Friday, December 1, 2023
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NBA Preview: Chicago Bulls (2-4) at Denver Nuggets (5-1)

The Nuggets historically are dominant at home, including last season, when they went 34-7 in the regular season and 10-1 in the playoffs in Denver.

One team that got them on their court was the Chicago Bulls, who came to Denver on March 8 and beat the Nuggets 117-96.

That was eight months and an offseason ago, but Denver might be looking for some payback when it hosts the Bulls on Saturday night.

Both teams are coming off the opening of group play for the in-season tournament on Friday night. Chicago fell at home to the Brooklyn Nets, 109-107, while the Nuggets beat the visiting Dallas Mavericks 125-114.

The Bulls had a chance to steal the win from the Nets after trailing by 10 but couldn’t pull it off because of a lack of defense early in the game.

Defense is why Craig was thrust into the starting lineup for the Friday game. Craig, who has made his mark in the NBA with his defense — beginning with Denver a few years ago — replaced Patrick Williams, who came off the bench and scored a season-high 10 points.

Chicago coach Billy Donovan is tinkering with his lineup in the hope that the Bulls find some traction. The Bulls have lost two straight, and coming in to play the defending champions on their home court in the second game of a back-to-back will be a tough task.

It would be even tougher if the Nuggets continue humming the way they have been to start the season. Denver won its first four games before losing at Minnesota on Wednesday night but bounced back with a near wire-to-wire win over Dallas.

The Nuggets scored just 89 points in the loss to the Timberwolves. They surpassed that total on a Michael Porter Jr. 3-pointer around the middle of the third quarter on Friday.

Porter had a bounce-back game against the Mavericks, putting up a season-high 24 points. He had just five points on Wednesday night on 2-for-11 shooting but he was sharper against Dallas, hitting 10 of his 18 shots.

Porter’s offense is important to Denver’s success, but Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray are the keys. On Friday, Jokic fell an assist shy of another triple-double and Murray had 13 assists, which gives him 33 over the past three games.

Through six games, Murray is averaging a career-best 8.7 assists this season but has struggled with his shooting from the field the past two games, going 10-for-31. He is hitting just 32.3 percent in November after starting the season at 49.2 percent through four games. Murray did make all six of his free throws against the Mavericks.

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