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Rockets Find Way To Bull Past Chicago

November 22, 2012 12:32 am EST

Rockets ride strong defensive effort to 93-89 win over Chicago

HOUSTON - It wasn’t pretty. At times, in fact, it was downright painful to watch. But let there be no doubt: The end result of Wednesday’s tilt between the Rockets and Bulls was a sight for sore eyes for a Houston team in desperate need of a win.

So rail against the 23 turnovers conceded and 16 offensive rebounds allowed – the Rockets surely will as well when they review the tape. But after a rough and rocky three-game losing streak on the road, Houston’s players will no doubt head into Thanksgiving endlessly grateful to have found a way to overcome all those miscues while recording a sorely-needed 93-89 victory over the Bulls.

“It’s hard to win games in this league; it’s definitely hard when you have to beat two teams,” said Rockets acting head coach Kelvin Sampson, referring to the inordinate number of self-imposed stumbling blocks the Rockets had to overcome. “I just thought our defense was outstanding today. They made some tough shots and they got some second shots but our half-court defense was the difference, especially down the stretch.

“That was a toughness win. For us to grind out a win like that against that team should give our young guys a lot of confidence.”

Truth be told, the gritty, grimy nature of Wednesday’s contest could hardly be considered much of a surprise. The Bulls do board work with the best of them and the Rockets’ tendency to turn the ball over is no secret. Add to the mix the fact both teams came in desperate and dying for a win, and there was little doubt fans were going to be treated to a game that had the potential to be high on scrappiness and low on aesthetic appeal.

What those in attendance did receive, however, was a tense, back-and-forth, drama-filled affair that wasn’t decided until the game’s final seconds. And as Sampson mentioned, it was the Rockets’ defense that ultimately carried the day, pitching a shutout for the last 4:41 until Chicago managed a pair of largely meaningless buckets in the final moments. And appropriately enough, it was former Bull Omer Asik who delivered the defensive dagger, swatting Joakim Noah’s layup attempt with 14 seconds remaining to effectively seal the win for Houston. 

Prior to that point, the Rockets had leaned heavily on the usual suspects: James Harden (28 points and a career-high-tying 5 steals), Chandler Parsons (18 points, 13 rebounds) and Patrick Patterson (20 points, 8 boards). But on a night when starting point guard Jeremy Lin really struggled to find any sort of rhythm (2-9 shooting, 5 turnovers), it was Toney Douglas who provided perhaps the biggest spark when Houston needed it most.

Douglas entered the game with 3:21 left and his team down 84-81. Chicago’s perpetually-combustible Nate Robinson had started to heat up, so Sampson brought Douglas in to help slow down the Bulls’ diminutive guard. The Florida State product did more than that, however. Douglas drained a massive three-pointer that put the Rockets ahead for good, then knocked down all four of his free throws in the final minute to prevent the possibility of one final Chicago rally.

“I think defense won the game,” said Douglas, who finished with 11 points while shooting 8-8 from the line. “No matter what we did on offense, no matter who scored points or what happened, we are not going to win any game if we don't play how we played tonight on defense, stopping people and getting stops when we need them.”

That sentiment obviously resonates with the defensive-minded Sampson, who praised Douglas post-game while offering words of wisdom that could just as easily apply to the entire Rockets team.

“I’m big on heart and I’m big on toughness; those things I always put a huge value on. Toney also has a shot memory when it comes to mistakes – that’s important going through the course of a season. You’re going to make mistakes and you’re going to have some turnovers, but don’t be afraid to succeed.”

QUOTES

KELVIN SAMPSON

(winning despite turning the ball over and getting hurt on offensive glass)

It’s hard to win games in this league; it’s definitely hard when you have to beat two teams. I just thought our defense was outstanding today. They made some tough shots and they got some second shots but our half-court defense was the difference, especially down the stretch … That was a toughness win. For us to grind out a win like that against that team should give our young guys a lot of confidence.

I don’t know how many shots Omer blocked, I guess three, but he probably changed three or four, too. Sometimes statistics don’t really tell the story.

(on Toney Douglas)

“I was upset at him for passing up shots. I told him 'don't pass up shots, you're a good shooter'. I felt like Toney gave us our best chance to win. He was a better match up with Nate (Robinson). Toney’s not the perfect player by any means. Most people can figure out what’s wrong with someone; you don’t have to be real smart to do that. But I’m big on heart and I’m big on toughness; those things I always put a huge value on. Toney also has a shot memory when it comes to mistakes – that’s important going through the course of a season. You’re going to make mistakes and you’re going to have some turnovers, but don’t be afraid to succeed. Stick your neck out there. If you’re a good enough player, it will work out and everyone on our team is good enough – that’s why they’re in the NBA.

(Is Jeremy pressing?)

Probably. He’s a human being. He probably puts a little more pressure on himself than he needs to. But we support him. I’m not changing the starting lineup – that’s not going to happen. He’s going to go out there against New York and one of these games he’s going to break through and I’ll have the biggest grin in the room when he does. Jeremy’s a good player. He did some good things today. We support our guys and empower them to play to the best of their abilities.

PATRICK PATTERSON

(On the play of Toney Douglas) “Toney stepped up big time for us. He came in and guarded Nate Robinson extremely well, I thought. He ran the offensive sets. He hit some clutch shots and he hit that big 3 (pointer). He stepped into it with tremendous confidence and he knocked it down, nothing but net.”

