Nuggets Get Complete Effort in Blowout Win Over Bulls
CHICAGO – It was about midway through the first quarter when the game took a turn that led the Nuggets to one of their easiest wins of the season.
Paul Zipser had just made a 3-point shot. Nuggets coach Michael Malone called a timeout. There was 7:32 left in the period, and the Bulls had pulled within one, at 15-14, on Zipser’s three.
And then, that was it.
The Nuggets outscored Chicago 24-11 the rest of the quarter, and never looked back. Not only did they not look back, they built a lead that rose to as many as 46 points in a 135-102 win at the United Airlines Center. It was the Nuggets’ biggest margin of victory this season.
“I’m proud of our guys for going in there and getting the job done,” Malone said. “Nobody got hurt, we got a win and we head to D.C. to try and get another win.”
It was a quiet United Airlines Center.
Except, of course, for the very boisterous group of around 500 Serbian fans cheering their faces off for their basketball hero, Nikola Jokić. It is nothing new; Jokić annually gets sizeable groups of Serbian fans in both Chicago and Milwaukee. But it was different in that they were the loudest group of fans in the building. All night long. Bulls fans had nothing else to do but sit and watch the blowout unfold.
“It was a home game for him,” said a grinning Paul Millsap. “Definitely a home game for him. I see why he was feeling it out there.”
Jokić smiled and soaked it all in.
“I heard 500 people came just for me, so I think it’s a big deal,” Jokić said. “It’s really cool.”
Offensively, the Nuggets were a machine, and it started with the inside work from Jokić and Millsap. Jokić was steady all night long, finishing with 21 points in just three quarters of work. Millsap got his points in bunches. He scored 11 points in the first quarter and had 10 more points in the third.
For Millsap, it ended being his best scoring and shooting game since returning from his extended injury absence. Millsap had 22 points on 8-of-9 shooting, and added eight rebounds, five steals and three assists. And, as with Jokić, Millsap did all of his work in three quarters.
With Jokić and Millsap controlling the paint, the Nuggets also found plenty of space to launch – and make – 3-point shots. They made 20-of-35 from the arc, putting on a dazzling display of shooting all night long. Wilson Chandler (19 points) had five 3-pointers. Jamal Murray and Devin Harris had three apiece.
“They just went in,” said a smiling Chandler about his game. “A couple times, guys would double team Jokić and I was just open. He passed it out and I made the shot.”
And, as a result, the Nuggets stayed afloat in the Western Conference playoff race. Utah was idle, so the Nuggets gained a half-game on the Jazz and now sit one-and-a-half games behind Utah for the eighth spot in the conference.
But getting back in the win column, was the biggest deal. This was the Nuggets’ first win on this seven-game road trip, and snapped a four-game road losing skid overall.
“On the road, just to play good, to be aggressive, to kind of have an easy win, I think that’s important for us,” Jokić said. “Just to have a win.”
Christopher Dempsey: email@example.com and @chrisadempsey on Twitter.