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Denver Nuggets trample Chicago Bulls 112-94, notch second preseason win

Harrison Wind Avatar
October 9, 2015

 

BOULDER — The Denver Nuggets returned to the centennial state after a two-game preseason road trip and put together a convincing win over the Chicago Bulls, 112-94 at the Coors Events Center on the campus of the University of Colorado at Boulder.

After a closely contested opening five minutes, Denver exploded for a 26-3 run behind the small ball lineup featuring Jameer Nelson, Gary Harris, Will Barton, Mike Miller and Nikola Jokic to put the Chicago behind the eight ball early. The Bulls, who were without starters Derrick Rose and Pau Gasol, never recovered and for the next three quarters the Nuggets were on cruise control.

Rookie Nikola Jokic, who was the key cog in Denver’s potent small ball lineup, had a productive 11-point first half on his way to 14 point and 5 rebounds on 6-9 shooting from the floor.

The Nuggets repeatedly put Jokic and starting center Joffrey Lauvergne, who finished with 18 points and 8 rebounds, in high ball screens where the two were both able to continually dive towards the rim, sometimes bringing two or three Bulls defenders with him. More often than not, Jokic, who’s shown an uncanny nose for the ball and soft touch and Lauvergne were able to convert.

Those two, along with last years starter for the second-half of the season Jusuf Nurkic, who’s currently rehabbing from surgery on his partially torn patella tendon in his left knee, make head coach Michael Malone’s job of sorting his front court rotations even tougher.

“Nikola Jokic he’s surpassed everybody’s expectations, Joffrey [is] coming in and playing at a high level,” Malone said after the game. “We even play a lot of small ball, which makes that situation even tougher playing Gallo or Wilson at the four.”

The gravity that both Jokic and Lauvergne created throughout the night while floating towards the bucket allowed open perimeter looks from Nelson, Harris and Miller, who combined to shoot 7-11 from 3-point range.

“Shooting makes up for a multitude of sins,” Malone said. “[Miller] makes shots, he puts pressure on opposing defenses.”

The Nuggets shot just 8-26 from 3-point range on the night, but Miller went 3-6, Harris, who struggled shooting the ball last season, was able to shoot 3-4 from 3-point distance and Nelson added a three during that 26-3 run during the late first and early second quarters.

The offense as a whole flourished, especially when Danilo Gallinari showed that when he’s at the four position in small ball lineups, like he was often tonight, the versatile wing is awfully hard for opponents to stop. The Nuggets went to the same pet set multiple times tonight, which began with a Gallinari high ball screen and eventually developed into an iso situation for the 6-foot-10 forward around the elbow area.

Gallinari was able to take advantages of the mismatches after a defensive switch and either shot over, or went around his defender on the way to the basket.

It’s an area on the floor and a position that Gallinari enjoys and excels playing at.

“I’ll spend more time over there especially when they switch and we have a mismatch,” Gallinari said. “We have to use it.”

Gallo finished with 12 points on 3-4 shooting, but was aggressive, going 6-7 from the free-throw line.

Will Barton, who’s always a ball of energy on the court, finished with 17 points on 6-12 shooting and was another testament to how well Denver moved the ball and the team was able to get what they wanted on the offensive end.

“The fact that we had 24 assists and 12 turnovers, that’s a pretty good ratio for a team.” Malone said.

The offense was more fluid than in the Nuggets two previous preseason games, but Denver’s defense is what suffocated and frustrated Chicago throughout the entirety of tonight’s contest, limiting the Bulls to 34 percent shooting on the night.

“I see the flashes of five guys working in unison, coming together, covering for each other,” Malone said. “That’s what good defenses have. They have that synergy on defense and you saw it at times tonight.”

Harris was in the passing lanes as usual, Barton flew around as he usually does and Kenneth Faried was active on the defensive end throughout the night. Emmanuel Mudiay, also displaying tremendous energy, cut down on his turnovers and finished with 7 assists and just 2 turnovers (17 total in three games).

“I think in that second quarter there was a 26-3 run,” Malone said. “Those kind of runs are very tough to have, but that means you’re defending at a high level and you’ve ran off it. When you run off your defense you can attack before you get set – and I think we did a great job of that in the second quarter. If I could bottle up that second quarter and stretch it out for 48 minutes you’d see a very happy man.”

Running off of stops is what Malone has been preaching all offseason and during training camp. He’s been hammering home the point that if they can run off of misses and play at a high pace that way, their offense will come naturally. It certainly did tonight.

 

Denver heads back out on the road to Golden State to visit the defending NBA champions on Oct. 13 (on NBA TV) and return home on Oct. 16 to play host to the Phoenix Suns.

Credit: NBA.com
Credit: NBA.com

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