A lot of thematic elements to this game, ending in the first 3-game regular season losing streak in the Thibs era. The Bulls lived and died with Nate Robinson, whose hot hand gave them a late lead but absence of proper execution doomed them late. They couldn't hit any 3 pointers, going 2/16 (1 in garbage-time). Shot 58% from the line. The starters were once again benched due to poor defensive play, and Hinrich because he's him. And special to this contest, Omer Asik punctuated his revenge game with a block on Joakim Noah to seal it once and for all.
The Rockets are still extremely young and not very good, and gave the Bulls their 2nd and 3rd chances through turnovers (23) as well as offensive rebounds (31% ORR for the Bulls). But ultimately they looked more than the Bulls equals tonight, led with unexpected contributions from Chandler Parsons and Patrick Patterson. And though the feared crunch-time offense centered around James Harden didn't really come to be, the lineup the Bulls used to bottle him up was also their undoing on the other end. When Nate Robinson is the only shotmaker on the court, he will try to take them so far but usually too far beyond that. Nate was able to carve up the absolutely awful Jeremy Lin tonight, but his team-leading 22 points came on 21 shots and when Lin was subbed out for Toney Douglas the Bulls didn't have a plan B (or Nate didn't want to use it).
And while Thibs sometimes rides 'the lineup that brought us back' too long, he also likely didn't see an alternative. To start both halves the Bulls defense was awful, and it was mostly because of an inability from Boozer and Hamilton to get back in transition. At least Boozer did show a decent 2nd half stretch when the Rockets went small, but the starting guard play was abysmal. Hamilton and Hinrich were relegated to afterthoughts in this game, and it didn't seem inappropriate, finishing with 4 points in 40 total minutes. Belinelli is seemingly scared to do the one thing they need him for (shooting), and only played 5 minutes. Nazr Mohammed received a DNP and Thibs played Noah the entire first half. He didn't score in the second.
The eventual lineup of Nate/Butler/Deng/Taj/Noah did play better, but if that's the only group Thibs can trust now, it's always going to be an issue late in games. And if more players can't be consistent contributors, there may not be many more close contests to blow.