With Mike Dunleavy, Pau Gasol, Nikola Mirotic and Joakim Noah all sidelined, the Chicago Bulls had to resort to using both Cameron Bairstow and E’Twaun Moore in the starting lineup. As if that injury list wasn’t long enough, the Bulls added Jimmy Butler‘s name to it after a fall he took prior to halftime, making it more difficult to pull off a win.
The Bulls appeared to have a chance of winning their first game in Denver since 2006 despite Butler’s fall, but, in the end, they couldn’t handle it and, instead, took a 115-110 loss to the Nuggets.
The Bulls lost Butler after a drive to the basket late in the second quarter. Butler was fouled by Denver’s Joffery Lauvergne at the 1:06 mark, took a hard fall as a result and started clutching at his left knee. He was down for a bit before a wheelchair was taken out for him, but Butler is a tough guy. He wanted his pair of free throws, so he got up out of the chair and attempted a pair of free throws, strictly using his arms to get enough power for the shots.
Butler split the pair of free throws and then limped his way back to the wheelchair, making his way back to the locker room a little earlier than expected.
The Bulls went into halftime with a slim 57-55 lead after the Nuggets had an eight-point lead earlier. It was the combined effort of Butler, Taj Gibson and Derrick Rose who really kept the Bulls in the game — they were the Bulls’ only double digit scorers at halftime. In fact, Butler was the Bulls’ leading scorer at the time with 19 points.
Butler wouldn’t return to the game with his injury being diagnosed as a left knee strain, but the Bulls survived without him — to start anyway.
The Bulls came out strong on both ends of the court in the third quarter. They opened the period with a 7-2 run, setting the pace and gaining momentum. They were aggressive on both ends of the court, making it for their best quarter of the game: The Bulls scored 32 points and held the Nuggets to 18 points in the third.
It all went downhill for the Bulls in the final 12 minutes of the game, though.
The Bulls’ defense took a major hit, as they allowed the Nuggets to post a whopping 42 points in the fourth quarter. The Nuggets wiped away the 18-point deficit they entered the fourth quarter with while the Bulls struggled to find the efficient offense they had in the third quarter.
The Bulls, now 27-22, had their biggest contributions come from their starting backcourt: Rose ended the game as the team’s leading scorer with a near triple-double of 30 points, nine rebounds, eight assists on 13-of-27 shooting. Butler, despite playing only 18 minutes in the first half, was the team’s second-leading scorer with 19 points on 6-of-8 from the field and 7-for-9 from the charity stripe.
Ashley is the owner/editor of The Bulls Charge. Follow her on Twitter at @wijangco12.