Chicago Bulls let another late lead slip away at Denver

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray, front, drives past Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine in the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, March 19, 2021, in Denver.

    Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray, front, drives past Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine in the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, March 19, 2021, in Denver.

 
 
Updated 3/19/2021 11:06 PM

The Bulls getting off to a fast start with their new lineup became a full-fledged trend Friday in Denver.

It was the fourth straight game the Bulls led by at least 8 points at halftime, since moving veterans Thad Young and Tomas Satoransky into the starting group.

 

Last time out, they were playing the second leg of back-to-back games and lost to San Antonio. This time, they were dealing with the high altitude in Denver.

The Bulls wobbled, faded and were gasping for breath at times but seemed to have the game in hand. They, however, lost another heartbreaker 131-127.

"We play like a self-fulfilling prophecy," Bulls coach Billy Donovan said. "The amount of things we had to do to put them in a position to win the game was mind-boggling. It's a great challenge for our team. I get the sense, I see, 'Here we go again. Uh-oh.'

"For us to become the team I think we can become ... this is an area that we have to overcome. It wasn't one play, it was a lot of plays.

"We've got to be able to make winning plays at winning time. We can blame it on a lot of things. We can blame it on youth, inexperience, all of that stuff. I don't buy it. We've got to be able to do it."

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The Bulls led by 14 early in the fourth quarter, but Jamal Murray finished a late Denver flurry by burying a 3-pointer with 0.4 seconds on the clock to force overtime.

Murray then opened the extra session with another 3-pointer and the Nuggets eventually scored the first 9 points. Murray finished with 32 points.

The Bulls seemed to do a better job for most of the night against all-star center Nikola Jokic, but by the time the comeback was over he had 34 points, 15 rebounds and 9 assists.

Zach LaVine scored 8 of his 32 points in overtime, but the Bulls couldn't get the defensive stop they needed at the end.

The loss extended the Bulls' losing streak in Denver to 13 in a row. They haven't won in Denver since Feb. 8, 2006, when Ben Gordon poured in 30 points and Darius Songaila added 21 to deliver a 110-107 victory.

Besides Murray's heroics in this game, the Bulls also have lost on buzzer-beaters by Will Barton and Carmelo Anthony during the Denver skid.

Trailing by 1 late with just under three minutes left, the Bulls went on a 7-0 run, which included an Otto Porter 3-pointer, LaVine pullup jumper and Coby White lay-in.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The Nuggets had one more run left, though, with Jokic hitting a 3-pointer, then Murray scored on a lane drive to make it 114-113 with 18.3 seconds left.

LaVine knocked down 2 free throws with 16 seconds left, which gave the Bulls a 3-point lead. Denver used most of the clock to find an open 3-pointer and succeeded when Jokic found Murray isolated on Young. One quick juke and Murray got a clean look in the corner.

This game also demonstrated that Porter really helps the Bulls when he's playing well. He scored 22 points Friday, his highest-scoring game since he had 28 on Dec. 31 in Washington.

There's never been much question that Porter is a talented, versatile player who can make a difference for the Bulls. He just hasn't been on the court very often since arriving in a trade from Washington, because of various injuries.

The Bulls seemed to have the proper response when Denver closed within 91-87 early in the fourth quarter. White drained a 3-pointer on the next trip and the Bulls scored the next 9 points. Another White 3-pointer put the Bulls in command 103-89 with 8:05 remaining.

Turns out they weren't in control. The Nuggets roared back and took a 108-107 lead with 2:51 left when Murray drained a 3-pointer off a Bulls turnover. It was Denver's first lead of the game since 7-6.

The Bulls seemed to lose their momentum after building a 14-point lead when White was called for a flagrant foul for inadvertently stepping in Michael Porter Jr.'s landing space while trying to contest a 3-pointer. Porter knocked down 3 free throws, and the Nuggets kept possession and quickly scored again for a 5-point gain.

• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls

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