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Robinson, Nuggets pull away from Bulls

The SportsXchange

DENVER -- Last season, Nate Robinson helped the Chicago Bulls to an upset win in the first round of the playoffs.

On Thursday, the guard reminded his former team what he is capable of doing.

Robinson had 11 points and hit two big 3-pointers early in the fourth quarter, helping the Denver Nuggets pull away in the final 12 minutes to beat the Bulls 97-87.

Forward Jordan Hamilton came off the bench to score 17 points, and forward J.J. Hickson had 14 points and nine rebounds for the Nuggets, who snapped a two-game losing streak.

Chicago guard Derrick Rose scored 19 points -- just four in the second half. Forward Carlos Boozer added 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Bulls, who had their five-game winning streak snapped.

The Bulls suffered their fifth consecutive loss to Denver.

Robinson was the Nuggets' spark despite a tough night from the field that saw him go 3-for-13. The former Bull hit two 3-pointers and a technical free throw in the first 1:04 of the final quarter to stretch Denver's lead to 77-62.

"I'm no longer going to worry about missing shots," Robinson said. "I'm just going to shoot when I'm open."

Chicago saw it before. Robinson came off the bench to score 34 points to lead the Bulls a triple-overtime victory in Game 4 against the Brooklyn Nets last spring in a playoff series Chicago won in seven games.

He wasn't as prolific Thursday, but he made a difference.

"You can't let your guard down against them," Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau said. "I thought their bench hurt us. Hamilton had a big game for them, and Nate had the two big shots to start the fourth."

The Bulls had no answer for Robinson or Hamilton.

"That's when we've got to turn it into a grind game," Rose said. "We can't let go of the work on the defensive end. We're mad that we let this one go."

The Nuggets (5-6) led by two at halftime but stretched it to nine on forward Darrell Arthur's baseline jumper with 1:09 left in the third quarter. Denver led 70-62 heading into the fourth.

The game could have been higher-scoring at that point, but neither team shot well in the third quarter from the field or the foul line. The teams combined to go 6-for-15 from the line and together made 13 field goals in the third.

Chicago finished with a 58-48 rebounding advantage, including a 22-13 edge on the offensive boards.

"Not happy with the two areas that seem to be our nemesis," Denver coach Brian Shaw said. "Giving up offensive rebounds as well as us missing 10 free throws. Especially when you're playing good teams, those are areas that you can't continue to give that team an advantage in."

The Nuggets did enough right to overcome their mistakes. After Robinson got things going in the fourth, Hamilton followed with back-to-back 3-pointers to make it 83-62 with 9:40 left.

The Bulls, already struggling from the field, missed their first nine shots of the fourth to allow Denver to break it open.

Rose looked as if he would easily surpass his season high of 20 points accomplished against the Indiana Pacers on Saturday, but he slowed down in the second half. He had 15 points midway through the second quarter and kept Chicago close. The Bulls (6-4) went on an 8-2 run to close out the half down just 50-48.

"I'm not worried about how I feel during the game," Rose said. "I'm not worried about my rhythm, it's going to come."

The Nuggets came into the game averaging 20.4 attempts from behind the 3-point arc, but they didn't take their first long-distance attempt until 28 seconds into the second quarter, when Hamilton banked one in to beat the shot clock. Denver wound up 9-for-21 (42.9 percent) from 3-point range.

NOTES: Bulls G Jimmy Butler (right toe injury) missed a game for the first time this season. Mike Dunleavy moved into the starting lineup in place of Butler, and he scored 15 points. ... Nuggets G Nate Robinson played despite an injured right wrist, which is his dominant hand. Robinson practiced this week shooting left-handed jumpers and layups. ... The Bulls' five-game skid against the Nuggets is their longest active losing streak to a team. They haven't beaten Denver since Nov. 8, 2010, in Chicago. ... Nuggets F Wilson Chandler started his second game in a row after coming off the bench for the first three games. He missed the first six games of the season with a hamstring injury and returned against the Los Angeles Lakers on Nov. 13. Chandler finished with no points and three rebounds in 27 minutes Thursday.
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