Three days ago the Bulls allowed 71 points to the Denver Nuggets bench in a 119-118 overtime loss. They’ll face much less resistance from reserves tonight, but a rising point guard could give Chicago fits when the two teams square off on Comcast SportsNet. Bulls Pregame Live begins at 6:30, with Postgame Live following the action.
The biggest storyline of the Bulls’ offseason—aside from that point guard and his knee injury—was the front office’s decision to break up the Bench Mob due to tight financial restrictions that saw the franchise go over the luxury tax for the first time in its history.
The results have been mixed thus far—Nate Robinson and Marco Belinelli have proved capable scorers in expanded roles, while starter Kirk Hinrich’s numerous injuries have made it tough for him to stay on the court—and the Bulls rank 24th in bench scoring and 28th in minutes per game, slightly down from 23rd and 25th a year ago, respectively.
That and a short bench Monday—the Bulls were without Hinrich, Taj Gibson and Rip Hamilton—caused issues against the Nuggets, whose reserves scored 71 points on 60 percent shooting (30-of-50). The Nuggets rank third in bench scoring and 16th in bench minutes, something the Bulls won’t need to deal with tonight against the Blazers.
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Portland ranks last in the NBA in both bench minutes per game and bench scoring, meaning tonight’s matchup should feature plenty of run from both teams’ respective starting fives.
Led by LaMarcus Aldridge, J.J. Hickson and Nicolas Batum in the frontcourt, the real story in the Northwest this season has been rookie Damian Lillard.
Many expected No. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis to run away with the Rookie of the Year award, but instead it has been Lillard and his 19.0 points and 6.6 assists per game who has the wrapped up the award with more than a month to play.
The No. 6 overall pick has been a workhorse for Terry Stotts in his rookie campaign, averaging more than 38 minutes per game—that number has spiked to 39.5 minutes in March, including 22.1 points and 7.4 assists per game.
The Bulls could have Hinrich back in the lineup tonight, which would make life easier trying to guard one of the best young point guards in the game. Gibson could also return, which would help slow down Aldridge, who has exploded the last week, averaging 26.8 points and 12.2 rebounds over the last five games.
See if the Bulls can slow down Lillard and Aldridge tonight on Comcast SportsNet, the only place you’ll get the home call with Neil and Stacey. And stay up-to-date with everything happening on social media by checking out Bulls Pulse.