Bill Smith/Chicago Bulls

Bulls win a thriller over Rockets

Bulls improve to 25-10 on the season

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By Sam Smith | 1.05.2015 | 9:20 p.m. CT

Finals preview? If it was it could be a classic as the Bulls Monday rallied in the fourth quarter in a terrific game from both teams for a 114-105 victory over the Houston Rockets.

The Bulls got big threes down the stretch from Jimmy Butler and Nikola Mirotic to raise their record to 25-10. The Rockets are 23-11.

The Bulls got 27 points and 14 rebounds from Pau Gasol, 22 points from Butler, 19 points and nine assists from Derrick Rose and a huge 17 points and eight rebounds off the bench from Mirotic. The Bulls trailed 98-90 early in the fourth and then 100-95 with less than five minutes left when they got the big shots from Butler and Mirotic and Rose playmaking. The Bulls have won 10 of 11.

The Bulls got welcomed to the Western Conference to open the game and declared themselves able to relocate if necessary with a 34-33 first quarter lead. It was all transition, pushing the ball and early offense as Gasol scored 18 points with an assortment of pick and pop jumpers against Dwight Howard. That while the Rockets were running out for 24 points in the paint in the quarter and just under 60 percent shooting. Rose after a slow start trying to contain a suddenly offensive Patrick Beverly came on strong in the second quarter with four scores in five Bulls possessions for a 52-46 Bulls lead. The Rockets responded with a pair of threes from Harden. But the Bulls then got a big boost from Nikola Mirotic, who confounded Houston with mismatches playing small forward. Mirotic scored six straight points and eight for the quarter as the teams were tied at 62 at halftime with both teams shooting more than 55 percent in an entertaining half. The Bulls moved out ahead midway through the third quarter with Butler going to the basket and Rose finding him for a three. A Rose three then gave the Bulls a 78-75 lead before the Rockets closed with a 10-1 run for an 89-83 Houston lead heading into the fourth quarter.


1. Nikola Mirotic showed he can handle even starting at small forward—though he didn’t—proving a mismatch on offense and making defensive plays including a fourth quarter block on Corey Brewer.

2. Pau Gasol continues to demonstrate a myriad of skills that should get him the first All-Star game start. He was making jumpers against Dwight Howard and then drove by while also recording another double/double and two blocks.

3. The Bulls outsmarted themselves early as they had Jimmy Butler defending Trevor Ariza and Kirk Hinrich on James Harden to better match size. But once Butler took Harden in the second half Harden, the league’s leading scorer, had difficulty scoring.