Keys To The Game: Bulls at Nuggets (11.19.21)

Remind Me Later

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The Chicago Bulls suffered their first true road heartbreaker of the season, as they fell 112-107 in Portland after leading for most of the evening. The Bulls' largest lead of the night was 20 points but a late surge from Damian Lillard (22 points) and Norm Powell (18 pts) sank Chicago's chances of holding on to the win in the fourth.

The Bulls will look to end their 13-game winless streak in Denver, equipped with perhaps their best chance to do so in quite some time even sans Nikola Vucevic. Here's how the Bulls can turn the tide in their favor in Denver.

Disciplined Defense On Jokic

Nikola Jokic, the reigning NBA MVP, is a dangerous player because of his ability to create for others as well as himself. "The Joker" has the playmaking ability to make even the most limited of role players a threat on offense.

So if the Bulls do choose to send double teams at Jokic, they will need to make sure they switch up where the pressure comes from to keep him of guard. On top of that, Chicago will need to communicate often and avoid cheap fouls.

A total team effort on defense is the only way to slow down Jokic, although Denver being on the second night of a back-to-back will help.

Nikola Jokic on the fastbreak

Trust The Pass vs. Denver's Defense

The Nuggets boast one of the best defenses in the league. Aaron Gordon is a very switchable defender who pairs perfectly with Jokic, who has become a stout rim protector himself.

Jokic moves his feet well on the perimeter and does well to avoid fouls in key moments, but it would still behoove the Bulls offense to attack Jokic with DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine in pick-and-rolls with whoever Jokic is guarding.

After finding the proper matchup advantage, Chicago needs to commit to creating an open shot via the pass. Secondary assists (the pass before the pass to get an assist) will be crucial against a Nuggets defense that is great at scrambling and recovering.

Aaron Gordon defense on Trae Young

Focus On Defensive Rebounding

It is no secret that without All-Star center Nikola Vucevic, the Bulls have had to rebound as a collective. Per NBA.com, Chicago ranks a porous 25th in defensive rebounding rate over their last four games.

Tony Bradley has been a serviceable backup, but without Vooch the Bulls will need to gang rebound harder than ever before against the league's reigning MVP in Jokic. Through 14 games in the 2021-22 season, Jokic is up to 2.7 offensive rebounds per game.

The Bulls cannot allow Denver's star big man to crash the offensive glass with authority if they want to leave Denver with the win. Count on LaVine, DeRozan, Alex Caruso and others to chip in big on the boards on Friday night.

Tony Bradley and Zach LaVine and Troy Brown crashing the glass
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