This game was a running of the bulls, you might say. Straight into Nuggets tacos.
The Eastern Conference's fellow fourth seed proved that they weren't even on the same plane of existence as their Western Conference counterparts. Kenneth Faried had one of the best games of the year for this team, posting 21 and 12 with 2 steals, 0 turnovers and just one foul on 9/10 from the floor. His energy seemed to take the Bulls by surprise, relentlessly pounding the glass with an array of putbacks, dunks and push shots in the paint. He ignited the team to start the game, posting a perfect 8/8 with 17 points and 8 rebounds in the first half - something no other player had done in the NBA to this point. While I certainly think that the Nuggets could potentially make a move to improve, anyone seriously advocating trading Faried is taking crazy pills.
For a Bulls team with the fourth-best DRtg in the entire league and holding opponents to an average of just 91 points per game, the Nuggets scored 33, 30, and 37 points (100) in the first three frames. Nearly 10 points above the Bulls per game average. The Bulls simply had no answer for a Nuggets team that was getting shots at will inside the paint all night. Even with Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer playing.
It was great to watch the Nuggets getting a lot of attention by the TNT crew on national TV tonight. The Nuggets definitely get up for games against +.500 teams, and tonight was no exception. With "Team Shaq" and "Team Chuck" being assembled for the Rising Stars challenge at the All-Star break, at halftime Shaq offered to trade Kyrie Irving to Barkley for Kenneth Faried - and Charles refused! While Barkley's long since come around to this Nuggets team, it's good to see reticent nonbelievers like Shaq and Kenny Smith begin to recognize.
Wilson Chandler also had a quietly special night, posting a game-high 24 points on 5-5 from the three point line (!) and 8-9 overall. His defense is still improving, and alongside Iguodala were able to force the Bulls into some ugly, ugly possessions. One of the things I love most about Chandler's game is that it seems... effortless. And not in a bad, "I don't care" way, but more that he seems so comfortable from where-ever he is on the floor. Off the dribble to the wing, outside the line, taking the ball to the hoop... his confidence has to be at an all-time high. Ty Lawson was his incredible, blurry self, running the Bulls into the ground all night long to the tune of 16 points and 12 assists. The Nuggets are starting to transform into Voltron with all their parts playing the perfect role, and it's bringing back memories of giant robots destroying their competition.
For a team that's always lauded for its offensive prowess, it's amazing to see what the Nuggets are also doing on the defensive end of the floor. They were extraordinarily active in the passing lanes tonight, shifting and rotating with effort and intensity all game. Even JaVale McGee was composed, with some nifty tips and innervating jams without making any silly mistakes. In addition to holding the Bulls to a 16 point third quarter (while the Nuggets scored 37), the Bulls shot a meager 42% from the field and turned the ball over 14 times. The Nuggets also stuffed the Chicago brats to the tune of 7 blocks, with 3 from McGee and one each from Kosta Koufos and Andre Iguodala. The Bulls simply could not find many good looks against the angry hornets nest that was the Nuggets defense tonight.
In a game like basketball, momentum is incredibly important. There's a "flow" to the game and teams that are playing well can be very hard to disrupt. In a macrocosmic view, the Nuggets 8 game win streak is a reflection of the runs that the Nuggets use to bury teams in games.
They're rolling like no time in recent memory. With a four game road trip approaching, there's no better time for the Nuggets to be continuing this burning hot streak.
*Shoutout to my coworker Brian, who attended the game and is unfortunately going to take some crap at work tomorrow for his Bulls fandom.
Update from Nate Timmons:
Ty Lawson was talking after the game about how he was telling Wilson Chandler to let the three-ball fly. Wilson plays tough defense and can fill it up on offense and wasn't shy about taking open looks. As Colin noted above, Chandler was 5-5 from downtown on the night.
"The last couple of games I was missing [three-pointers]," said Chandler. "I was just trying to figure out what to do, the right thing to do, and tonight I just didn't hesitate."
Chandler on where Nuggets are as a team:
"I feel like all year - though everything - from the tough start, we had a couple injuries, but the team has been doing a good job staying together." said Chandler.
Chandler on how the Nuggets can find success on four-game road trip:
"We just have to come with the same mental approach," said Chandler. "Stick together, and just play hard."