The Bulls Tuesday were looking to strike gold with a five-game winning streak. But they never got there as the Denver Nuggets struck it rich with a late third quarter shooting spree for a 125-107 victory.
The Bulls fell back to .500 at 30-30 while the Nuggets moved to 27-33 with a sweep of the season series over the Bulls.
The Bulls were led by Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo with 19 points each. Jimmy Butler had a quiet night with eight points on three of 13 shooting. Bobby Portis had 12 points. But the Nuggets dominated the boards with a 45-35 rebounding edge and made 13 of 29 three pointers. Nuggets center Nikola Jokic had a triple double with 19 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists. Danilo Gallinari had 22 points. The Nuggets shot 56.3 percent overall. They had 24 free throws to 10 for the Bulls.
Michael Carter-Williams and Paul Zipser remained out as the Bulls seem to have settled into a starting lineup with Portis replacing Taj Gibson. Portis had a big start with a pair of steals in the first two minutes along with a three pointer and a strong post move. That helped the Bulls to remain ahead 14-12 at the first timeout with Rondo first off the bench. Rondo gave the team an offensive boost with a pair of driving scores late in the first quarter sandwiched around a Valentine three for a 25-22 Bulls lead after one quarter. Nuggets rookie Jamal Murray, who had a big game in Denver’s win over the Bulls in November, proved elusive again with a second quarter run of scores that enabled the Nuggets to remain with 36-35 three minutes into the second quarter. The Bulls rolled out to a 47-38 lead with Rondo pushing the ball and connecting with Cristiano Felicio. But the Bulls lost defensive coverage as the Nuggets made a pair of threes to trail 47-44 with 4:30 left in the first half. The Bulls got a Robin Lopez tip in and Wade dunk and closed the half leading 59-56 with 10 points each for Wade and Rondo while Butler had just six. The Bulls had a 34-14 inside scoring edge at half on the perimeter shooting Nuggets.
The Bulls flowed out in the second half to take a 70-62 lead with a pair of Portis jumpers. But the Nuggets swinging the ball and searching out long jump shots hit with Wilson Chandler and Gary Harris to pull within 72-71 midway through the third. The Nuggets doubled in pick and roll, leaving Rondo open and he made three straight jumpers. But Nuggets big man Jokic hit a three to give Denver an 83-79 lead with two minutes left in the third quarter. The Nuggets closed the third quarter with a 20-8 run to take a 91-83 lead into the fourth quarter. The game got away from the Bulls quickly as the Nuggets began the fourth quarter with a barrage of three pointers, 19-6 Denver to start the fourth and a 32-10 run from late third quarter into the fourth for a 110-89 Denver lead with 7:25 left in the game.