EditorsNote: rewords fifth graf
Scoring 113 points in the first three quarters Wednesday night, the Denver Nuggets moved within 1 1/2 games of the Utah Jazz for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference by embarrassing the host Chicago Bulls 135-102 at the United Center.
Seven players scored in double figures for Denver, which improved to 39-33 with 10 games remaining. Paul Millsap led the balanced attack with 22 points, going 8 of 9 from the field, and he also grabbed a team-high eight rebounds.
Nikola Jokic added 21 points on 9-of-11 shooting, seven rebounds and five assists in only 24 minutes, while Wilson Chandler chipped in 19 points and five rebounds. Will Barton and Jamal Murray each scored 16 points, Murray doling out seven assists and Barton dishing out five.
Off the bench, Devin Harris tallied 14 points and compiled five assists, while Trey Lyles netted 10 points. The Nuggets feasted on some less-than-impressive defense by the Bulls, sinking 61.4 percent of their field-goal attempts and going 20 of 35 from the 3-point arc.
Seven men also reached double figures for Chicago, paced by 16 points from center Cristiano Felicio. Bobby Portis contributed 15 and eight rebounds off the bench, while Noah Vonleh added 14 points and eight boards in a reserve role.
Cameron Payne and reserve David Nwaba each scored 11, while Denzel Valentine and reserve Derian Grant hit for 10 points each. The Bulls made 43.8 percent of their field-goal attempts and were outboarded 45-34.
Denver set the tone right away by hitting threes on its first two possessions. While Chicago took a brief lead, the Nuggets pulled away later in the quarter, owning a 39-25 advantage thanks to a Harris three in the final minute.
Chandler’s put-back with 5:52 left in the second quarter pushed the lead to 20 for the first time at 59-39. Murray’s three-point play in the final minute made it a 77-46 rout at the half.
Denver reached the 100 mark with 3:08 remaining in the third quarter on a Chandler 3-pointer, then pushed the lead to 113-70 going to the fourth period.
—Field Level Media