Bulls pull off stunner, knock off Nuggets and MVP candidate Nikola Jokic

Led by Jokic, the Nuggets were 30-4 at home and chasing history, while the Bulls looked to be fading out of the play-in chase in the Eastern Conference. All the Bulls did was dismantle Denver in a one-sided 117-96 victory.

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Zach LaVine

Zach LaVine led the Bulls to the improbable win in Denver on Wednesday night, but now the guard wants to make sure that he and his teammates can keep it going.

David Zalubowski/AP

DENVER — The Bulls are chasing the 31-35 Wizards for the last play-in spot in the Eastern Conference.

Big man Nikola Jokic and his Nuggets teammates are in pursuit of history.

Two organizations seemingly going in different directions.

The Bulls must’ve missed the memo.

Thanks to a steady diet of lockdown defense and a flowing offense, the Bulls (30-36) pulled off their most improbable victory of the season, beating the Nuggets, who had been 30-4 at Ball Arena this season, 117-96.

It wasn’t the first time the Bulls have beaten an elite team this season, so can they finally take the momentum and run with it?

“At this point, we don’t care what happened before,’’ said guard Zach LaVine, who had a game-high 29 points. “We gotta win every game because that’s the position we put ourselves in. Each win is a big-time win. If it’s against Denver, if it’s against anybody. That’s just the mentality we have to have to give ourselves a chance to go where we want to go.

“We’ve exhausted all of our mistakes and throwaway games. Gotta just give it our all.’’

It didn’t hurt the cause that the Wizards lost to the Hawks, and the Bulls are only a game back.

But they’ve been here before. The last thing they can afford is to lose that momentum Saturday in Houston.

“Our challenge now is, can we come back and do it again?’’ coach Billy Donovan said. “We’ve had some wins where we played against high-level teams that had incredible years, won games, but the consistency part is what we’ve got to be able to do.’’

The Bulls have had some impressive wins, but beating Jokic in Denver was special.

The Nuggets are trying to finish first in the Western Conference for the first time, and Jokic is considered the front-runner for MVP.

Well, depending on whom you talk to. Jokic’s attempt to become only the fourth player to win the MVP award three years in a row — joining Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and Larry Bird — has come under scrutiny lately on national debate shows despite the versatile 6-11 center averaging a triple-double.

All noise and nonsense, Bulls center Nikola Vucevic (25 points, 15 rebounds) said of the doubters even on a night in which he actually outplayed his fellow Euro star, who had 18 points and 12 boards.

“It’s not like he’s putting up numbers and they’re not winning,’’ Vucevic said. “They’re [25-0] when he has a triple-double. And he plays in a winning way. He makes the right play. He doesn’t force things. He doesn’t try to do something just to do it. It’s all within the flow of the game. It’s winning basketball.’’

That didn’t stop Vucevic from taking a few good-natured swipes at his friend, joking that the “Joker’’ is “a stat-padder.’’

“He deserves to get another one, the way he’s playing,’’ Vucevic said. “I think you take him out of that team, it’s not even close to the same team.’’

Credit the Bulls, however, for not allowing Jokic to play to his strengths. The Bulls had 66 points in the paint and also didn’t allow him to be a facilitator.

“Just tried to make it tough for [Jokic],’’ LaVine said. “If we’re letting him shoot pull-up threes, he can make them, but you just tip your cap to him because that takes away from everything else he does so great.’’

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