The Rockets entered Monday night’s contest against the Bulls banged up and losers of seven straight, so this was a game Chicago needed to take care of to keep the momentum going. It looked like the Bulls were going to run the home Rockets off their own floor from the opening tip when they went up 22-7, but a lull to close the first quarter and open the second made things interesting ... for a bit.
After taking a six-point lead into halftime, Chicago then basically pulled a repeat of the Pelicans third quarter from a few weeks ago, scoring a season-high 46 points to turn the game into a total laugher. The fourth quarter was extended garbage time, with the Bulls cruising to a 120-100 victory to make it four wins out of five. Denzel Valentine even dunked for the third time in his career:
Did not think Denzel had this in him. Good on ya pic.twitter.com/ZjWQ6Yl5cH— Will Gottlieb (@wontgottlieb) February 23, 2021
Zach LaVine was quiet in the first half in terms of scoring, but he got the barrage going in the third quarter. After scoring just seven points in that opening half, he poured in 11 straight points in not even two minutes early in the third quarter, setting the stage for a beautiful display of basketball the rest of the frame. With Coby White briefly sidelined after a hard fall into the stanchion, the Bulls used a lineup of LaVine, Tomas Satoransky, Garrett Temple, Patrick Williams and Thaddeus Young to blow the doors off Houston.
As the Rockets stunk it up on offense, the Bulls were whipping the ball all over the court and making everything, both inside and out. LaVine scored 14 of his 21 points in the quarter as Chicago shot 19-of-25 from the field and 7-of-9 from 3-land while handing out 11 assists. Young and Sato combined for 15 points on 7-of-8 shooting and six assists. Temple knocked down a pair of triples, while Patrick Williams hit one as well. It was a total team effort in the quarter and throughout the game.
White led the Bulls with 24 points and 10 rebounds, shooting 10-of-16 from the field and 4-of-7 on 3-pointers to outplay John Wall, who along with Eric Gordon really struggled from the field (9-of-32 combined). White helped get the Bulls out to their hot start with 11 points in the first quarter, and he put the finishing touches on the blowout by making all three of his triples in the fourth quarter.
Carter joined White with his own double-double, stuffing the stat sheet with 18 points, 13 rebounds, three blocks, two steals and an assist. Carter took advantage of his size advantage against a small Rockets lineup and shot 8-of-14 from the field, and he also grabbed four offensive rebounds. Carter’s starting frontcourt mate in Williams had a stellar effort himself, going for 14 points and seven rebounds while shooting 6-of-8 from the field and 2-of-4 from 3. He was a plus-28.
Then there were the vets, who were as steady as ever. Temple was a game-high plus-39. Young had 17/8/5 and continues to make just about everything around the basket, shooting 8-of-9 and even pulling off stuff like this:
Thadgic Johnson. Your favorite veterans favorite veteran pic.twitter.com/hCKNFR0IEA— Will Gottlieb (@wontgottlieb) February 23, 2021
Sato had 10 points and four assists off the bench and was really moving the ball around well in that third quarter.
The Bulls wound up shooting 53.8% overall and 15-of-36 on 3-pointers as part of their dominant performance. It was nice to have a game like this where LaVine didn’t have to have a monster game, but even though he only had those 21 points, he did it efficiently by shooting 7-of-14 and 4-of-6 from 3. He added six assists and five rebounds and was a plus-36.
There certainly was very little to complain about in this game. There was an ugly stretch in the fourth that forced Billy Donovan to go back to LaVine and other key rotation guys, but the game was never in doubt. Part of me wanted to add in a dig at Valentine for being awful, but that dunk was hilarious and embarrassing for the Rockets in a fun victory so I’ll let him slide.
This was exactly the type of performance the Bulls needed to put forth against a Rockets roster that’s arguably in the worst in the NBA with Victor Oladipo, Christian Wood and DeMarcus Cousins sidelined. Funny enough, Houston was led by Bulls legend David Nwaba’s 22 points, and he was one of the few reasons the game was close in the first half. But the Rockets simply had no answer for the Bulls’ onslaught in the third quarter.
Chicago is now up to 14-16 on the season with another patsy ahead on Wednesday in the Timberwolves, though beware the new coach bump.