Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
The Rockets are on a bit of a roll. This Christmas night destruction of the Bulls was their 6th win in the last 7 games, and the 3rd straight game they've put up at least 120 points. Taking out the Bulls in this kind of way, in their house, after Chicago just had a bad loss, is very impressive. It tied the worst mark for points allowed in the Thibodeau era, as his team allowed 56% shooting from the field.
The Rockets lead the league in pace, and it showed from the outset. The Bulls were helping a bit with some turnovers and rushed shots of their own, but the Rockets were running off of everything. They have essentially two lead guards who can push the ball in James Harden and Jeremy Lin (looking much better than when these teams met in Houston), and both were able to easily dictate play against the Bulls backup duo of Hinrich and Belinelli. But the Rockets not only have guards who always look to get to the rim, but a gifted swingman for that type of play in Chandler Parsons, who can flat-out fly either to the rim for a catch, or to the corner where he hit 4-5 from three, and finished with 23 points.
They also..because the Bulls let them... own a center who can make it all happen in Omer Asik. Asik isn't as natural a fast-paced big man as the quicker and athletic Joakim Noah, but our old friend Omer dominated the game against his former teammates and made it easy for the rest of the Rockets to start their show. Asik finished with 20 points, 18 rebounds, and 3 credited blocks but many more shot alterations and loose balls corralled that was always the catalyst for the Rockets fast break. He looked very good on offense as well, from the way he could outlet the ball, to rolling and finishing (!) at the rim, to being the screener for guards in the half-court, something Houston would emphasize when Boozer was forced to take the center assignment.
Asik finished a whopping +40 for his time on the court in this game. Singular +/- is weird, sure, but that's staggering. I suppose it's similarly so (though far less important) that Marquis Teague was a +8 in a game the Bulls were crushed. After seeing the Rockets lead get over 30, Thibs did sit Noah and then Deng with the rest of the starters and the Nate Robinson show was underway. Nate scored all of his 27 points in this extended garbage time, which did force the Rockets starters back in the game themselves when the lead was halved. But Nate and Teague (who hit two jumpers, which was neat) were then brought down by their size disadvantage, with the Rockets ability to use the Bulls defensive pressure against them and generate even more easy looks to keep things comfortable for them.
All night, when the Rockets took that opportunity to run, the Bulls transition defense just looked a step slow and old. None of the Bulls starters performed well overall. Hinrich looked overwhelmed, starting 0/5 from the field and helping the Bulls begin the game as a team 0/10 from three point range, and starred defensively only by being the guy James Harden was usually running over on the way to the foul line (11-13 from the line for Harden). Noah was a poor option to initiate offense with, finishing the game with 5 turnovers. Deng looked visibly frustrated trying to cover (or relying on teammates like Belinelli to have his back) Parsons (and it turns out Deng may be hurt, actually). Boozer was a complete no-show with a 3-11 line in 21 minutes.
After a similarly bad performance just two nights ago, this is a bit surprising though probably not quite alarming yet. The good news is that they face the Indiana Pacers in 24 hours, better news being that offense is far far worse than what the Rockets have been unleashing lately.