Rockets center Dwight Howard narrowly missed posting his seventh
consecutive double-double, but his scoring efficiency led a balanced
offensive attack that relied on pace and an avalanche of post
Howard scored 23 points on 11-of-14 shooting and added nine rebounds
as Houston placed four starters in double figures. Forward Chandler
Parsons and guard James Harden chipped in 19 points apiece as the
Rockets (17-9) produced 66 points.
"Pace was really important for us tonight," Rockets coach Kevin
McHale said. "We wanted to make sure we tried to get the ball up and
down and put some pressure on their defense before they get set. If
you constantly go against their set defense, it is just too hard."
Bulls guard Jimmy Butler, a product of nearby Tomball High School,
led Chicago with 20 points, while forwards Luol Deng and Carlos
Boozer scored 18 and 17 points, respectively. Chicago, fifth in the
league in defensive rating, fell to 1-6 against Western Conference
The Houston reserves responsible for coughing up momentum in the
second quarter with negligent defense helped provide the Rockets
their largest lead after halftime. Houston capped the third quarter
with a 15-1 run after Chicago (9-15) cut the deficit to 68-65 on a
Deng layup with 5:24 left.
"It was a tough night," Boozer said. "We felt we got close but then
kept our distance, and we just couldn't get enough stops."
Houston forward Omri Casspi began the spurt with a 3-pointer before
adding four free throws around a hard drive to the basket by
swingman Francisco Garcia. When center Greg Smith threw down a dunk
following an offensive rebound, the Rockets led 83-66 with 35.8
seconds left in the third.
McHale kept at least one starter with his reserves during that span,
playing Howard until the 1:26 mark.
"With the guys we have on our team, any lineup would work,"
Howard said. "We can go big, we can go small. We can go with our
3-point shooting lineup. We've got the ability to adapt to any
situation, and we're getting better as the season goes."
[to top of second column]
Houston took a 24-14 lead on Parsons' 3-pointer at the 1:36 mark
of the first quarter, but Chicago opened the second with a
series of rim attacks against Houston reserves. Bulls forward
Taj Gibson slammed home a put-back that cut the deficit to 26-24
at the 9:22 mark before guard Patrick Beverley rebuilt the
Rockets' lead with eight consecutive points.
As their starters trickled back into the game, the Rockets
reclaimed control. Harden and Howard thrived in the
pick-and-roll before Harden sank two free throws that restored
the double-digit lead at 52-41. Beverley closed the half with a
buzzer-beating 3-pointer, pushing the Rockets' advantage to
57-46 at intermission, momentum they carried into the third.
"We didn't take anything away, so they hurt us in the paint and
they hurt us with the 3 and they shot 53 percent," Bulls coach
Tom Thibodeau said. "We have to straighten it out."
NOTES: Bulls G Kirk Hinrich (back) missed his third consecutive
game. ... Given its backcourt injuries, Chicago is increasingly
reliant upon G D.J. Augustin, who finished with eight points and
nine assists Wednesday in his fourth appearance with the Bulls.
"I think he has a pretty good understanding of what we're trying
to do," Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau said. "He's learning his
teammates, plays with a good pace, and I think his experience
overall, the fact that he's started before, I think he's
comfortable." ... Rockets G Jeremy Lin (back) missed his second
consecutive game. ... Houston is third in the NBA in home
defensive efficiency yet 29th on the road, a disparity Rockets
coach Kevin McHale links to woeful defensive rebounding. Before
outrebounding the Bulls 37-33, the Rockets ranked 22nd in the
league, grabbing 73.5 percent of available defensive boards.
"We've got to get better at defensive rebounding," McHale said.
"We've defended OK. ... We just haven't rebounded the ball
cleanly enough. A put-back hurts us."
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