Bulls lose Gasol, Butler and then game to Nuggets


Feb 5

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The Bulls Friday lost Pau Gasol before the game, Jimmy Butler during the game and in the end they lost an 18-point third quarter lead and the game in the last seconds, the Denver Nuggets coming all the way back for a 115-110 victory.

The Bulls were led by Derrick Rose with 30 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. Butler had all his 19 points in the first half. Taj Gibson had 18 points and Doug McDermott 15 points off the bench. Danilo Gallinari had 33 for Denver and rookie Emmanuel Mudiay 22 points. The Nuggets outscored the Bulls 42-21 in the fourth quarter to set their franchise record for biggest comeback in a third quarter deficit, It was the Bulls ninth straight loss in Denver.

The Bulls had to go against the Nuggets without Pau Gasol, who jammed his hand against McDermott in Sacramento but finished the game. Gasol had swelling on fingers with both hands and could not play. It was Gasol’s first game missed this season with injury. He rested a game in December. Gasol was replaced as a starter by Cameron Bairstow, though Mike Dunleavy could make his season debut Saturday in Minneapolis. Butler was back from his sore knee and he and Rose combined for the early offense, though this time without Gasol the Bulls were the smaller team after outrebounding the Nuggets in Chicago in December. The Bulls were outrebounded 10-2 in the first five minutes with Denver leading 20-17.

The Bulls then suffered a brutal stretch when Rose went out with three turnovers in seven possessions and three of four missed free throws in two others as the Nuggets took a 30-26 lead after one quarter. Butler had 10 points, but the Nuggets got 10 free throws attacking the basket without Gasol at the rim. The Nuggets opened up a 38-28 lead early in the second quarter as they stretched their rebounding edge to 19-7. But Rose got going driving to the basket as the Bulls got within 36-35 with seven minutes in the half on a McDermott three. Butler had difficulty controlling the taller Gallinari on defense, but Butler used his strength to force himself to the line to lead the Bulls in first half scoring with 19 points. But the Bulls and Butler got a blow with 1:06 left in the first half when Joffrey Lauvergne fouled Butler hard on a drive. Butler stayed down with an apparent leg or knee injury for several minutes. Butler got up to shoot the free throws. If he didn’t he would have been out of the game for good. But as soon as Butler shot the free throws he was wheeled off t he court in a wheelchair-like cart. The Bulls led 57-55 at halftime as Rose had 13 points and a team high eight rebounds at the half. Denver had a 27-18 rebounding advantage.

Butler didn’t return after halftime as Tony Snell went in for him with Bairstow still in for Gasol. But with the Bulls playing small first behind Rose they rolled to a 70-61 lead midway through the third quarter, Gibson finishing on a neat inside pass from Bobby Portis after an offensive rebound. Then McDermott had a run with seven points in two minutes as the Bulls took an 89-73 lead into the fourth quarter after leading by as much as 18. The Bulls have had trouble holding onto fourth quarter leads, and the Nuggets came to life to start the fourth quarter with a 16-6 run to start the quarter as the Bulls only had a pair of Rose scores and a Gibson follow. The Nuggets kept coming with rare back to back three pointers from big man Nikola Jokic. Rose and McDermott answered with the Bulls holding onto a 102-97 lead with 5:20 left. The Nuggets kept coming as they finally began making their jump shots and with 2:56 left it was tied at 105. Denver took their first second half lead at 109-108 on a Gallinari jumper that bounced up and back in with 51.2 seconds left.

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