The Bulls Wednesday suffered a crushing defeat, falling behind the Denver Nuggets by 43 points after three quarters before losing 135-102.It was the Bulls third consecutive loss, dropping them to 24-47. Denver is 39-33.It was an unusually poor defensive effort from the Bulls, who after trailing 18-16 about five minutes into the game were blitzed by the Nuggets to trail by 14 points after the first quarter and by 31 at halftime. Through three quarters, the Nuggets were shooting 67 percent and 16 of 25 on threes. At that juncture, Denver had 13 second chance points to none for the Bulls and were being out rebounded by 14.The Bulls with seven players scoring in double figures were led by Cristiano Felicio with 16 points. Bobby Portis had 15 points and Noah Vonleh had 14 points. Cameron Payne and David Nwaba had 11 each and Jerian Grant and Denzel Valentine both had 10 points. The Bulls got 56 points from the bench.Lauri Markkanen, Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine remained out with injuries. Robin Lopez also was listed as inactive, though Justin Holiday started again. Blakeney was listed as questionable with a sprained wrist, but he played. It was the same starting lineup as the gruesome loss in New York Monday for the Bulls, who made five three pointers in the first quarter after just three the entire game in New York. But it wasn’t nearly enough with a weak Bulls defensive effort that enabled the Nuggets to shoot ahead 39-25 after one quarter. Denver shot 65 percent without much resistance from the Bulls, 18 inside points and five threes in a one sided quarter. It was a big close to the first quarter and dominating start to the second from the Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic. He had three straight scores against Vonleh to open the second quarter, sending the Bulls into a quick timeout trailing 45-28. There was a large group of apparently Serbian fans chanting regularly for Jokic, who didn’t disappoint the way he eased by Bulls defenders for basket after basket. The Bulls began to make some shots, but quickly reverted to individual play with the deficit growing. Nuggets threes were mostly uncontested, and then even with a Denver meltdown of five consecutive turnovers, the Bulls matched that with three of their own and Valentine missing both of his free throws. The Nuggets striving for that final playoff spot in the Western Conference recovered with late threes from Jokic and Will Barton to lead by a stunning 77-46 at halftime, the most points the Bulls had given up in a first half this season. Six Nuggets players were in double figure scoring by halftime led by Jokic with 18. Paul Millsap had four first half steals and 12 points. Portis had 12 for the Bulls as Holiday again was scoreless in 16 minutes starting. Felicio again was active with eight points in the first half with a nice running score late.The Bulls could not thwart the Nuggets movement and shooting as Denver began to play almost as if no one else was on the court defending. Things continued to go badly for the Bulls which such basic mistakes as a free throw lane violation. On a Denver inbounds play from the backcourt, the Bulls came up to pressure and Denver fired a pass over everyone for a layup. That play gave Denver an 84-53 lead. And then it began to get worse with the Nuggets driving and passing out for four more three pointers. Valentine had his second career dunk on a runout and Felicia continued to be active inside. But the Bulls kept slipping farther and farther behind and after three quarters the Nuggets led 113-70.
Bulls lose to Nuggets, 135-102
March 21, 20189:17 PM CDT