Only three teams have played all of their scheduled games this season, and the Chicago Bulls are not one of them. Their Sunday night matchup with the Toronto Raptors has been postponed, according to Shams Charania of the Athletic.
The league requires that teams have eight available players in order to go through with any matchup.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Saturday afternoon that Raptors star Pascal Siakam would miss the remaining three games ahead of the upcoming All-Star break.
So, instead of playing the Denver Nuggets on the second night of a back-to-back on Monday night, Chicago will have two days of rest in between their last matchup and their next.
It also means that instead of three more games before the All-Star break, the Bulls will play just two.
Right Now, Time Off Isn’t the Worst Thing for Chicago
The Bulls are coming off a late-game loss to the Phoenix Suns on Friday night, where they committed 17 turnovers. Head coach Billy Donovan said after the loss that the locker room was “hurting.” Some time off may be appropriate.
Before their loss to Phoenix, Chicago was riding a four-game win streak, and making their way into the playoff discussion. Given that they’re in the Eastern Conference, it’s unlikely they’ll ever fall entirely out of reach of the postseason, but entering the All-Star break as one of the eight seeds would be optimal.
And having one extra day to practice and plan for an opponent like the Denver Nuggets can only help. That is, if the matchup scheduled for Monday goes through according to plan. Wojnarowski also reported that in addition to rookie guard RJ Hampton, the Nuggets are dealing with contract tracing of their own inside the locker room.
Hampton hasn’t been a key contributor for Denver this season, averaging just over two points and two rebounds.
The Denver Nuggets Will Test the Young Bulls
Monday night’s matchup was already slated as a tough matchup given the circumstances of the back-to-back, but even in absence of that, the Denver Nuggets will be a challenge for the Chicago Bulls.
Their being the eighth-seed in the Western Conference isn’t indicative of the quality of basketball they’re playing. Denver had a rough start, but MVP-candidate Nikola Jokic has turned things back around. The 26-year old big is averaging 26.7 points, 10.9 rebounds, 8.5 assists, and 1.7 steals per game.
The Nuggets are the NBA’s fourth-best scoring team, and right now, Chicago gives up the sixth-most points nightly.
Any outcome will be dependent upon how the Bulls manage Jokic and that defensive assignment. Expect second unit forward Thaddeus Young to be given a fair share of time matched up with the Denver big. The 32-year old veteran is posting a near team-best 110 Defensive Rating and leads Chicago’s roster in total steals on the year with 36.
Monday’s game against the Nuggets may also prove an opportunity for Daniel Gafford to reenter the Bulls’ rotation. Luke Kornet had taken his spot because of his ability to knock down threes and space the floor recently.
Because of the COVID-19 outbreak last year, these two teams haven’t played each other since 2019. Denver beat the Chicago Bulls handily, behind a double-double performance from Jokic: 11 points, 11 assists, eight rebounds.