Chicago Bulls' scoring can't keep up with bad defense in loss to Denver

For a while Tuesday night, the Chicago Bulls seemed to be enjoying their arrival as an offensive powerhouse.

They scored 59 points in the first half against Denver and opened an 8-point lead early in the third quarter. Then the Bulls stopped making shots and the visiting Nuggets never took their foot off the gas.

Denver went on a 32-10 run in just more than eight minutes and knocked the Bulls back to reality with a 125-107 victory. The Bulls failed to produce a season-high five-game winning streak and have Golden State coming to town Thursday.

"We just stopped being aggressive, stopped getting stops," Bulls forward Jimmy Butler said. "It's hard to win when we're doing that. It's easily correctable - just guard."

The Bulls (30-30) continued an odd trend of playing to the level of competition. They are 9-9 in home games against teams with a losing record, compared to 9-3 against opponents currently .500 or better.

The final stats told an ugly story. The Nuggets scored 103 points in the final three quarters while hitting 35 of 59 shots from the field (59 percent).

"I thought our movement was terrific in the first half. We were getting the ball up the floor," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "We lost all that. A lot of that, I though the shots we missed deflated us.

"When you miss shots like that, you have to find a way to buck up and get stops on the other end. We didn't do that. It went the other way. We lost our energy on the defensive end. I thought our lack of shot-making affected us in a big way."

Butler had an off night, going 3-for-13 from the field for 8 points. He tried to get himself right late in the third quarter and had no luck, which helped ignite the Bulls' downfall.

"I haven't been in a rhythm in awhile now," he said. "It's OK, though. I'll find a rhythm. I'll still make some shots. Shoot the ball with confidence, do what I do. I'm not worried about it."

The Bulls can blame a lack of continuity after the trade-deadline deal with Oklahoma City. In reality, though, newcomer Cameron Payne logged just 17 minutes off the bench, while Anthony Morrow and Joffrey Lauvergne got four minutes of garbage time.

For most of the game, the Bulls had guys on the floor who have been with the team all season and should know better. Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade led the team with 19 points each. Bobby Portis added 12, but otherwise the young guys didn't come through.

"We've had one practice (since the trade)," Hoiberg said. "We've just got to continue to get those guys as comfortable as possible as quickly as possible. It's tough doing it on the fly, but multiple teams are doing it right now and we've got to hopefully do the best we can."

Bulls led 79-78 with 3:08 left in the third quarter after Rondo hit a jumper. What happened next was fairly straightforward - the Bulls missed some shots and played no defense. Denver scored on six of its final seven possessions in the third quarter to lead 91-83 heading into the fourth.

Nothing changed after the quarter timeout. Rondo had one of his best scoring nights of the season but couldn't get anything going with a lineup of reserves. Denver's lead eventually hit 110-89 with 7:25 remaining.

Nuggets center Nikola Jokic produced a triple-double with 19 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists, then posed with a big crowd of Serbian fans after the game. Danilo Gallinari added 22 points.

• Follow Mike's Bulls reports on Twitter @McGrawDHBulls.

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