Photo via: The Associated Press
The Denver Nuggets took down the Chicago Bulls in dominating fashion in Chicago 135-102. It was a much-needed bounce-back effort from a Nuggets team that remains without one of its stars for the time being, as Gary Harris recovers from his knee injury, and as the team remains in the midst of their seven-game road trip. The Nuggets were led by a dynamic duo of Nikola Jokic (21 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists) and Paul Millsap (22 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 steals) who shot a combined 17/20 for the game. Ultimately, the game ended up being a dominating team effort with six Nuggets scoring in double figures by halftime. Bobby Portis led the way for the Bulls with 15 points, doing most of his damage early in the game as Felicio put together a team-high 16 points with some in garbage time.
You got the sense it would be a special night for the Joker from the opening minutes all throughout the first quarter as he ended the quarter a perfect 4/4. Coincidentally, this supports the idea that Jokic performs better playing for large Serbian crowds with the contingent in the stands in Chicago. Paul Millsap also posted an encouraging first quarter with 11 points on 4/5 shooting, and although the wrist doesn’t look fully healthy yet, he did put together his best start to a game offensively since his return.
Jokic kept it cooking in the second, shooting a perfect 7/7 and 1/1 from the free throw line through the 3:08 mark of the second. Even with Gary Harris out there was still a key first half performance from Devin Harris as he contributed 11 points in his continued extended first half minutes off the bench.
The Nuggets did give those fans who were watching a bit of a scare that the mental focus may not have been totally solved after a stretch of five straight possessions ending in turnovers, but fortunately were able to collect themselves, being up by 20 points as they were. Although this clearly wasn’t top notch offensive competition for the Nuggets defense it was encouraging to see the Nuggets allow 25 points or less in each of the first two quarters as they put on an offensive show to get out to a 77-46 halftime lead. The 77 points marked a season-high for a Nuggets first half this season.
Fortunately the domination didn’t stop in the first half as the Nuggets were finally able to close out a team in the third quarter. In large part because of the offensive barrage of threes that extended their lead to 37 points with three minutes to go in the third.
This is just target practice out here. The Nuggets have 13 3-pointers and are up to 102 points with 3:08 still left in the third. The lead is nearly 40 points…
— Chris Dempsey (@chrisadempsey) March 22, 2018
The lead did reach 40 points by the end of the third quarter as the Nuggets were able to play hard enough so that they were able to rest and coast through the fourth quarter. The Nuggets even got some attention from Bleacher Report for their effort.
— Bleacher Report NBA (@BR_NBA) March 22, 2018
This was a game that the Nuggets had to have, and thankfully they got it. The final three games of this road trip will all be against formidable Eastern Conference playoff opponents in their building. Not to mention the three games will take place in the span of four nights, a stretch that the Nuggets have generally struggled with, as most teams do. However, if the Nuggets were able to steal one, or even two of these games, suddenly the playoff outlook would look a lot brighter heading down the home stretch.
The Nuggets road record now improves to 12-23. With three games each against playoff teams from both conferences remaining on the road, it would be huge to split the remaining six road games. It all begins Friday night on national TV against the Wizards.