(WSCR) – Not too long ago, the biggest story line for this game could have been Carmelo Anthony and Joakim Noah faces their former teams. Now, the biggest storyline for the game will be the Bulls ability to play four quarters of basketball and improve their defense.
Injuries have forced the Denver Nuggets to use a smaller lineup in the first weeks of the season. After struggling to adjust, they seem to have found a rhythm in the last two games.
The Nuggets will try to win their third straight Monday night when they visit the Chicago Bulls.
Already without Kenyon Martin and Chris Andersen, who are both recovering from offseason knee surgeries, Denver (4-2) has played its last three games without Nene due to a groin injury. It’s not certain if he’ll be available Monday.
After a 102-101 loss to Dallas on Wednesday, the Nuggets appear to have figured out how to take advantage of their smaller, quicker lineup. They shot a season-high 51.8 percent in a 111-104 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday – their highest-scoring game of the season. Then on Saturday against Dallas, they hit 13 of 21 3-point attempts in a 103-92 victory, forcing 21 turnovers. Denver’s tallest starter was 6-foot-9 Shelden Williams.
One night after scoring a season-high 30 points, Carmelo Anthony had 27 on Saturday, going 4 of 4 beyond the arc. He hit three 3-pointers in the final 3:47.
“They’re a unique team with their shot-making ability,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “They can rise up on their 3-point shooting. It was a big turnaround from the other game.”
Denver ranked 10th in the NBA last season with 46.8 percent shooting. However, it was off to a slow start this season, shooting 43.8 percent over its first four games.
The Nuggets’ quick lineup could pose trouble for Chicago (2-3), which has lost its last two.
The Bulls hired former Boston assistant Tom Thibodeau as their head coach in hopes of improving their defense, but they’ve allowed 105.0 points per game after yielding 99.1 points last season.
After New York hit 16 3-pointers in a 120-112 victory at the United Center on Thursday, the Bulls allowed the Celtics to shoot 51.2 percent in their 110-105 overtime win on Friday. Chicago was outscored 30-15 in the second quarter.
“We’ve got to keep working on that,” Thibodeau told the Bulls’ official website. “I think they went 16-2 to start the second quarter, so you know that’s something we need to address and correct.”
Noah had a career-high 26 points and 12 rebounds for his fifth straight double-double, but he had a late turnover when he tried to bring the ball up court with Chicago trailing 108-105 with 14.9 seconds left.
“I can’t lose the ball in that situation,” Noah said. “I think we’re not there yet, but we’re pretty close. We’re only going to get better, and when we do, it’s going to get real ugly for everybody who’s talking real crazy. All the trash that people are talking right now is going to come back and haunt them. Because when it counts, we’ll be ready.”
The Bulls, who erased a 16-point deficit to force overtime, had 20 turnovers for a second straight game. Derrick Rose, who finished with 18 points, had six of them. Although he’s averaging a career-best 9.8 assists, Rose has also seen an increase in turnovers from 2.8 per game last season to 4.8 this season.
The Nuggets won both games against the Bulls last season, including a 90-89 victory at the United Center.
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