That didn’t look anything like the Chicago Bulls that has been a defensive force and a top-four team in the East despite missing the recent league MVP that leads their offense.
That did look everything like the hot Denver Nuggets that came into Thursday having won seven in a row, 21 of 24 at home and were running at the fastest pace in the NBA the last 10 games, blowing teams away in the midst of an offensive explosion.
The result was the Nuggets running right past a Bulls team that was slow to get back in transition, Denver putting on a dunking exhibition led by Kenneth Faried (21 points on the night), pulling away in the third quarter and eventually routing the Bulls 128-96.
I imagine TNT’s ratings dropped way off as this game went on. There wasn’t much to see, save for the Nuggets getting dunking practice.
For the Bulls, this is a game they should flush. Just forget about it. Shower off, clean up and flush this one away. The effort, the defensive intensity that have come to characterize Tom Thibodeau’s Bulls was apparently left in the hotel room. Chicago gave up more points in this game than they have any night in the Thibodeau era. Yet, because of how the Bulls play most nights it’s easy to just thing of this as a one-off and forget it. Just go to sleep tonight dreaming of Derrick Rose’s return.
For Denver, this fit with and reinforces everything they have done lately — they just used their athletic ability to run past a Bulls team that could not keep up. Faried had his 21 points on 9-of-10 shooting, Ty Lawson had 16 points and 12 assists playing with an amazing confidence, and Wilson Chandler came off the bench to drop 24 and look like the guy they thought they traded for.
Denver is a good team.
Denver has solidly moved into the top four in the West — they are ahead of a Grizzlies team trying to figure out its rotations again after a roster shakeup, the only team with a real shot at catching them is Golden State (the six seed, 1.5 games back). If the Nuggets can stay hot and get home court in the first round, there is a real chance of advancing past that level. Which is a good goal for this team. And lately they have looked like a team that can reach that level.