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Chicago Bulls center Robin Lopez, left, ...
David Zalubowski, The Associated Press
Chicago Bulls center Robin Lopez, left, reaches out for a loose ball with Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, of Serbia, in the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017, in Denver.
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Will Barton‘s game-winning reverse-layup lipped the rim and finally fell in with 3.2 seconds remaining Thursday night to give the Nuggets a 111-110 victory over the Chicago Bulls at The Can.

But it was hardly the only major development:

1. Nikola Jokic suffered an anxiety-inducing injury late in the first half when he twisted his left ankle driving through the lane.

He underwent X-rays and the Nuggets said it is only a sprain and coach Michael Malone found the time to joke about it:

“Good thing is, he’s not an athletic big, so he doesn’t have to jump a lot,” Malone said.

But seriously, the Nuggets’ clutch lineup late in the fourth quarter was: Gary Harris, Jamal Murray, Kenneth Faried, Will Barton and Trey Lyles.

Trey Lyles is not Nikola Jokic.

With Paul Millsap already out for several months, and with Wilson Chandler down with a lower back injury, there is no room for the Nuggets to lose Jokic and survive.

2. Jokic’s injury and Barton’s game-saver distracted from another problem.

The Bulls (3-17) are atrocious. That was a team riding a six-game losing skid coming in. They lost by 49 points a week ago, but jumped to a 26-8 lead on the Nuggets.

“We were sleep-walking out there and they punched us in the mouth,” Malone said of a sluggish first half.

Nothing was working well. Bulls rookie power forward Lauri Markkanen did whatever he wanted in the paint. The Nuggets failed to jump up on screens or rotate swing-arounds. Definitely a poor defensive showing. The Bulls scored 16 more points than their season average.

“I didn’t want to lose. It was like, we can’t lose this game,” Barton said. “They came out and they were embarrassing us.”

3. Malone said before the game, when asked about the absence of Millsap (perhaps the Nuggets’ best defender):

“I don’t want to get back into trying to outscore teams. We all know that’s a losing proposition.”

And that is exactly what happened. The Lakers, who visit Denver on Saturday, average 106.6 points per game while allowing 108.7. That’s a shootout waiting to happen. But do the Nuggets have the ability to keep up in a track meet?

4. As the Bulls held their lead toward the end — Chicago took a one-point lead with 9.6 seconds remaining after Kris Dunn breezed past Kenneth Faried for a layup — Malone settled on two go-tos.

He wanted every offensive possession to cycle through either Barton, whose hot-hand netted him a career-high 37 points, or shooting guard Gary Harris, who finished with 21.

Harris, though, went four key possessions down the stretch without a touch. He said he new the final shot would get to Barton.

“No doubt,” Barton said.

5. Veteran Richard Jefferson, who had not played in four previous games and 14 of 20 overall this season, stepped into a season-high offering of 12 minutes and 23 seconds.

He scored just 2 points with 2 assists but his presence seemed to be a calming one.

He even saved Jokic from a tricky situation after the ankle-twisting. Jokic wanted to beeline for the locker room. But Jefferson knew that if Jokic left the court, he would not be allowed to return and the Bulls could pick his free-throw replacement. So Jefferson calmly walked Jokic to the free-throw line and explained to him to the rules.

For his part, Jefferson seemed fine with his extended playing time. The 37-year-old joked:

“I’m not really an ice guy. I’m like the Wolverine. I heal myself.”

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