "We have a tough schedule coming up, so we have to be ready to play."
The Nuggets will have to contend with a Bulls team full of confidence. A victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday extended Chicago's win streak that started with victories over the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics.
Jimmy Butler continues to pace the Bulls and registered a triple-double in an 18-point win against the Cavaliers. Dwyane Wade nearly posted his own triple-double, finishing just one rebound shy.
The victory also moved Chicago to above .500 for the first time in almost two months and continued a stretch of good basketball from a team that has dealt with inconsistency all season.
The Bulls find themselves in the heat of a playoff chase after team management took heat for the way it handled last week's trade deadline. And for a Bulls team that has struggled with finding and maintaining an identity this season, the four-game winning streak is just a step in the direction the Bulls are hoping to keep moving in.
"The culture we want to be or bring is just a winning culture," Butler said recently, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. "It doesn't matter the style of basketball you play, how many 3s you shoot, how many times you get to the line.
"Just win because then it doesn't matter what culture. I'm telling you if you win, if we win, ain't nobody talking about what went down (at Thursday's trade deadline). Win and then, 'Oh, maybe it was a good move.' That's just how this league goes."
Copyright 2017 by STATS/TSX. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS/TSX is strictly prohibited