Al Jefferson tries to get away from the NBA on nights the Jazz have off. He says he doesn’t often watch games. But he did Thursday.
The Chicago Bulls (29-20) were in Denver on the first end of a back-to-back, and Jefferson, the Jazz center, said he watched the game on and off before it turned into a blowout.
“I just wanted to see how they play and what they do,” Jefferson said. “Got a good idea after last night.”
And if that’s the Bulls team that shows up at EnergySolutions Arena on Friday night, the Jazz should be just fine in the nationally televised game that tips off at 8:30 p.m. But things rarely are as easy as they were in Denver’s 128-96 win.
“We can’t look at that,” Paul Millsap said. “We’ve got to let that game be where it was — yesterday. We’ve got to come out and play them aggressive, the same way Denver played them aggressive yesterday. Normally that means a team is going to come back and try to get at it the next night.”
The Bulls are one of the league’s best defensive teams, allowing just 91.8 points per game, the third-fewest in the league.
Like the Jazz, Chicago is a physical team with a heavy focus in the paint. Former Jazz power forward Carlos Boozer returns to Utah for just his second game since leaving as a free agent in 2010.
Millsap is the last remaining Jazz player who was a teammate of Boozer’s, and already this year has played against other former members of those teams, including Wesley Matthews and C.J. Miles.
“It’s a little different than the other two,” Millsap said, “seeing how I played behind Booz. He was a mentor to me early in my career. It’s going to be a little different. Can’t look back on that, got to get out there and go to work.”
The Bulls have exceeded the expectations of many this season. They enter Friday’s game against the Jazz in fourth place in the East. They’ve done it without former MVP Derrick Rose, who has missed the season after tearing ACL and MCL last April. He is expected to return in the next couple of weeks.
Jefferson gave the credit for the Bulls weathering the storm to coach Tom Thibodeau.
“The job that coach has done with that team,” he said, “especially without their star player is amazing.”