DENVER - Zach LaVine scored 12 of his 36 points in a pivotal stretch of the fourth quarter, DeMar DeRozan hit eight straight late free throws and the Chicago Bulls won in Denver for the first time since 2006, beating a Nuggets team 114-108 on Friday night that was without reigning MVP Nikola Jokic.
DeRozan finished 26 points, including a 12-for-12 performance at the line. LaVine and DeRozan were sizzling late in helping the Bulls end a 13-game skid in the Mile High City. The last time they won in Denver was Feb. 8, 2006.
LaVine was 5 of 6 down the stretch including two 3-pointers. He answered all of Denver’s big buckets. LaVine has now scored 20 or more points 15 times this season, tied with Kevin Durant of Brooklyn for most in the league.
Aaron Gordon had a season-high 28 points for the Nuggets, who’ve dropped three straight. Will Barton finished with 23 points.
Jokic sat courtside in a tan suit with a dark turtleneck, his sprained right wrist in a brace. He appeared to hurt the wrist on Thursday night in a lopsided loss to Philadelphia.
The Nuggets big man is having another MVP-caliber season, averaging 26.4 points, 13.6 rebounds and 6.4 assists.
This was the second game Jokic has missed this season. He was out in a win over Indiana on Nov. 10 as he served a one-game suspension for his role in a fracas with Miami’s Markieff Morris.
Chicago was supported by a vocal contingent of Bulls fans. They may have been at their loudest on a slam by LaVine with 3:13 left in the third quarter to make it 77-65. Denver quickly called timeout.
The timeout worked and Denver climbed back into the game — until LaVine and DeRozan took over.
Bulls: The team finished 8 of 31 from 3-point range. ... The Bulls finished their five-game trip with a 3-2 mark.
Nuggets: G Facundo Campazzo had 16 points, including 4 of 5 from 3-point land. ... Denver was outrebounded 50-38. ... Barton had a driving layup where he was fouled and lost his right shoe.
SORTING IT OUT
The Nuggets had three max-contract players on the bench in Jokic, point guard Jamal Murray, who’s working his way back from a torn ACL, and long-range threat Michael Porter Jr. (back).
"I do my sub chart for every game and at the bottom of that are the guys that are out," Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. "You see, ‘Jamal Murray, out.’ You see ‘Michael Porter, out.’ You see, "Nikola Jokic, out,’ and you say, ’Man, that’s a lot of talented players that are out.’"
Bulls coach Billy Donovan explained that based on testing Nikola Vucevic (COVID-19 protocols) "looks like he’s progressing towards getting over this."
Donovan added: "Hopefully, the next step once he does, is being able to put him in a situation where he can start to do some cardiovascular screening, just to see where he’s at physically."
Vucevic missed a fifth straight game.
Bulls: Start a back-to-back at home Sunday against New York.
Nuggets: A two-game trip begins Sunday in Phoenix.