CHICAGO (The Sports Xchange) – The Denver Nuggets picked up their effort defensively and it allowed their potent offense to carry them to a 125-107 victory against the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday night at the United Center.
Led by their defense in the second half, the Nuggets took control late in the third quarter and never let up the rest of the way.
Nikola Jokic had 19 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists for his third triple-double in the past 12 games, Danilo Gallinari added 22 points and Denver had five more players finish in double-figure scoring.
“They were killing us in the first half (on the glass),” Jokic said, referring to the Bulls’ 10-1 advantage on offensive rebounds after two quarters. “So that was our goal, not to turn the ball over in the second half and don’t let them get offensive rebounds.”
Denver did exactly what it set out to do by limiting Chicago to one offensive rebound in the second half and outrebounding the Bulls 45-35 overall. The extra possessions helped the Nuggets (27-33) seize the lead late in the third quarter and then blow the game open to start the fourth.
Denver, which had lost three of its previous four games, ended a four-game winning streak for the Bulls (30-30). Chicago had also won three in a row at the United Center against the Nuggets, who will finish their road back-to-back Wednesday night at the Milwaukee Bucks.
Denver topped 120 points for the 11th time in its past 23 games. Aside from Jokic and Gallinari, the Nuggets had five more players score double figures. Wilson Chandler had 20 points, Gary Harris and Will Barton each had 15, Jamal Murray had 14 and Jameer Nelson finished with 12.
Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo each finished with 19 points to lead the Bulls, who got 12 points from Bobby Portis and 10 from Robin Lopez. Jimmy Butler was held to eight points on 3-of-13 shooting from the field.
“I don’t know what it was,” Chicago coach Fred Hoiberg said of Butler, who only shot two free throws, which is usually a staple in his game. “He just didn’t get into the flow or rhythm. We ran a lot of actions that we run for Jimmy that he normally converts on.”
Denver charged to the lead in the last three minutes of the third quarter and led 91-83 starting the fourth. The Nuggets pushed it to 99-83 on five points from Gallinari in the first 1:59 before Wade responded with a 3-pointer. Denver then tacked on 12 straight points to lead 110-89 on four straight 3s — two from Murray and one each from Barton and Gallinari.
“They started making shots,” Wade said. “Defensively, we weren’t as good as we needed to be. They capitalized on our mistakes offensively. The ball stopped moving and we couldn’t put the ball in the basket.”
It wasn’t that way in the first half, when the Bulls led 25-22 after the first quarter and 59-56 at the half, led by 10 points each from Rondo and Wade. Felicio added nine off the bench in the first half in just seven minutes of action.
The second half was a different story, thanks to Chandler’s one-on-one defense on Butler, the Nuggets’ rebounding effort and Jokic’s all-around game.
“He helped a lot,” Harris said, smiling. “When he plays that way, not too many teams can beat us.”
NOTES: Bulls PG Michael Carter-Williams missed his second straight game with patellar tendinitis. … Chicago rookie F Paul Zipser missed his seventh consecutive game with left ankle tendinitis. … Nuggets F Kenneth Faried missed his second game in a row with a lower back strain. … The Bulls went 9 of 10 from the free-throw line. It was just the fifth time this season that Chicago hasn’t made at least 10 free throws. … The Nuggets swept the season series against the Bulls and have beaten Chicago in the past three games.