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Bulls Make Like It’s 2006, Beat Nuggets 114-108 in Denver

The Bulls beat the Nuggets in Denver for the first time since 2006. Per usual, Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan led the way.

Zach LaVine DeMar DeRozan Bulls Nuggets
Photo: ChicagoBulls/Twitter

The Chicago Bulls hadn’t won in Denver in 15 years. This was the result of a combination of factors. One factor is the altitude in Denver, which makes it tough for opposing teams to keep up with the Nuggets on their home court. The other factor? The Bulls have been, you know, pretty rotten outside of some Derrick Rose-led glory years.

Either way, on Friday night, the Bulls took the floor in Denver with a determination to break their losing streak there, and they accomplished that feat. Behind Zach LaVine’s 36 points, the Bulls captured a 114-108 victory.

The Set Up

The Chicago Bulls entered their matchup with the Denver Nuggets at the very end of a West Coast road trip. The swing had been a mixed bag for the Bulls to this point. They lost big to the Golden State Warriors, beat the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers, then lost a heartbreaker to the Portland Trailblazers.

While the Bulls caught a break with Nuggets’ star Nikola Jokic sidelined with a wrist injury, they were missing their own Nikola (Vucevic) due to COVID-19. Furthermore, the Nuggets had casually won their last 13 home games against the Bulls. Which is cool or whatever. The main question entering the game was: “Will the new-look Bulls be able to break the streak?”

The Summary

The answer is yes!

The Nuggets started out on fire despite solid defense from the Bulls, shooting 69% from the field while building a 10-point lead in the first eight minutes of the game. However, the Bulls kept fighting back and ended the first quarter with a 30-30 tie behind LaVine’s 10 points. Plus, we were graced with this awkward and hilarious shot by Tony Bradley.

The second quarter started with the Bulls shooting ice cold. DeMar DeRozan continued to struggle to find his shots, and—with LaVine off the floor—the Bulls didn’t really have a second scoring option as it was clear Coby White is still not ready to be back in that sparkplug role.

The only thing that really kept the Bulls in the game was the fact that the Nuggets were also struggling to shoot. Lonzo Ball and LaVine coming back in helped the Bulls recover as they took a 53-52 lead into halftime. LaVine led the Bulls in scoring at the half with 12, followed by Derrick Jones Jr. who had 10 and 7 in 15 minutes.

Once the third quarter began, the Bulls immediately got off to an 8-0 run. For the quarter, they outscored the Nuggets 35-26. At that point, the Bulls seemed to be fully in control of the game. While Denver kept it close throughout, Chicago rode LaVine’s 36 points and DeRozan’s 26 points to a 114-108 victory.

The Bulls’ Scoring Spread

As per usual, LaVine and DeRozan carried the bulk of the Bulls’ scoring. The duo combined for 62 points, approximately 54% of Chicago’s points on the night. On Friday, they were the only Bulls starters to reach double digits. The next closest starter to a double-digit point total was, as we all guessed, Tony Bradley with eight. The beauty of Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso is they don’t need to score to make positive impacts on the floor. Both of them played admirable defense, and Ball led Chicago with six assists. Still, the absence of Vucevic’s scoring ability is extremely evident.

Off the bench, the Bulls got 16 from Jones Jr. and 10 from Ayo Dosunmu to give Chicago four double-digit scorers. There is just a clear need for a scoring threat in the post (Vucevic) and one off the bench.

Also, DJJ did this…

…so that is something I am going to be thinking about for the rest of the weekend.

What’s On Tap Next?

The Bulls are finally coming home to face the New York Knicks on Sunday at 7 PM CST. The Knicks are currently 8-7 and will certainly be looking to show they are still a threat in the Eastern Conference. Meanwhile, Chicago will be looking to make a statement by avenging their one-point loss from earlier this season. Either way, the game is sure to be a fun one.

Make sure to check out the Bulls On Tap podcast for further postgame reaction as well as Chicago basketball analysis and commentary all season.

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Bulls Writer for OnTapSportsNet. Author of Extraordinary Girl, available on Amazon and at other select retailers.

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