Bulls hope to slow down the Nuggets


Feb 21

If the Chicago Bulls are able to match a season-high with a fifth consecutive victory on Friday night against the visiting Denver Nuggets, they will likely need to rely on one of the team’s staples: defense.

“It’s huge,” said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau on Friday morning of being ready defensively when facing the Nuggets. “Obviously they can put a lot of points up on the board.”

Denver is averaging 103.1 points per game, 11th in the NBA this season. The Nuggets took the first meeting of the season series, 97-87, on Nov. 21.

Since Jan. 1, Noah and the Bulls are tied with Indiana for the second-best record in the East with a mark of 16-7 (.696).  Brooklyn has gone a conference-best 15-6 (.714) over that same period.

Since Jan. 1, Noah and the Bulls are tied with Indiana for the second-best record in the East with a mark of 16-7 (.696). Brooklyn has gone a conference-best 15-6 (.714) over that same period.

“They score the ball very easily,” said Thibodeau of the Nuggets. “They’re athletic, quick and there’s a lot of versatility. [Wilson] Chandler can play the two, three or four. [Anthony] Randolph is a long guy, so they have great length. [Timofey] Mozgov is a guy if he gets his spot, he’s going to hurt you. [Kenneth] Faried has energy and effort, [J.J.] Hickson same thing. [Evan] Fornier has really come on. It’s a team that you are concerned with because of the dribble penetration and the second shot and transition. You have to be tied together.”

On Wednesday in Toronto, Bulls center Joakim Noah picked up right where he left off after making his second consecutive NBA All-Star Game appearance. He dished out a career-high 13 assists in a 94-92 victory, adding to an impressive stretch in which he has averaged 13.6 points, 11.2 rebounds and 9.0 assists over his last five games.

“I think we’re playing good basketball right now,” said Noah. “We’re focused on the task at hand. Tonight is Denver. They had a good win [Thursday in Milwaukee].

“Faried is the energy guy, he gets them going,” Noah added of the Nuggets. “Hickson is playing good basketball. They’re a very good pocket pass team and they can score in bunches. If we play our basketball and come with the right edge, we’ll be alright.”

Both Aaron Brooks and Jan Vesely, acquired in separate deals made Thursday, will be available to play on Friday, according to The Bulls did not make a move before the deadline, but that’s just fine with Thibodeau.

“Some teams added, but I’m good with the guys that we have,” said Thibodeau. “We’re continuing to get better and that’s all we want to focus in on. Whoever is here, just get in there, know what your job is and get the job done.”

While no superstars were dealt, a couple prominent names were moved in a trade that could affect the race in the Eastern Conference when Indiana acquired Evan Turner and Lavoy Allen from Philadelphia for Danny Granger.

“I think Indiana has been very aggressive. They’ve positioned themselves well,” said Thibodeau. “They’ve got quality depth. I thought Hawes and Turner played very well in Philadelphia, not just this year. They lifted that team up. That was a very good team. I think Hawes will help Cleveland. And I like Lavoy Allen a lot. That was a very good pickup as well.”

Thibodeau, however, wouldn’t speculate on whether the additions might ultimately put Indiana ahead of Miami.

“All I know is Miami is the defending champion,” he said. “Everyone is chasing them until that changes. Indiana has had a great season. They’re certainly right there. But you have to play the games.”

Audio—Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau talks with reporters as his team prepares for the Nuggets (02.21.2014):

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