What to Watch for as the Nuggets Face the Bulls

by Christopher Dempsey
Nuggets Insider

The Nuggets are back home at the Pepsi Center on Thursday night, looking to get back in the win column as they face the struggling Chicago Bulls. The Nuggets have alternated wins and losses in each of their last eight games, but have been solid at home (8-2), where they will play their next two games before hitting the road again.

Much of what tonight’s game is about for the Nuggets is ironing out some recent wrinkles, starting with curtailing turnovers. In the last five games, the Nuggets have committed an average of 19 turnovers per game, and opponents are converting those into 23.6 points.

But this might be the perfect opponent at the right time for the Nuggets. They have racked up 10 straight victories over Chicago in Denver and are 34-10 against the Bulls all-time at home. And though he’s looking for improvement, Nuggets coach Michael Malone is keeping his attention on what has been a positive start this season.

“Right now, we’re in sixth-place (in the West) at 11-9,” Malone said. “We’re 8-5 with one game to go in November. Last year, we didn’t have a winning month until March. We’re doing some good things. We’re headed in the right direction.

“And that second half (in Utah), although it was tough to go through, we have to learn from it and make sure it doesn’t happen again. But remind ourselves…that we are in a good place, we’re doing some good things and let’s keep on working.”

Here’s some things for the Nuggets to do to give themselves a chance to beat the Chicago Bulls…

Stay home on Chicago’s shooters: The Bulls aren’t putting many high percentage 3-point shooters on the court, but there are a few capable of knocking them down. Without a bonafide double-team threat Nuggets should be able to guard things straight up, and that means they can stay home on shooters like Justin Holiday, Lauri Markkanen, Kris Dunn and Denzel Valentine. Valentine and Dunn are both shooting over 40 percent from the 3-point line; and while Markkanen and Holiday aren’t, they each put up seven 3-point shots per night.

Be strong with the basketball: The Bulls might be struggling, but they have players fully capable of turning the Nuggets over via steals. Kris Dunn was a high steals player in college at Providence, and he’s doing the same thing in the NBA. He’s fourth in the league in steals at 2.1 per game. Justin Holiday is also deft at getting steals, averaging 1.3 per game.

Keep Gary Harris rolling: In the last five games, there hasn’t been a more consistent scorer on the team than Gary Harris. In that span, the Nuggets starting shooting guard is averaging a team-leading 17.2 points on 47.8 percent shooting from the field and 40 percent from the 3-point line. He’s also averaging 2.2 steals per game in this stretch as well.

INJURY REPORT: Wilson Chandler (back) is not expected to play in the game.

Christopher Dempsey: christopher.dempsey@altitude.tv and @chrisadempsey on Twitter.