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Nuggets cruise past Bulls for eighth consecutive win

The SportsXchange

DENVER -- The Denver Nuggets were also-rans six weeks ago.

Now, after a big homestand and a total dismantling of the Chicago Bulls on national TV, they've moved into the thick of the Western Conference playoff race.

Wilson Chandler scored a season-high 24 points, Kenneth Faried had 21 points and 12 rebounds, and the Nuggets routed the Bulls 128-96 Thursday night for their eighth straight win.

"I think we've got people's attention," said guard Ty Lawson, who had 16 points and 12 assists. "We've been playing at home, but we're also playing a lot better. We have moved into the fourth spot in the West, so I think people are going to take notice."

The Nuggets went unbeaten on their six-game homestand and improved to 15-3 overall since the calendar flipped to 2013. They have won 13 of 15 at home since the start of the new year as they head out on a four-game road trip.

"We're confident, but we're not content," Faried said. "We think we can get even better."

It's hard to imagine the Nuggets playing better than they did in the second half Thursday. Denver turned a five-point game into a laugher with a strong third quarter, shooting 13-for-21 from the field and outscoring the Bulls 37-16.

Lawson scored 10 points in the period to lead the way for Denver, which used a 35-10 run in the third to take a 30-point lead.

Daequan Cook scored 19 off the bench for the Bulls, and Carlos Boozer added 18 points.

Boozer and Nate Robinson, who had 14 points and six assists, tried to keep the Bulls close heading into the fourth, but numerous turnovers and a porous defense were too much for them to overcome.

The Nuggets led by as many as 32 in the fourth with the reserves playing out the final 12 minutes.

"They came out the third quarter and just smoked us. They got 37, got a big cushion, and that was the game," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "The ball was going wherever they wanted the ball to go."

For the second straight game, the Bulls allowed an opponent to shoot better than 50 percent and score more than 100 points.

It was the most points Chicago has allowed this season and the most Denver has scored. Part of that was due to the Nuggets attacking the basket and either scoring or going to the line.

"It would be nice (to) get back, get set, keep the ball out of the paint, challenge shots, finish the defense," Thibodeau said. "That's what you're supposed to do. That's what a good defense does."

The Bulls were without guard Marco Belinelli, who didn't play because of a right ankle injury suffered in Monday's loss at Indiana. Kirk Hinrich was not with the team due to a right elbow injury, and Derrick Rose has yet to play this season following knee surgery.

"We went after a team that was short-handed," Nuggets coach George Karl said. "They were missing their best guards. and we took care of business."

The Nuggets led by as many as 13 in the first half, but the Bulls got within 53-51 late in the second quarter on Joakim Noah's only bucket of the game.

Faried had 17 points and eight rebounds before the break, and Chandler hit all four of his first-half 3-point attempts to help Denver hold a 63-58 lead at halftime.

NOTES: Noah returned after missing three games with plantar fasciitis in his right foot. ... Faried was invited to take part in the slam dunk competition at All-Star Weekend in Houston. Faried is the sixth Nuggets player in franchise history to participate in the event and the first since J.R. Smith in 2009. Faried will also compete in the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge that weekend. ... Karl thinks his team can be one of the better defensive teams in the Western Conference. "Who is the best defense in the West? That's the question I asked my team four days ago," he said. "We have to get serious about playing possessions and focusing on our intensity and just the basic fundamentals of playing an NBA game and a defensive game every night." The Nuggets came into Thursday's game 25th in the NBA in points allowed per game. ... The Bulls entered Thursday 14-8 on the road for the NBA's best road winning percentage (.636).
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