CHICAGO (AP) — Zach LaVine scored 32 points and the Chicago Bulls beat the Denver Nuggets 109-97 on Monday night.
The Bulls took a big hit a few hours before tipoff when leading scorer DeMar DeRozan entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols. Even without the four-time All-Star, they dominated down the stretch and tied Brooklyn for the Eastern Conference lead.
Lonzo Ball and Nikola Vucevic each had 20 points and 10 rebounds, and all five starters scored in double figures for Chicago.
The Nuggets lost for the eighth time in 10 games despite a triple-double by Nikola Jokic. The reigning MVP finished with 17 points, 12 rebounds and a season-high 15 assists.
Will Barton and Monte Morris each scored 19 points. Aaron Gordon added 18 points.
LaVine scored 12 in the third, including seven straight late in the quarter to extend Chicago's lead to 74-66.
Ball made a four-point play early in the fourth when Jeff Green knocked him to floor with a flagrant foul. Tony Bradley dunked, and Chicago product Ayo Dosunmu nailed a 3 to make it 86-73 with 9:50 left in the game, delighting the crowd.
The Nuggets led 49-36 after a 13-0 run in the second quarter, capped by Barton’s 3-pointer with 3:46 remaining. But the Bulls scored 10 straight, with Derrick Jones Jr. hitting a long jumper to cut it to 47-46 in the final minute.
Jokic hit two free throws in the closing seconds to send the Nuggets to the locker room with a three-point lead.
Nuggets: Coach Michael Malone didn't let a reporter finish the question when asked about DeRozan's absence. “Doesn't change,” he said, referring to Denver's approach.
Bulls: DeRozan participated in the morning shootaround prior to the game against the Denver Nuggets. Coach Billy Donovan said he wasn’t sure if the four-time All-Star tested positive. “I cannot really confirm and deny if it’s a false positive or is positive,” Donovan said. “I don’t know right now. Obviously, the medical staff works through the league on that and they come up with the guidelines to which he’s got to follow. And I hope we’ll be able to have more news one way or another in the next day or so.” ... Backup G Alex Caruso will also miss at least the next week because of a strained right hamstring, Donovan said. He left Saturday’s win at Brooklyn. ... Dosunmu, a second-round draft pick from Illinois this year, scored 11 points in his first career start.
Nuggets: Visit New Orleans on Wednesday.
Bulls: Visit Cleveland on Wednesday.
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Andrew Seligman, The Associated Press