Nuggets 128, Bulls 96: Just one of those nights…

The Bulls got their butts kicked last night. It’s pretty much that simple.

The Nuggets put on an offensive show. As you can see from the Four Factors in the Basketball-Reference box score, Denver finished with a Effective Field Goal Percentage of 63.4 percent and scored at a phenomenal rate of 143.9 points per 100 possessions. What’s more, their Offensive Rebound Rate was 47.1 percent. In other words, the Nuggets barely misfired last night, but they rebounded nearly half of those rare misses.

The Nuggets sprinted out for 23 fast break points. They scored 66 points in the paint. Although, to be fair, the Bulls put up little resistance regardless of where the Nuggets tried to score from. Denver’s 128 points were a season-best and the highest scoring total of any Bulls opponent.

Joakim Noah — who returned from a plantar fasciitis flareup in his right foot — said: “We didn’t play well defensively. We didn’t play well offensively. They beat us down the court every time. Just an embarrassing loss.”

A very embarrassing loss. And, as ESPNChicago’s Nick Freidell writes, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau was furious.

Said Thibs: “What we have to do to win is defend, rebound, keep our turnovers down. [Be] inside-out and share the ball. When we start making it up, we start taking shortcuts. We’re going to get our ass kicked, that’s what it’s going to be. It’s not the way to win in this league. We’re kidding ourselves. Just kidding ourselves.”

The Bulls played poorly all night, but the third quarter was when they stuck their heads into the guillotine. During that horrific 12-minute sequence, Chicago shot 6-for-22 from the field and got outscored 37-16.

Here’s how bad the Bulls were playing. With 6:40 left in third, Thibodeau called a full timeout to stop an 8-2 run by the Nuggets. The Bulls responded with three straight turnovers, which included two terrible passes by Noah and a Luol Deng drive in which Ty Lawson ripped the ball away from him.

Then, after those three consecutive turnovers, Noah tried a drive of his own only to get tied up by Kenneth Faried. The Bulls won the tip, but Deng missed an 11-footer which led to another embarrassing sequence. Lawson missed a 16-footer, but nobody boxed out JaVale McGee, who missed a wide-open tip shot, then grabbed another uncontested offensive rebound and threw down a vicious dunk.

A couple possessions later, after a turnover by Marquis Teague, McGee beat everybody down the court hammered down another dunk off a pass by Andre Iguodala. About a minute later, McGee ran out for another slammer off another Teague turnover, this time from a pass by Lawson.

Imagine being Tom Thibodea and watching McGee — a mercurial and inconsistent player about whom Denver coach George Karl recently said “He’s got to understand that lazy and crazy isn’t going to make it work” — outwork and outrun his team. His blood must have been boiling.

Said Thibs: “Until we change [the defense], the result’s not going to be good. We’re trying to make it an offensive game and the ball’s going wherever they want the ball to go. We’re not containing the ball, not keeping it out of the paint, not challenging shots, not rebounding the ball. It’s very difficult to win like that.”

Actually, it’s impossible to win the way the Bulls were playing last night. As embarrassing as McGee’s dunk contest was, it was even more embarrassing to watch one of the league’s best defenses get sliced-and-diced by Faried (21 points, 9-for-10, 12 rebounds) and Wilson Chandler (24 points, 8-for-9, 5-for-5 on threes).

Said Karl: “Wilson and Kenneth, what an incredible performance. That’s 45 points on 19 shots. I’ll take that every night.”

Added Faried: “I came out with a mindset tonight just to dominate. I just wanted to come out and make a statement, and Wilson came out and did the same thing. Our team did the same thing, wanted to come out and make a statement in a nationally televised game. We did what we had to do tonight.”

And the Bulls didn’t.

I mean, it says something that the team’s leading scorer was Daequan Cook (19 points on 6-for-16 shooting).

Boozer played a strong offensive game, scoring 18 points on 9-for-15 shooting in 22 minutes in the shadow of rumors that he could be traded to the Toronto Raptors for Andrea Bargnani, but he grabbed only 3 rebounds. Nate Robinson scored 14 points on eight shots and dished out 6 assists, but he couldn’t keep anybody in front of him. Noah struggled to convert one of his field shot attempts and nabbed only 5 boards. Rip Hamilton (1-for-7) was terrible. Deng (4-for-13 with 4 turnovers) wasn’t much better.

And of course Kirk Hinrich (elbow injury) and Marco Belinelli (ankle injury) didn’t play.

It was a bad night. And embarrassing night. But meltdowns happen in the NBA. Especially when teams are missing their superstar and dealing with a host of other injuries. Plus the Bulls are on one of those dreaded long winter road trips.

Today’s another day. Hopefully they play better in Utah.

Extras:
Recap, Box Score, Advanced Box Score, Play-by-Play, Shot Chart.

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