Bulls rip Nuggets; Suns silence Thunder

Agence France-Presse
Bulls rip Nuggets; Suns silence Thunder
Zach LaVine of the Chicago Bulls dribbles against the Brooklyn Nets during the second half at the United Center on February 24, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois.
Michael Reaves / Getty Images / AFP

LOS ANGELES – Zach Lavine poured in 29 points as the Chicago Bulls ended the Denver Nuggets' eight-game home unbeaten streak with a 117-96 victory in Colorado on Wednesday (Thursday, Manila time).

The Bulls, who are languishing just outside the play-in places in 11th place in the Eastern Conference, took control with a 36-point third quarter to upset the runaway Western Conference leaders.

The Nuggets have been near-invincible in Denver this season, with a league-best 30-4 home record and were unbeaten in eight at their Ball Arena fortress before Wednesday.

But a gutsy Chicago performance ended with Denver on the wrong end of a rare blowout as Lavine finished with 29 points from 12-of-18 shooting and Nikola Vucevic added 25 points with 14 rebounds.

Denver's reigning NBA Most Valuable Player Nikola Jokic was held to 18 points.

In other games, Phoenix shrugged off the late injury absence of Kevin Durant — who had been due to make his home debut — to trounce the Oklahoma City Thunder, 132-101.

Suns fans had been eager to get their first glimpse of Durant at their home venue since his blockbuster trade from Brooklyn last month.

But the 34-year-old superstar was ruled out shortly before tip-off after rolling an ankle as he attempted a layup during the warm-up.

Celtics bounce back

In Durant's absence, Devin Booker took center stage for Phoenix, erupting for 44 points with Terrence Ross adding 24 from the bench and Chris Paul chipping in with 18.

Phoenix coach Monty Williams said Durant had suffered an ankle sprain.

"We have to wait and see how he responds to treatment and we'll probably get some more imaging just to make sure we're all on the same page," Williams said.

"He was out there working his tail off getting ready for the game and he twisted his ankle — that's life."

In Boston, Jayson Tatum scored 30 points as the Celtics snapped their three-game losing streak with a 115-93 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers.

Tatum spearheaded a superb all-round offensive effort for the Celtics, who had suffered a string of collapses during their recent mini-slump which included defeats to Cleveland, the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets.

But there was little sign of Boston's problems persisting against Portland as the Celtics got back into the winning groove in decisive fashion.

Boston, who were knocked out of first place in the Eastern Conference last week, led from early in the first quarter and never looked back, surging 27 points clear in the fourth before wrapping up an encouraging win.

All of Boston's starters finished in double figures with Tatum's 30-point haul leading the way while Derrick White added 21 points.

Al Horford finished with 17, Jaylen Brown added 11 and Marcus Smart 10.

At the other end, Boston's defense restricted Damian Lillard to 27 points while only two other Portland starters broke single digits.

'On right track'

Tatum was satisfied Boston had managed to keep Portland at arm's length following recent defeats where they blew big leads.

"We were up 15 or so in the second and we kept that lead — we haven't done that lately," Tatum said. 

"In the third quarter we pushed the lead out and didn't let them back in the game, which is something we've struggled with the last couple of games."

Boston now depart for a six-game road trip where they will look to build on Wednesday's win. "We've got to get back on the right track," Tatum said. 

"We slipped up a bit losing three in a row, and we've got to get back to playing how we know how to play." 

In Florida, Cleveland held off a late rally on the road in Miami to extend their recent winning streak to three games.

The Cavaliers, who are fourth in the Eastern Conference standings with a 42-26 record, completed a 104-100 win thanks to 25 points from Darius Garland and 18 from Donovan Mitchell.

Jimmy Butler led Miami's scorers with 28 points while Tyler Herro had 22 for the Heat, who are seventh in the East.

In New Orleans, a flurry of late scoring from C.J. McCollum led the Pelicans to a 113-106 victory over the Dallas Mavericks as Luka Doncic was held to just 15 points.

McCollum finished with 32 points — 13 of them coming in the final four minutes of the game — as the Pels claimed a deserved win.

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