Let me start off by saying I hate these late games. I also hate these late games in Denver, because the Bulls always stink in them. Chicago entered Thursday night's tilt on TNT not having won in Denver in pretty much forever (2006, I believe), and it was same old, same old as the Nuggets used a huge run at the outset of the fourth quarter to beat the Bulls in the first game of the Circus Trip, 97-87.
Despite playing rather poorly for a good portion of the first three quarters, the Bulls were still only down eight heading into the fourth quarter. But the Nuggets' bench put the game out of reach, with Nate Robinson and Jordan Hamilton buoying a 13-0 run to start the quarter. Our old friend Nate was quiet for much of the night, but his two three's during the run were huge, and one of them led to a Tom Thibodeau technical foul.
Denver's bench was a huge factor all night, finishing with 49 points. Hamilton led that group with 17 points, which was also a team-high. Meanwhile, the Bulls' lack of quality depth showed without Jimmy Butler, as the bench tallied just 21 points. Marquis Teague was pretty terrible in his 15 minutes of action, while Tony Snell almost inexplicably didn't get any meaningful minutes despite the Bulls' glaring lack of shooting.
The Bulls shot just 39.2 percent for the night and made only 3-of-10 from three, with two of those threes coming from Mike Dunleavy, who started in place of Butler. Dunleavy tried to get the Bulls in it late with a flurry of jumpers, but it was to no avail. Luol Deng shot a woeful 3-of-18 after a string of good games, while Carlos Boozer put up a very Boozer-esque double-double. And by that I mean an empty double-double where he was mostly bad but still wound up with a double-double.
While the Bulls' offense generally stunk for much of the night, they were able to keep it close before the Nuggets' backbreaking run thanks to some stellar offensive rebounding. The Bulls grabbed 22 offensive rebounds on the night, and those boards led to 24 second-chance points. For a stretch, it looked like the Bulls from a few years ago with Derrick Rose dominating and the Bulls getting a bunch of points off offensive rebounds.
Ah yes, Derrick Rose. The real bummer about all this is that it looked like Rose was on the verge of breaking out in this one. Rose looked a lot like his old self in the first half, scoring 15 points on 7-of-12 shooting. He was finishing well at the rim and knocked down a couple nice floaters.
The second half, however, was a whole different story. Rose managed just four points on 2-of-8 shooting, finishing the night with 19 points on 9-of-20 shooting. So yep, that's more shots than points once again. He only attempted one free throw (that he missed), continuing the frustrating trend of him not getting to the line. And his jumper looked absolutely terrible. At least he did a nice job on Ty Lawson?
On a more positive note, Joakim Noah played well. Noah was on Triple Double Watch early and came pretty darn close to one, finishing with 11 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists. Jo's defense did leave a little something to be desired, but the whole defense was kind of off kilter for much of the night.
Things won't get any easier for the Bulls tomorrow, as they travel to Portland to take on the red-hot Blazers. I really don't have a good feeling about that one, but maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised.