Derrick Rose wasn't on the floor yet, but they were able to do their best to slow down the Nuggets, keep the score close and create chances for themselves near the end of the game. They ended up losing in overtime, 119-118.
We saw the vast differences between these two teams as the game rolled along, Chicago juxtaposing their methodical half-court game alongside Denver's high-flying, athletic, fast-paced offense. Both were on point tonight, while neither defense was much to speak of.
Chicago didn't get their first fast-break point until Jimmy Butler landed a transition layup with 43 seconds left in the second quarter, and the Bulls were outscored 28-8 on the fast break all evening long.
Once the overtime period came around, Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer started hitting shots, and the perimeter defense locked down.
An offensive interference call against Noah ended any hopes the Bulls had of winning, even though they played great against one of the league's best.
Stat Line: 34 points, 7 assists, 2 steals, 13-of-22 shooting, 6-of-8 three-point shooting
Nate Robinson was selective, decisive and generally smart about what he was doing when running the offense.
In other words, he was completely un-Nate Robinsonian.
Robinson had one of his most impressive games of the year, and he avoided having one of those games in which he absolutely kills Chicago thanks to his rash decisions and ridiculous shot selection.
Sure, he had a few silly moments here and there, but he made up for the dumb shots with a bevy of smart ones.
If this Robinson would show up to every game, Pepto Bismol sales in Chicago would plummet and Chicago fans would have a much sunnier disposition.
Even crazier, Nate Robinson made a ridiculously small number of defensive mistakes. Sure, Ty Lawson ran past him a lot, but with Joakim Noah behind him, there are plenty of excusable mistakes to be made.
Finally, the fourth quarter came around and Nate turned into the Nate we all know. Lucky for him, and his team, his insane shots and ridiculous drives to the rim worked, and he helped them into overtime.
Robinson ended up going 5-of-7 from the field in the fourth quarter and overtime, scoring 15 of his 34 points.
Stat Line: 18 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 steals, 7-of-20 shooting
There's a reason why Marco Belinelli never really works out as a starting shooting guard, and we saw why in this game.
Above everything else, Belinelli is in the NBA to shoot the ball. When he does it for 25 minutes a game, it's bearable. He makes some, misses some, and you can more or less live with him as a scorer off the bench.
He gets hot enough at times to make up for the instances when he is off.
We saw both sides of that in the fourth quarter. Belinelli hit two huge shots with less than two minutes left, and then with 50 seconds on the clock, Belinelli stepped in and air-balled a long, contested two-pointer.
Belinelli watched early on as Luol Deng struggled to knock down shots and Carlos Boozer just flat-out didn't get the ball, so he started shooting.
Some fell, most didn't and a 5-of-17 night grew out of his realization that he was going to have to be a main scoring option.
That, and he spent the game guarding Wilson Chandler and giving him the lane every chance he got.
Stat Line: 21 points, 2 rebounds, 5 assists, 9-of-23 shooting
Carlos Boozer wasn't scoring, so Luol Deng was going to have to try to do something himself on offense. Deng isn't great at forcing the issue, but he realizes when it becomes a necessity, so he grits his teeth and deals with it.
Tonight just wasn't his night.
Deng didn't shoot well, he didn't rebound well, he didn't pass well and his defense was moderately on point at best.
This is the evidence that has existed all season long that the Bulls desperately need Derrick Rose back.
Deng and Boozer are excellent scorers in their own right, but they're all a secondary option at best. A team can't rest with Deng as their No. 1 scoring option.
Stat Line: 14 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 block, 6-of-11 shooting
Carlos Boozer had a very strange game against Denver.
Generally he's vocal, demanding the ball in the post, working a bit of high-post isolation, rebounding well and cheering on Joakim Noah every step of the way.
It was shocking how few times we heard, "GRAB DAT, JO!" tonight, which should tell you why Noah had a mediocre rebounding night through three quarters.
He seemed tired, bored and uninterested at times, which really seemed to take a big chunk of energy out of the Chicago game.
Oddly enough, amidst his horrible shooting night and the bad job on defense, the thing that was missing most from his game was the incessant, annoying shouting.
Stat Line: 14 points, 12 rebounds, 6 assists, 7 blocks, 7-of-10 shooting
Joakim Noah came into the game full of energy and ready to go. He played incredibly well for the first eight minutes of the game before getting his first rest after a rough fall left him limping a bit.
He then played just two minutes in the second quarter, with no real explanation given.
Once the second half came around, Noah seemed fine, but his springiness was gone. He was constantly getting beat out for rebounds and just outrun.
Of course, Noah was still on the floor and playing incredible defense, as is tradition.
When the Bulls were able to force the Nuggets into a half-court set, Noah created a bubble around the basket that was damn near impossible to pop. He challenged every shot, swatted away five and forced Denver to play from further out than they would have liked.
The only problem was that Denver spent too big of a portion of the game in the transition game, not the half-court game.
Noah nearly won the game for Chicago with a tip-in just seconds before the end of overtime, but it was ruled basket interference.
It was a great game in the end, even though he had a bit of a lull in the middle.
Stat Line: 15 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, 3 blocks, 4-of-7 shooting
Jimmy Butler came in earlier than usual in this one as the Bulls went with a smaller lineup with Joakim Noah dealing with his sore foot, and Butler did a fine job while the Nuggets and Bulls spent most of the latter half of the second quarter trading buckets.
Butler had his best offensive game in more than a week, as the most recent road trip was not kind to the young fellow.
It took a bit of the pressure off of Boozer's limping first half, and it allowed the Bulls to keep within striking distance when it looked as if they were going to fall flat early on.
Defensively, he was as good as ever. Standing tall, Butler held strong against Danilo Gallinari, playing physical defense and making him earn everything on the free-throw line rather than giving him a corner and the lane.
Stat Line: 17 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal, 3 blocks, 5-of-10 shooting
It seems that to really grade the entire bench, the bench would have had to actually make an appearance in this one.
Aside from Jimmy Butler's 30 minutes at various positions, we saw Marquis Teague play for four minutes and Nazr Mohammed come in for four of his own.
In the end, they played fine. They didn't completely ruin the game in the eight combined minutes that they played.
Combine that with the solid game from Butler and the bench was great for the few minutes that they relieved the starters.