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Bulls vs. Rockets final score: vets pull out fourth quarter W over one of the league’s worst

that was much closer than it needed to be.

NBA: Chicago Bulls at Houston Rockets Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Zach LaVine is enjoying a heck of a heater right now.

Our Chicago Bulls’ highest-paid player led the way for his team against a miserable Houston Rockets club tonight. LaVine finished with a game-high 36 points while shooting 14-of-26 from the floor (3-of-8 from deep) and 5-of-6 from the charity stripe, eight rebounds and five assists. Across his last five contests, the 6’5” shooting guard is averaging 35 points on 56.5% shooting from the floor, and looking like his All-Star self again, shooting well inside and out.

Zach Attack’s offensive effort tonight, combined with an efficient night and some clutch shooting from DeMar DeRozan, solid second-half makes from Nikola Vucevic, and the two-way play of Patrick Beverley, powered the Bulls to a 119-111 finish over a totally scattered young Rockets club.

The Rockets started out red-hot from deep.

In the game’s first quarter, Houston outscored Chicago 32-22, only to see the Bulls outmuscle the Rockets in the second quarter with a 32-23 run of their own. Houston led at the break, 55-54. Houston went 9-of-16 from deep through the bout’s first two quarters. Were it not for a Bulls run to close the half, things would not even have been quite that close — the Rockets led by as many as 13 points in the first half.

The Rockets built on their lead in the third quarter, and headed into the final frame of regulation up eight, 95-87.

That’s when Chicago clamped down, outscoring the Rockets 32-16 in the frame. The Rockets fell apart after their shooting went cold, and all of their raw young players kept trying to take over in the fourth to no available, against a suddenly keyed-in Bulls defense.

Patrick Beverley also quietly enjoyed his best game as a Bull, logging a 16-point, 10-rebound double-double while generating bonus possessions for Chicago with his weirdly effective offensive rebounding (he had five all told):

Perhaps the most exciting defense-into-fast break offense moment came when three Bulls (Alex Caruso, Vucevic and DeMar DeRozan) denied Houston guard Kenyon Martin Jr. beneath the basket, Vucevic ultimately pinged the rock to DeRozan headed downhill, and DDR subsequently fed Zach LaVine for a nifty alley-oop in the final frame (they had two tonight):

In two years, LaVine and DeRozan have never really developed a ton of chemistry on offense, opting instead for the “my-turn, your-turn” dueling banjos approach to scoring. If they can develop a bit more of a two-man game while LaVine looks this athletic, the Bulls really might have enough.. to make the play-in tournament and not quite make the playoffs.

All told, Chicago made 15 of their 32 three-point attempts (46.9%!), the most triples the team has made in a game in nearly a month. Beverley (4-of-5) and Vucevic (4-of-7) led the way in that department.

Transition scoring was also a big element of the Bulls’ scoring punch tonight. Chicago led the way in fast break scoring (16-9), points off turnovers (23-10), and rebounding (53-43).

This win improves the Bulls to 31-36 on the year, which ties them with the Washington Wizards. That said, thanks to a superior inter-conference record (the Bulls are 23-22, the Rockets are 18-23), Chicago now leapfrogs the Wiz to nab the current 10th seed in the East.