By Dan Bernstein —
CBSChicago.com senior columnist
(CBS) It doesn’t get much more perfect than the Bulls’ 111-110 loss to the Nuggets in Denver on Thursday night, not when your dual goals are the development of material youngsters and a shot at the top overall pick in the next NBA Draft.
The Bulls would take a whole remaining season of this, watching Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn each hit critical shots in the final minute of a game, only to eke out defeat in the final seconds to send their league-worst record tumbling to 3-17. Markkanen knocked down a cold-blooded step-back over Jamal Murray to stretch the Bulls’ lead to three with under a minute to go, two of his 20 points on the night. Dunn then scooped in a well-defended layup around Kenneth Faried with 9.6 seconds left, putting the Bulls up one with two of his own 19 points.
But big thanks go to the combination of Denver’s unstoppable Will Barton and the inexplicable Justin Holiday. The former just kept attacking the latter, with Barton scoring 37 points that included four late free throws and the eventual game-winner on an acrobatic reverse layup with 3.2 seconds left. Holiday fouled Barton’s 3-point attempt in that sequence, missed a bad-choice shot attempt, fouled Barton again and then let him go right by him for the final bucket.
Two important Bulls took steps forward and a relatively meaningless one made sure they took a step closer to winning a title. That’s how it’s done.