Denver Nuggets vs. Chicago Bulls: Recap and Player Grades
The Chicago Bulls, in a game for the ages and history on the line, came back from a 19-point deficit to triumph heroically over the Denver Nuggets in front of tens of thousands of adoring fans, as they secured the fourth undefeated preseason in club history and their first championship since Michael Jordan.
Tears may have been shed, but there was no rioting in the streets reported.
In actuality, the game was only slightly less meaningless because of the fact it did mean an undefeated preseason. The Bulls did come back from a horrid first half, which included missing all 12 of their three-point attempts.
It also was last year’s playoff hero, Nate Robinson's, return the United Center, so fans couldn’t even really boo.
However, in the second half, the Bulls took command of the game with a 36-18 third-quarter domination.
The Nuggets came back to tie, but the Bulls pulled away at the end to secure their eighth win in as many tries and the “preseason championship.”
There is no word yet on whether the Miami Heat will allow the Bulls to receive their rings, too, before tipoff.
Point Guard: Derrick Rose, C
Rose played his worst preseason game at the end. It wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t special. He scored 15 points, passed for eight assists, grabbed four rebounds and added two steals in 33 minutes. He was just 5-of-15 from the field.
But the eight assists were a positive sign, especially with the game coming down and Rose not having his shot falling. He ran the offense through his teammates, creating shots for them, and winning the game through facilitating rather than forcing.
While overall there was some regression in his game in spots, particularly in the first half, the fourth quarter showed a maturity not found in his game prior to his injury.
Shooting Guard: Jimmy Butler, A-
Jimmy Butler, on the other hand, played his best preseason game. He was pivotal during the stretch that turned the game around, jumping into passing lanes for timely steals, running fast breaks, getting to the stripe, grabbing rebounds and knocking down shots.
He had a fairly full box score with 13 points, seven boards, two assists, two steals and one block.
The United Center was ready for the first fast-break alley-oop with their athletic young backcourt, but Rose and Butler didn’t have their timing worked out, and the ball was deflected out of bounds. It was the "almost-play" of the night.
Small Forward: Luol Deng, A
Luol Deng has been having a terrific preseason and just keeps getting better. It’s clear that his wrist is fine, as he’s knocking down shots and playing better than he has since he tore the ligament in the early part of the 2011-12 season.
He scored 23 points on 7-of-16 shooting, grabbed 12 rebounds, passed for three assists and thieved two balls. He was also 8-of-9 from the charity stripe and knocked down the only three-point shot in the game for either team.
The two teams were a combined 1-of-27 from deep. Someone may have over tightened the rims.
Power Forward: Carlos Boozer, B
With the Bulls up one and 22 seconds in the game, Derrick Rose penetrated, drew four Nuggets to himself and then fed Boozer inside for an easy dunk.
The United Center was in hushed awe of the clutch-greatness of Boozer, the magnificent, yelling gladiator.
Then, building on his legend, Boozer made a pair of free throws to extend the lead even more, just four seconds later.
In all seriousness, Boozer had a nice game, scoring 24 points, grabbing eight boards and adding two assists, two steals and a block. He was 8-of-17 from the field and played without fouling out, carrying five fouls, and the Bulls needing him to be able to stay on the court. Taj Gibson had already fouled out.
And, to be fair, scoring a meaningful bucket is a nice confidence builder, even if it was in a basically meaningless game.
Center: Nazr Mohammed, C-
Nazr Mohammed stepped in to start for Joakim Noah, who was still out with a groin pull. And once again, he pretty much just existed on the court for 20 minutes.
JaVale McGee more or less dominated him, but considering the difference in athleticism, that was entirely expected. McGee scored 15 points and grabbed eight boards. Mohammed had five points and seven boards.
He’s graded here on his expectations, which weren’t very high.
The Nuggets’ bench doubled up the Bulls bench, 28-14. For the most part, there wasn’t much to talk about.
In fact, only three Bulls bench players scored, and 10 of the points were by Taj Gibson, who also grabbed eight rebounds and made five of his seven shots.
While there wasn’t much to indicate it in the box score, Mike Dunleavy looked increasingly comfortable in the Bulls schemes and should be ready to contribute for the regular season. He had a rather unusual stat line with one field goal, one rebound, one assist, one steal and one block.
I guess he wanted to one-up everyone.
Congratulations to your 2013 NBA preseason champions, who will always be undefeated.