The Denver Nuggets entered their matchup with the Chicago Bulls having won four of their last five games and eight of their last nine meetings with the Bulls at home.
But despite their hot-streak and homecourt advantage, Denver found themselves in a dogfight until the fourth quarter before they pulled away for a 114-101 win, largely due to a game-high 28 points from Ben Gordon.
Gordon shot 7-of-13 from the field, 5-of-7 from the three-point line, and 9-of-9 from the free throw line. Gordon scored 15 of his game-high 28 points in the second quarter to help erase a 9-point first quarter deficit and cut Denver’s lead to 4 heading into the second half.
Drew Gooden scored 21 points on 8-of-17 from the field and grabbed 7 rebounds.
Bulls forward Luol Deng, sidelined by a left hamstring strain, was replaced in the starting lineup by Joakim Noah. Noah struggled from the field (1-of-4) but led the Bulls with 9 rebounds. Chicago entered the game fifth in offensive rebounding and scored 18 second-chance points behind Noah’s 5 offensive snares.
Kenyon Martin led a balanced Nuggets attack with 26 points on 10-of-10 from the field. Martin scored 9 of his team-high 26 points over the final 5:05 to help the Nuggets close the game on an 18-2 run.
Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, and Nene paced the Nuggets with 21 points a piece.
Denver took advantage of Chicago’s three-guard lineup by punishing the Bulls inside. The Nuggets outscored the Bulls 50-32 in points in the paint.
“We’ve got to get used to scrambling when we have that small lineup out there,” Gordon said. “It’s definitely not every man for himself. We’ve got to cover for each other, but when a team gets the ball at the front of the rim, there’s not much you can do.”
Denver outrebounded the Bulls 41-39, including a 15-7 advantage in the fourth quarter.
Chicago entered the game 27th in points scored per 100 possessions, but hung tough with Denver through three quarters. Chicago’s offense is designed to feature the strengths of rookie point guard Derrick Rose. Rose is lighting quick, so whenever possible, the Bulls look to the push the ball in transition.
When forced into the half-court, Chicago’s offense consists of Rose running pick-and-rolls with Gooden, Nocioni, or Noah at the top of the key, while Gordon and Hughes space the floor by spotting up around the three-point line. The Bulls were moderately successful with this scheme through three quarters, but their offense came to a screeching halt when the Nuggets switched up their defensive strategy in the final period. [Read]