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Game Day: Rockets at Bulls

Analysis and observations from the Rockets' 111-87 loss to the Chicago Bulls

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POST-GAME OBSERVATIONS

A degree in rocket science was not required to ascertain that Houston’s best bet to consistently put points on the board tonight against the Bulls was to inject as much pace as possible into the contest. The more the Rockets ran, the more opportunities they would have to attack Chicago’s asphyxiating D before it could get set and shut things down in the half-court.

Here’s the thing about pushing the tempo, though: in order to do so, stops are a must. At this level, there’s just no such thing as playing with pace when you’re constantly forced to inbound the ball after a made basket. And unfortunately for Houston, that was far too often the case during a frustrating first half that saw them hit halftime trailing 50-42. Despite owning an offense that resides in the league’s bottom-5, the Bulls manufactured enough scoring to put the brakes on the Rockets’ high-flying attack. Carlos Boozer provided the fireworks in the first quarter while the red-hot D.J. Augustin delivered the goods in the second.

In short, the first half was all about D: Houston didn’t play enough, allowing Chicago to shoot better than 52 percent from the field. And the paucity of stops meant the Rockets were frequently forced to try their hand at prying apart the Bulls’ fully set and suffocating half-court defense.

Helping to hammer that point home was the fact that the Rockets experienced little in the way of road blocks during the rare moments when they were actually allowed to attack early in the shot clock. Jeremy Lin was especially instrumental in that respect, ramming the ball down the Bulls’ collective throats each and every time an opportunity presented itself. By the break, Lin led his club with 13 points off the bench and it was only his injection of life combined with Houston’s awesome work on the offensive glass (against an elite defensive rebounding team, no less) that kept the Rockets afloat after the opening 24 minutes.

- There was no such lifeline in the second half, however. As bad as Houston’s first quarter start seemed, it appeared positively sparkling when compared to the way the third period began. The Bulls started the quarter by rolling off 16-0 blitz built upon a barrage of 3-point makes and a steady stream of Rockets misses and other assorted miscues.

As Chicago’s lead approached 30, the numbers grew gorier by the minute. Choose whatever stat you wished, they all looked hideous from a Houston perspective: Harden and Howard combined for 12 turnovers; a Bulls team that came into the contest ranked 25th in 3-point percentage knocked down eight of its first nine attempts from beyond the arc. Mike Dunleavy, who suffered a nasty cut in the second quarter and was deemed questionable to return, ripped off 18 points in the third period alone. And by the time the final frame rolled around, Houston starters Chandler Parsons, Terrence Jones, James Harden and Pat Beverley were a combined 6-of-32 from the field. You get the idea. Outside of J-Lin’s scoring barrage – he finished with 21 points – there was no silver lining tonight.

- With its 111-87 loss, Houston falls to 44-21 on the season. The Rockets will attempt to avoid their first three-game losing streak of the season on Sunday when they face the two-time defending champs in Miami before yet another national TV audience. 

QUOTES

KEVIN MCHALE

We were not ready to play to start the game.

We did not come out ready to play. I have no idea why. If I did know why I would have stopped it. I have no idea why. We didn’t do anything defensively or offensively to start the game. We were walking it up we weren’t running, we weren’t coming off screens, we weren’t playing the way we needed to play to win the game.

JEREMY LIN

Starting from the beginning of the game, we were trying to play catch-up the entire time. We came out flat as a team definitely and you can’t do that against a really good team on the road.

We didn’t really do anything tough to be honest. They got to loose balls, they did everything they wanted to and kind of bullied us off our spots offensively and then defensively they just got clean open looks, drove the lane and our rotations weren’t there, we weren’t really clicking defensively at all and it shows because they shot a lot of uncontested 3s and hit a lot of them.

We’ve been down 15-plus in the last few games and we need to get to the point where we don’t have to worry about coming back.

JAMES HARDEN

We hadn’t had one of those in a couple months. It was tough on both ends. We just started off slow and couldn’t get in a rhythm the entire game and they made shots.

(intensity lacking?)

Everything. Everything was lacking tonight. We didn’t stop them or do what we wanted to on defense. We couldn’t make a shot. We didn’t push the tempo or the pace like we needed to in order to have a chance in the game and the score showed it.

Tom Thibodeau- Chicago coach:

Q: On tonight’s game:

A: “You can’t get too excited. Much better start throughout we played good defense, offense was solid. Carlos got going good at the start of the game and that set the tone for us for the rest of the game.”

Q: On Mike Dunleavy:

A: “It was pretty nice. He’s a consummate pro. He plays hard every night and give himself up for the team. Offensively he moves great without the ball, moves the ball quickly. Defensively he is always sticking his nose in and taking charges. That is the price of winning and that is why he is so valuable to our team. He came back after stitches and took another charge. When you talk about toughness that is toughness. You have to have mental toughness and physical toughness, and he has it.”

Q: On Jimmy Butler:

A: “I thought Jimmy played with really great energy. I thought the bigs were great with their support. They missed some shots they normally make. I think we got a little lax at the end of the 2nd quarter. We gave 3 layups up in a row, and with them they can erase 10 points very quickly. Rebounding is a concern, you have to get back and get set and keep firing.”

Q: On Joakim Noah:

A: “He is terrific all around. Not in any 1 particular area just an all-around player in every aspect of the game. In the defense, the transition, the communication, pick and rolls, picking up smalls because they are coming at you fast and force switches. He handled all of that. Offensively he has great decision making. We had a lot of guys step up and play great defense for us. Mike, Taj, DJ all played terrific.”

Q: On the bounce back from the tough loss against San Antonio:

A: “I think the big this is you go from game to game and understand that every game is a test. After every game, it is going to reveal what you’ve done well and things you’ve done poorly. Then you move forward and get ready for the next opponent. If you do that throughout the course of the season and correct things we will be in position to win.”

Kirk Hinrich

Q: On the games this week:

A: “I feel like we’ve played some good basketball, and there have been some games where we haven’t. We kind of ran into a buzz saw against San Antonio and we weren’t quite ready. We just wanted to make sure we were ready coming out tonight.”

Q: On tonight’s game:

A: “I was getting great looks, and our ball movement was great. We were very sharp offensively tonight.”

Q: On the defense against Harden and Parsons:

A: “It was a team effort. We knew it was going to be a challenge. Their team scores a lot of points, gets up and down. They have Dwight, a bunch of shooters around him. Harden is as tough of a guard as there is in the league. We’re happy with it. We played well, we wanted to bounce back, and feel like we did a good job doing that. There is a lot of pride in this locker room. We take a lot of pride of how we do as a team. Collectively, when we play well on both ends, we can compete with a lot of teams.”