Chicago Bulls recap: 117-96 rout of Denver Nuggets gives life to postseason hopes

The Chicago Bulls had no advantage on their side when they arrived in Denver — not the odds, not the altitude, not their recent momentum.

The Bulls entered on a two-game losing streak giving up a potential tiebreaker at the Indiana Pacers on Sunday, and they risk dropping to 12th in the Eastern Conference with another loss.

Their offensive rating has dropped since January, while they gave up repeated clutch plays and strove to string victories. And after a strong start to the season against top teams, the Bulls hadn’t beaten an over .500 team since January 6th.

But they didn’t need Wednesday’s 117-96 win over the Western Conference-leading Nuggets to make sense. They just needed her to spark something — life, excitement, belief — back into a season plagued by inconsistency.

When Zach LaVine leapt into the air with his arm tilted back for a ferocious hammer dunk in the third quarter, he appeared to smash the ball through his lip with a fervent message: This season is not over yet.


  • LaVine served as the focal piece for the offense, putting his head down and carving his way to the rim at will. The game highlighted LaVine’s ability to attack scoring and force his way through defenders. He finished with 29 points and four assists.
  • Denver’s zone defense created spectacular openings for Patrick Williams and Nikola Vučević to break away. Both players moved along the baseline and around the paint to receive offload passes for high-efficiency shots, while Williams added to her season-best performance by attacking from the perimeter. Vučević finished with 25 points and 15 rebounds, and Williams scored 18 points off the bench.
  • After going 2-for-14 from 3-point range in the first half, the Bulls cleaned up their long-range shooting in the second half, going 4-for-5 from behind the arc in the third quarter and 2-for-5 in the fourth. This forced the Nuggets to stretch their zone, opening up lanes to the basket for LaVine and Williams to get to the rim.

The declines

  • The Nuggets spent most of the game in a zone to challenge the Bulls to shoot 3-pointers while packing the paint. The Bulls couldn’t make them pay for it in the first half, and even with their second-half improvement, the Nuggets outscored the Bulls 45-24 behind the arc. However, the Bulls evened that gap by outscoring Denver 66-38 in the paint.


The Nuggets were riding an eight-game winning streak at home before Wednesday as they sat atop the West by a wide margin and tied the Milwaukee Bucks for the league’s best record.

But with just 16 games left in the season, the Bulls are aware that these are the challenges they must overcome to earn a postseason berth.

“We don’t have a choice at this point,” LaVine said. “We’ve exhausted all our mistakes and throwaway plays.”

where are they staying

The Bulls remain in 11th place in the East after the 30-36 win, one game behind the Washington Wizards for the final play-in spot and one game ahead of the Pacers.

What’s next

The Bulls conclude their road trip on Saturday against the Houston Rockets, then return home to face the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday.


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