I think from now on, I'm running straight to the betting window after the Bulls lose a game, because it's almost a guarantee they'll win the next one. The Bulls have an almost ridiculous ability to rebound from poor performances, and they did it again on Thursday against one of the hottest teams in the NBA in the Rockets. With the Bulls' 111-87 destruction of the Rockets, they're now 12-1 following a loss since Dec. 19.
The Bulls put forth one of their best overall efforts of the season, using a monster third quarter to blow the game wide open. The Bulls outscored the Rockets 35-16 in the quarter, catching fire from long range and demoralizing the Rockets' offense with a superb defensive effort. By about midway through the third quarter, it appeared the Rockets had given up, as they were literally throwing the ball to the Bulls.
Mike Dunleavy and Kirk Hinrich (NATIONAL TV) were the spark at the outset of the third quarter, each knocking down a pair of threes as the Bulls scored the first 16 points of the frame. Dunleavy, who left the game in the first half to get stitches after an elbow to the face from Chandler Parsons, scored 18 points total in the third quarter and 21 for the game. He also took several charges, personifying the grit of this Bulls team.
Carlos Boozer delivered a strong performance in the wake of the stories of his frustration with lack of playing time, scoring 18 points and grabbing seven rebounds in 33 minutes. Boozer got extended time due to some foul trouble for Taj Gibson, and it was actually the first time since Dec. 4 that Boozer played over 30 minutes in a game.
Joakim Noah did his typical thing, finishing with 13 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. Noah also frustrated the hell out of Dwight Howard, forcing Howard into seven turnovers and limiting his easy looks at the rim. Howard did have 12 points and 10 rebounds, but his frustration was palpable and he picked up a technical after one of his several offensive fouls.
Hinrich (5-of-6 from three...NATIONAL TV), Jimmy Butler and D.J. Augustin all finished in double-digits for Chicago. The Bulls shot 50.0 percent for the game, made a season-high 14 three-pointers and racked up a season-high 35 assists. The Bulls' offense is often putrid, like it was early against the Spurs, but it really can be a thing of beauty when it works. Just all of the ball movement.
On the other end, the Bulls limited the Rockets to just 35.4 percent shooting and 5-of-26 from three. James Harden was a complete non-factor all night, getting harassed by Butler, Hinrich and even Tony Snell into an eight-point night. Parsons also really struggled, going just 1-of-11 from the field.
The Bulls led this one wire-to-wire, with Boozer making it a point to come out strong. Boozer knocked down five of his first six shots and showed some nice aggression on the offensive end, even trying to dunk on Howard (it failed, but good job, good effort?). Howard seemed content to give Boozer open jumpers instead of challenging and leaving the paint unprotected, although one of the few times Howard did step out and challenge hard, Boozer drove right past him for a layup.
As Boozer and Butler got the Bulls off to a nice offensive start, Chicago's defense did a hell of a job stymieing the high-powered Rockets attack from the get-go. Aside from a few brief stretches in the first half where the Rockets got out running thanks to some Jeremy Lin aggressiveness, the Bulls played at their preferred, grind-it-out pace. Making nearly 53 percent of their shots in the first half helped limit transition opportunities, as the Bulls were able to get set in their halfcourt defense and make life miserable for Houston.
Augustin once again came in and provided a lift in the early going, scoring 10 points in the first half and knocking down a pair of three-pointers to give the Bulls a nice cushion after the Rockets had trimmed a nine-point deficit to one. The Bulls led 50-42 at the half and then cruised to victory after their absurd third quarter.
Gibson put an exclamation point on the win, dunking on our old buddy Omer Asik:
We also got Big Macs and Jimmer Time. A complete victory.