The Denver Nuggets defense was absent for most of the night. They got a stop with the game on the line and sent Chicago to another loss in Colorado.
Jamal Murray, a rookie out of the University of Kentucky, scored a season-high 24 points, Will Barton hit two free throws with 9.5 seconds left and the Nuggets beat the Bulls 110-107 on Tuesday night.
It was Denver’s 10th straight home win over the Bulls and its 16th in the last 17 meetings at Pepsi Center.
The Bulls were in control early but the Nuggets used a 22-0 run at the start of the second quarter to take a 41-31 lead. Murray had 15 of his 17 first-half points in the period and Wilson Chandler scored 12 of his 16 in the second quarter.
“It just takes one shot to have confidence,” Murray said. “It doesn’t take me long to get hot. I think every shot is going in. If I miss I don’t worry about it.”
The Nuggets survived a 35-point, eight-rebound night from Jimmy Butler to keep Chicago winless in Denver since Feb. 8, 2006. Dwyane Wade had 22 points after sitting out Sunday’s game against the Lakers.
Butler insisted the streak wasn’t weighing on the team’s mind.
“It’s a basketball court with two rims, two backboards and a ball,” he said. “At the end of the day put the ball in the basket, do everything you can do in every other city and win the game.”
Chicago had a chance to end the streak but with the game tied Barton was fouled by Wade on a drive to the basket, and he hit two free throws left to give Denver a 109-107 lead.
“We are going to put the ball in Will Barton’s hands, let him attack downhill,” Nuggets Coach Michael Malone said. “If he draws a crowd, let him get the ball to Murray, who had been shooting the ball light’s out, on the back side to make a shot.”
The Bulls called timeout and Fred Hoiberg drew up a play for Butler, but Denver shut it down.
“Kenneth Faried was standing in the paint so I didn’t have nowhere to go,” Butler said.
Wade got the ball to Isaiah Cannon, coming around the defense but shot an airball on a three-point attempt and the Nuggets got the ball.
“We got a shot from a very good 3-point shooter. We’re fine with it,” Wade said. “We had a chance to come in and get one and we didn’t.”
The Nuggets’ bench scored 39 of their 41 points in the second quarter and outscored the Bulls reserves 61-13 for the game. Three of Denver’s double-digit scorers came off the bench.
“Our bench was phenomenal tonight,” Malone said.