I guess...well...hmm...it’s the NBA, after all. And weird losses can happen? The Bulls aren’t actually some juggernaut, and a road date against an NBA team isn’t a gimme. Even when that NBA team is the worst in the league, with one win all season, and not really trying to win when their veterans are getting limited minutes or DNPs.
Alas, the Bulls really did it tonight, they were the ones to snap the Rockets 15 game losing streak in a befuddling 118-113 final score. The Bulls had won the 4th quarter and managed to get within 3 at points late in this game, but never re-took the lead after Houston had a 35-18 third period and a double-digit margin.
Worth repeating: The Houston Rockets, who came into this game as the league’s worst offense (97.8 ORTG), put up 118 points (112.1 ORTG) on 50% shooting from the field.
Yes, Houston was a bit lucky from three in hitting 17-36 (47.2%) from distance, but as an overall defensive performance the Bulls were mostly unacceptable for much of this game.
Crazily enough it was the Rockets bench that supplied much of the firepower, outscoring the Bulls bench 59-26. 2nd overall pick Jalen Green had a great opening stint with 11 points on 4-5 shots including a breathtakingly fast crossover on Zach LaVine, but did not return to action after sustaining a leg injury. So it was the likes of Daniel House, Armoni Brooks, and Garrison Matthews who were a combined 9-14 from three. Rookie backup center Alperen Sengun looked like he was going to be a punchline after being on the receiving end of a nasty Ayo Dosunmu poster, but wound up also contributing with 13 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists in his 16 minutes, a +7 while the starter Christian Wood was -2.
Meanwhile for the Bulls, LaVine led with 28 but didn’t get enough help. In Nikola Vucevic’s return he was like he has been most of the season, going 2-5 from three but missing several shots in close. Vuc also committed 6 fouls in 26 minutes and added 2 turnovers. DeMar DeRozan had one of his quieter games of the season, a mere 17 points on 6-19 shooting. It was Lonzo Ball who was the 2nd banana, but it was almost entirely in the first half as 17 of his 19 points came in those first two periods. Javonte Green may have been minute-by-minute the Bulls 2nd best player here, with just 9 points but several hustle plays and ‘cool shit’ dunks, and really it’s an entertainment product at the end of the day, right?
Again, this still was a game the Bulls could’ve clawed back after they raised defensive pressure (the Rockets turned the ball over a lot tonight like they have all season) and Alex Caruso came alive for 11 points in the period hitting 3 three-pointers after hitting that many in his previous 6 games combined. But the Bulls just could not get consecutive stops on Houston, who were effective in making the extra pass and, sure, getting a bit lucky. There was a key play late where Lonzo Ball hit a three only to see it waived off due to an offensive foul, a call that was upheld after a Billy Donovan challenge.
We had thought maybe the Bulls were immune to such a down performance, but maybe instead this means they actually are a really good team? Because they felt they could come into a road arena and coast to a win? But even the truly great teams lay eggs like this, and the key to the Bulls being better than meh is that they don’t do it again as they travel to Orlando for another ‘gimme’ in 2 nights.