Denver Nuggets center Kosta Koufos, left, looks on with Chicago Bulls forward Carlos Boozer as the ball bounces out of play in the third quarter of the Nuggets' 128-96 victory in an NBA basketball game in Denver, Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Updated: February 8, 2013 1:42PM
DENVER — Taj Gibson summed it up best as he sat in front of his locker in a silent Bulls locker room.
“This is one of those games we want to forget,” he said.
The Bulls 128-96 loss to the streaking Nuggets at the Pepsi Center on Thursday night was the worst of the Tom Thibodeau era. It was the most points scored against the Bulls since Thibodeau was named head coach before the 2010-11 season. It was also the most lopsided score since Thibodeau was hired.
“They kicked our [expletive]” a disappointed Thibodeau said afterwards.
The Bulls couldn’t stop the Nuggets all night. George Karl’s team led 63-58 at the half before outscoring the Bulls 37-16 in the third quarter to blow the game open.
They would lead by as many as 35 before it was done.
“We didn’t play well defensively,” said center Joakim Noah, who returned after missing three games with plantar fasciitis in his right foot. “We didn’t play well offensively. They beat us down the court every time. It was an embarrassment.”
The Nuggets shot 58.1 percent en route to their seventh straight win and their 22nd victory in 25 games at the Pepsi Center this season.
Carlos Boozer answered questions about the Bulls having preliminary discussions with Toronto about a trade that would send him to the Raptors for Andrea Bargnani and then struggled to keep up with energetic Denver forward Kenneth Faried, who had 21 points and 12 rebounds despite sitting out the fourth quarter.
A source told the Sun-Times it’s unlikely the trade will be consummated. Boozer scored 18 points and had three rebounds while also sitting out the fourth quarter as both coaches emptied their benches.
“Interesting,” Boozer said when told of the report, before adding: “That’s part of the business this time of year. I can’t worry about things that may or may not happen.”
The Nuggets scored 64 points in the paint and had 23 fast-break points. They registered countless dunks but didn’t receive so much as a hard foul from a Bulls team that lacked energy from the start.
“Get back, get set, keep the ball out of the paint, challenge shots, finish the defense. That’s what you’re supposed to do,” Thibodeau barked when asked whether a hard foul wouldn’t sent a needed message. “That’s what a good defensive team does. Protect the rim. Protect your basket. Long contested twos. That’s what you’re supposed to do.”
Daequan Cook scored 19 off the bench for the Bulls while Nate Robinson added 14 and Luol Deng 11.
Noah had just two points and five rebounds in 23 minutes. He also had three of the Bulls 14 turnovers.
“A lot of his game is finesse and timing,” Thibodeau said of Noah. “It will come back. I thought he moved fairly well but he has to get out there and play. He’s missed a lot of time.”
Former DePaul standout Wilson Chandler made all five of his 3-pointers and finished with 24.
The Nuggets had six players score in double figures and reached season highs in points scored and field-goal percentage.
“Coach isn’t the only one hot right now,” Noah said. “Everybody is hot.”
The Bulls don’t have much time to recover. They flew to Salt Lake City, Utah, early Friday morning and will face a Jazz team that is 19-5 at Energy Solutions Arena this season.
Marco Belinelli (ankle) did not play Thursday night but did not rule out playing against Utah.
“They’re going to push the ball,” Thibodeau said of the Jazz. “They’re big. They are going to try to pound you inside. You’ve got to get back in transition. It’s all the same stuff.”