DENVER -- The Nuggets had turned their 128-96 blowout of the Bulls into a dunk contest on Thursday night, throwing down 15 in all, many of them registering style points for flair and ferocity.
No hard foul came. No rim resistance got offered. The Bulls allowed the most points under Tom Thibodeau and suffered the largest margin of defeat in his tenure and, still, they went meekly into the night.
"When we start taking shortcuts, we're going to get our ass kicked," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "That's the way it's going to be. That's not the way to win in this league. We're kidding ourselves."
The Bulls' vaunted defense, at least the last two games, has become the punch line. After allowing 111 points to the Pacers, the Bulls surrendered -- deep breath here -- season-highs for field goals (50) and field-goal percentage (58.1), 64 points in the paint and 28 points off their 15 turnovers.
Not even Joakim Noah's return from missing three games with plantar fasciitis in his right foot could not stem the tide.
Kenneth Faried's 21 points and 12 rebounds and Wilson Chandler's season-high 24 points, which featured him making all five 3-point attempts, powered the Nuggets to their seventh straight home victory and 12th in 13 tries.
"The first half, he just kicked our ass," Thibodeau said of Faried.
The Nuggets even reached 100 points before the third quarter's end and posted season-highs for points, field goals and field goal percentage. And, still, there was nobody protecting the rim.
"It would be nice," Thibodeau said facetiously, when asked if he'd like to see a hard foul delivered or shots challenged at the rim.
Asked if that has to come from coaching or from within players, Thibodeau's exasperation grew.
"Get back. Get set. Keep the ball out of the paint. Challenge shots. Finish your defense. Yeah, that's what you're supposed to do," he said. "That's what a good defensive team does. Protect the rim. Long, contested twos. That's what we're supposed to do."
Noah agreed that some foul should've been delivered rather than watching the Nuggets parade to the basket.
"I don't think Coach is the only one who's hot right now," Noah said. "Everybody's hot."
Noah finished with two points and five rebounds in 23 minutes. He also committed three turnovers and looked out of rhythm, mostly from rust and conditioning other than issues with his foot. He said he'd play Friday in Utah.
"I'm holding up," Noah said. "I have to run better, get my timing back. They got way too many easy baskets.
"Defensively, we weren't there. And that's been going on for awhile. So we have to regroup."
Thibodeau offered this assessment of Noah.
"Rusty," he said. "A lot of his game is finesse and timing. It will come back. I thought he moved fairly well but he's got to get out there and play. He's missed a lot of time."
The Bulls played without Derrick Rose, Kirk Hinrich and Marco Belinelli, who succumbed to the right ankle he rolled during Monday's loss to the Pacers. Afterward, Belinelli said his ankle is improving and he hopes to play against the Jazz.
The Bulls need to show up defensively. Even when they trailed the Nuggets by just 63-58 at halftime, it was an offensive game played at a pace the Bulls can't sustain.
"They came out to start the third and just smoked us," Thibodeau said. "Until we change that, the result isn't going to be good. We're trying to make it an offensive game. The ball is going wherever they want the ball to go. We're not containing the ball, not keeping it out of the paint, not challenging shots, not rebounding. It's very difficult to win like that."
Noah leaned back in his locker and sighed.
"It's an embarrassing loss," he said.
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