Ty Lawson got the message. Denver coach George Karl told him to push it and that’s what he did Monday night. Right at the Chicago Bulls.
Lawson and the Nuggets were able to speed up the pace, move and share the ball, get to the rim and shoot 50 percent in beating the Bulls 108-91.
”He’s been telling me to be more aggressive. He says when I’m aggressive things happen. That’s what I’m going to try and do from now on for the rest of the season,” Lawson said of the advice from Karl.
”When the ball came off the rim we were running. Even when they scored, we were trying to run it right back down their throat,” Lawson added.
The Nuggets also outrebounded the Bulls – the NBA’s best team on the boards entering the game – by 45-32, forced them into 16 turnovers and outscored Chicago 54-24 in the paint.
Denver, tied with Oklahoma City as the league’s highest scoring team entering play Monday, got the final six points of the second quarter and then started the third on a 10-0 run to take a 64-52 lead, one it would eventually build to 16 later in the quarter.
”Every game we lost teams have come out in the third quarter and hit us in the face,” Lawson said, So he did something about it.
Behind Lawson’s nine points, the Nuggets outscored the Bulls 27-16 in the period to go up 81-68. The Bulls went nearly five minutes before hitting their first second-half field goal and were just 5 of 16 in the pivotal third quarter.
”That was the best defensive quarter we’ve had in a long time,” Karl said. ”We kind of caught them in a flat mode. That’s probably the best we played in the second half in a long time. … We kind of wore them down a little bit.”
Lawson matched his season with 27 points, Arron Afflalo had 22 and Al Harrington 17 for the Nuggets, scrapping for a playoff spot in the West.
”If you let them get going they are a hard team to slow down,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. ”That was not our type of game. It was up and down, free and easy. … We never got established defensively.”
C.J. Watson scored 17 points and John Lucas III, Carlos Boozer and Kyle Korver added 14 points each for the Bulls. Chicago star Derrick Rose sat out his seventh straight game with a groin injury and the Bulls seemed to be out of sync most of the night, especially on defense.
Chicago leads the NBA with 40 wins and has already clinched a playoff spot. The Bulls are 12-5 without the reigning MVP, but they haven’t played well in last three games without him – twice needing rallies to beat Toronto and then being thoroughly outplayed by the Nuggets.
”We miss him when we win. Come on, it’s Derrick Rose,” Korver said. ”It wasn’t scoring points, though. We’ve won a lot of games scoring 91 points or less. We just got to play better defense and we can do that with or without Derrick.”
Afflalo, back after being suspended one game for throwing an elbow at Jazz forward Gordon Hayward’s head on March 23, scored 11 first-quarter points. He had six of those and Harrington had a pair of 3-pointers in a 12-0 run. Chicago got the final six of the period for a two-point lead. Denver was up two at the half.
Notes: The Nuggets are 13-1 this season against Eastern Conference teams. … JaVale McGee replaced Timofey Mozgov in Denver’s starting lineup at center. Coach George Karl saying his team needed to experiment. … F Danilo Gallinari, Denver’s scoring leader, missed his fourth straight game with a fractured left thumb. … Bulls G Richard Hamilton, who has played in only 16 games this season, sat again with a shoulder injury.