For the second time this season Nikola Jokic did not suit up for the Denver Nuggets, but unlike last week against Indiana the Nuggets just couldn’t overcome the Chicago Bulls. Denver led by as many as 12 and trailed by 10 in the fourth quarter before mounting a frenetic comeback that ultimately fell short, 114 to 108.
The Nuggets gave an incredibly valiant effort (especially compared to last night) but ultimately couldn’t contain Zach LaVine, who finished with 36 points and willed the Bulls to victory in the fourth. At one point LaVine scored 12 points in row for Chicago, and even though the Nuggets answered, they simply couldn’t get any stops on the defensive end. Will Barton hit a huge ATO three from the corner to cut it to two with less than a minute remaining but DeMar DeRozan drew a foul and sealed the game at the line. DeRozan contributed in 26 of his own (12 from free throws) and Derrick Jones Jr. chipped in 16 off the bench.
Aaron Gordon had another incredible performance and there were several stretches wherein he and Thrill kept Denver in the game. AG made it an absolute point to bully dunk contest rival Derrick Jones Jr. at any possible junction. That energy resulted in a season-high 28 points and nine rebounds. Barton poured in 23 points and hit a few huge threes late in the fourth, but outside of him, AG and a mad-hustle Facundo Campazzo no one else hit double figures for the Nuggets.
This game could have been a complete disaster for the Nuggets but in the end it was one of the more entertaining matches of the season. Deja vu isn’t even the right word to describe when the bench comes in and blows a lead (even without Jokic to add to the disparity), but when that happened tonight the subs responded pretty much the rest of the game. The bench finsihed with 33 points and really kept Denver alive in the third after the Bulls came out swinging in the second half and built up a double-digit lead.
Still, it’s unfortunate the Nuggets couldn’t split this two-game homestand and now head into the toughest stretch of the season by far on a three-game losing streak. Buckle up.