The Bulls had three days off between games. It felt like three months.
The Denver Nuggets came into the United Center and beat the Bulls 126-103 pushing the Bulls to 6-8 in the midst of their tough November stretch.
“It’s unacceptable,” Zach LaVine said after the game. “From all of us. One through 15. Coaching staff. Everybody. We got our butt kicked out there. It just wasn’t a good game all around.”
The Bulls started the game with a surprising lack of energy, especially from a team coming off so many days rest. They turned the ball over seven times in the first quarter and 18 times on the night. They simply weren’t prepared to play from the tip.
“I don’t know,” LaVine continued. “I wish we had a little battery charger to pick us up when we’re like that.”
This was the first ugly, bad blowout game since the Bulls loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers back on October 22. Tough break for the point differential.
“There’s always some form of adversity that hits the game, and we’ve got to be better thriving in that. We’ve got to be better thriving in the struggle,” Billy Donovan said.
“We’ve got to be able to embrace those kinds of moments. I’ve never believed that you can ever get better, improve with smooth sailing. There has to be a struggle to find a way to dig deeper down inside to be better. So we did start off slow. That point was disappointing. But we don’t need to compound it.”
Takeaways from the game:
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Bulls don’t make Nikola Jokic work
The way to put pressure on the Nuggets is to force Nikola Jokic to guard in space. Put him on an island and try to make him defend DeMar DeRozan or Zach LaVine on a switch.
Though the Nuggets have developed a much more versatile infrastructure around him, with Aaron Gordon, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Bruce Brown, his mobility is still a limitation.
In spite of that, the Bulls never even made him uncomfortable.
To their credit, the Nuggets did a solid job avoiding these situations by trapping the few pick-and-roll situations the Bulls put them in. But the Bulls could have put a lot more pressure on Jokic to defend.
Nikola Jokic, chess grandmaster
Jokic carved the Bulls up without even scoring double-figures.
Finishing with eight points on 4-of-4 shooting, the reigning two-time MVP spent the majority of the game standing at the top of the key hitting cutters and open shooters for easy baskets. He finished with 14 assists in 28 minutes.
The Bulls simply had no answers. Not that there are any.
Because Jokic wasn’t even looking to score or setting up in the post, there was no point in sending double teams. Jokic was beating the Bulls every possession anyway, so even if they tried sending doubles, the Bulls would just be making his life easier.
If the Bulls were going to slow the Nuggets down, it starts with defending screens better off the ball.
Dalen Terry’s busy weekend
Having played only limited minutes so far this season, the Bulls sent rookie Dalen Terry down to the G League to play in a few games while the Bulls were off.
In his first action on Saturday, Terry had 18 points, nine assists, and eight rebounds. On Sunday, he followed that up with 14 points, 10 rebounds and four assists before rejoining the Bulls later that same day.
“It was a great experience,” Terry said. “It felt good to go against somebody besides the imagination in my head. There’s no better way to get back into game shape than going down and playing some games.”
Terry said he has been wanting to go down to the G League team to get some meaningful reps, something he hasn’t had a chance to do with the big league team.
“He’s really had an attitude of how can I improve and get better, and these are moments that he can do that,” Billy Donovan said before Sunday night’s game.
Terry ended up checking in for the final six minutes of the blowout, capping a back-to-back off with a double-header. He finished with five points on 1-for-3 shooting, including a three-pointer and two rebounds.
Dalen Terry summer workout story
Terry also shared a fun anecdote about his summer workouts, where he played a two-on-two game with Nets stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. He and Irving teamed up, and Terry was forced to guard Durant.