The Denver Nuggets, the NBA’s top-scoring team, refused to be slowed by stingy Chicago as they attacked relentlessly to secure a 108-91 road victory over the league-leading Bulls on Monday.
Ty Lawson led the charge with 27 points and nine rebounds, while Arron Afflalo added 22 to give the Nuggets (27-23) a much-needed win in the third of their seven-game road trip.
The triumph kept Denver level with Utah and Houston for the seventh-best record in the tight West race.
East leaders Chicago, on the other hand, remained three-and-a-half games in front of Miami, who also lost on Monday.
Averaging more than 103 points per game entering the night, Denver broke loose from the Bulls in the third quarter where they outscored Chicago 27-16 to take control.
Playing with dizzying pace, the Nuggets were able to score 54 points inside the paint against one of the league’s top defenses as they turned a two-point halftime lead into a romp.
“This was not our type of game. It was up and down, free and easy,” Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters. “We let our guard down and you can’t do that.”
The Bulls had been thriving in the absence of Derrick Rose, who missed his seventh straight game with a groin injury, but they lacked firepower.
Reserve point guards C.J. Watson, starting in Rose’s absence, and John Lucas each had 17 points to lead the Bulls (40-11), who saw their four-game winning streak end.
Chicago have a 12-5 record without Rose this season. They have dealt with a list of ailments throughout the campaign and are still missing starting shooting guard Richard Hamilton.
Denver were sparked early by Afflalo, who scored 11 first-quarter points in his first game back after being suspended one game for throwing an elbow at Utah’s Gordon Hayward on Friday.
The visitors also flashed a little defense in forcing the Chicago Bulls into 15 turnovers.
“I think individually we all take pride in guarding our man, but we just had to become a better defensive team, helping each other and communicating,” Lawson said.
PACERS 105, HEAT 90
In Indianapolis, Danny Granger scored 25 points to help the Indiana Pacers beat the Miami Heat.
Darren Collison added 20 points, while Paul George had 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Pacers.
LeBron James had 24 points and nine rebounds, while Dwyane Wade had 24 points and six assists for Miami.
The Heat had won the previous three meetings this season, but the Pacers played with confidence throughout. Indiana led by double digits for most of the fourth quarter, and Pacers fans stood and showed their appreciation during the final minute.
CLIPPERS 97, HORNETS 85
In Los Angeles, Chris Paul had 25 points and 10 assists for the Los Angeles Clippers against his former team New Orleans.
The Hornets first tried to trade Paul to the Lakers — a deal that was rejected by the league — before shipping the All-Star point guard to the Clippers shortly after the lockout ended.
Blake Griffin added 20 points and seven rebounds to help the Clippers climb within two games of the Pacific Division-leading Lakers.
Al-Farouq Aminu scored 15 points, while Carl Landry added 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Hornets, who did not have a player in double digits until Landry’s two free throws trimmed Los Angeles’ lead to 66-52 with 2 minutes, 21 seconds left in the third quarter.
ROCKETS 113, KINGS 106, OT