The Bulls Wednesday surged, receded and then finished strong behind the all around play of Pau Gasol for a 99-90 victory over the Denver Nuggets.
After leading by 11 in the first half, the Bulls stumbled late in the third quarter, saw the Nuggets take a lead into the fourth quarter and then pulled away behind the perimeter shooting and long armed defensive presence of Gasol inside.
Gasol had 26 points and 19 rebounds. Jimmy Butler added 19 points and Derrick Rose had 12 points and nine rebounds. Joakim Noah had 9 points and 11 rebounds.
The Bulls moved to 11-5 with their seventh win in their last nine games. They will host Charlotte Saturday. The Nuggets fell to 6-13.
The Bulls got back Aaron Brooks after missing five games with his hamstring injury and Brooks with a new haircut and lift came back strong with a block on a Kenneth Faried drive in the first quarter. It was a big quarter all around as Gasol feasted off the young Nuggets bigs with 12 points, five rebounds and a pair of blocks in the first quarter as the Bulls took a 28-21 lead. Nikola Mirotic had to leave after an active start following an accidental elbow to the face. Mirotic suffered a concussion and would have to be evaluated going into the next game. Joakim Noah came in and followed up a Gasol miss with a power slam dunk.
The Bulls had 10 assists on 13 first quarter baskets. The Bulls once again got a boost from Doug McDermott, who scored six points in an 11-5 Bulls run, including a tough catch of a Rose long bounce pass and unlikely left handed scoop shot for a score and 43-35 Bulls lead. The Bulls extended it out to 51-40 before the offense bogged down without Rose and McDermott and the Bulls led 51-46 at halftime. The Bulls got some space from the Nuggets early in the third quarter with a 7-2 run highlighted by a Noah follow slam dunk. But the Bulls couldn’t shake the young Nuggets as the shooting of Danilo Gallinari and Darrell Arthur enabled the Nuggets to take a 72-68 lead into the fourth quarter.
The Bulls’ offense bogged down in the third with five of 18 shooting. But it was a brutal stretch to end the third into the fourth with six Bulls turnovers in eight possessions. The Nuggets took a 78-75 lead after that sequence. But with Gasol’s denial at the rim, the Nuggets missed six of seven shots and Gasol added a pair of jumpers to give the Bulls an 89-83 lead with just over three minutes remaining.