Nuggets squeak out a preseason win against Bulls

Chicago Bulls forward Bobby Portis (5) fouls Denver Nuggets center Mason Plumlee (24) during the second half at the United Center
Mar 21, 2018; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls forward Bobby Portis (5) fouls Denver Nuggets center Mason Plumlee (24) during the second half at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone used the final preseason game against the Chicago Bulls as a dress rehearsal and the players treated it in the same manner. For the first time this preseason, Denver’s starters played with purpose before eventually handing the keys to the second unit to close out Chicago. There was more energy and effort from the starters and Denver squeaked out a win over the Bulls by a score of 98-93 to finish the preseason with a 4-1 record.

Denver is a team known for their offense, but it was the defense that was the story of the game. Denver forced 17 turnovers and had 13 steals while also holding the Bulls to just 93 points to highlight the win.

The beginning of the first quarter was a bit of a slower pace as both teams attempted to feel each other out. As soon as each team got comfortable, the points started pouring in. It was Denver’s defense that stepped up and set the tone early and their stringent defense set up their offense. At the end of the first quarter Denver forced six turnovers and got out and scored in transition which got them off to a 33-24 lead at the end of the quarter. Will Barton led at the end of the first with nine points as Jamal Murray and Gary Harris both went for seven points apiece including this jam from Murray.

The second quarter was a quarter of runs starting with the Bulls, who threw the first punch. Denver’s bench unit — who has been the surprise of the preseason for the Nuggets — did not have the same success they had in the first four preseason games. The Bulls completely eliminated their 14-point deficit before Jokic mercifully put an end to the bleeding and started Denver’s push. After Chicago tied the game at 43, Denver went on a run of their own thanks to their starters and took a 57-45 lead into halftime.

Denver forced 14 turnovers in the first half and were paced by Barton’s 12 points. He finished the game with 13 points, six rebounds and seven assists.

Denver’s starters began the third quarter with a 7-2 run and extended their lead to ten points by the end of the frame. Malone elected to go with the second unit to finish out the game instead of risking injury to his starting unit. Denver’s bench went ice cold from the field in the fourth quarter, but held it together defensively to close out the game and secure the win.

Denver’s starters got it going offensively and had five players score in double digits before resting the starters for the entire fourth quarter. Harris led Denver with 18 points as Jokic finished with an effortless 15 points, seven rebounds and five assists.

Denver is back on the road for their next game on October 17th in Los Angeles against the Clippers. The difference is that now, each game counts. The regular season is finally here.