(On the importance of the win) “We played extremely well at home. We've got the home crowd and we've got the intensity. This stretch could be tremendous for us. This could get us above .500 and beyond. So, we have to stay focused. We have to stay hungry. We have to concentrate on each game, each team at hand and we can't overlook anybody else and just stay hungry. We have to continue playing hard, working hard and sharing the ball and doing all the things that we need to do for this team to be successful.”

(on the team rebounding)

We knew they were a tough, physical team and we knew they were going to battle, push us around, do whatever they could to get the offensive boards, especially Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer – they thrive on getting offensive rebounds.

(on the team defensive strategy down the stretch)

We wanted to keep the ball out of Luol Deng’s hands. They were trying to go to him a bunch, whether it was setting a screen-and-roll with Nate Robinson. Chandler switched that on to Nate and then Nate had to make a play … I thought our defense made them go away from what they wanted to do and that caused Nate to go one-on-one at the end of the shot clock.

TONEY DOUGLAS

(On how important it was to get this win) “It was very important. We lost three in a row coming off the road and anytime you play at home that's an important game. You gotta win your home games no matter who you play. Our goal is to get to the playoffs and go from there so I think in coming back home and redeeming ourselves, we did a pretty good job.”

(On the upcoming game against the Knicks) “This game, I think defense won the game. No matter what we did on offense, no matter who scored points or what happened, we are not going to win any game if we don't play how we played tonight on defense, stopping people and getting stops when we need them.”

JAMES HARDEN

(On if he thought this was the best game of the year) “I think defensively we played pretty well. That's what kept us in the game. I think offensively, at times, we struggled. Our defense really locked in at key moments in the game and even down the stretch.”

(On the play of Toney Douglas) “He works so hard. He had the courage to step up into that shot and shoot it. That's what we need. We need different guys to step up different nights and make big plays. Not only Toney but Omer (Asik) made a big block at the end of the game. I think different guys stepped up the entire night and that's how we got the win.”

JEREMY LIN

I’m happy because we had lost three in a row and needed a win. We definitely needed this one.

Me, in terms of how I’m playing, I’m a little disappointed in myself but it’s just a matter of continuing to fight and continuing to get better. No one wants to have a stretch like I’ve been having, a slump or what not, but that’s part of the game.

(on Douglas making big plays down the stretch)

That’s huge because it’s great to have somebody pick up for me because we really, really needed this win right here. We’re glad we got it.

(feel like you’re pressing?)

Not really. I felt like the shots that I took were shots that I can make. It’s just one of those things where I haven’t had the rhythm that I’ve wanted to have, so that’ll come … I feel like these are shots, for one reason or another, they’re just not going in right now, but I still feel like they’re good shots for me and shots I’ve been shooting my whole career.

(on playing New York)

I’m just going to keep playing – it’s a blessing. It’s ironic that Thanksgiving is around the corner because it’s a good reminder to be thankful for everything I have. I’m going to go out there on Friday and just play my heart out and just try to approach it the same, just play my heart out and be OK with the results whatever they may be trusting in God.

CHICAGO BULLS COACH TOM THIBODEAU

(On the close of the game) “It was a hard fought game coming down the stretch we didn’t get key stops and had some turnovers late and that is what really hurt us.”

(On Nate Robinson’s play) “There was some good and some bad. Our defensive discipline really got us in trouble in key parts of the game.

(On the team’s defensive intensity) “They’re a very tough defensive team to guard. At times I thought we did pretty good, then we forced them into some turnovers and we couldn’t get key stops late. That is something we have to correct. The big thing on defense is everyone has a responsibility. We have to stay discipline and we have to stay attached and we can’t make things up. So the fourth quarter is different, you’re intensity is higher and you have to stay disciplined and on the offensive end you have to stay disciplined.”

JOAKIM NOAH

(On what the Bulls need to do to get on the right track) “We have to execute better in the fourth quarter. These games are close and we are just not executing in the forth quarter. We have to play better together. We’re not playing great right now.”

(On the Bulls defense) “Our defense is not what it used to be. It’s not what it was last year that’s for sure. We have to do better. Losing three in a row is unacceptable. We’re better than that.”

(On Chandler Parsons) “He’s playing at a high level. He’s very skilled. He can do a lot of things out on the court. He passes the ball very well, shoots the ball, you can’t go under a screen on him. For his size he can make a lot of plays. He’s a very solid player and I’m proud of the way he’s playing. He’s kind of like a son to me.”

NATE ROBINSON

(On the team’s play in the fourth quarter) “We’re finding ways to lose. We just have to back to the drawing board and get the next one. We seem to be thinking too much. We just have to go out and just play. Whatever happens, happens. We’re thinking too much. Each guy is pulling for each other I think too much instead of everyone trying to do the right thing. We just need the game to come to us.”

NOTES

The Rockets recorded a 93-89 win over the Bulls tonight, extending Houston’s active franchise-record for consecutive victories when holding an opponent under 90 points to 33 in a row. Since Tom Thibodeau became the Bulls head coach in 2010-11, Chicago has now gone 20-13 in games when they score fewer than 90 points.

Houston won tonight despite a season-high 23 turnovers, but tightened up from downtown by allowing the Bulls to shoot just .125 (2-16 3FG) from beyond the arc.

Chicago finished 11-of-19 (.579) from the charity stripe tonight. The Bulls went just 8-of-17 (.471) from the free throw line last season at Chicago (4/2/12). Chicago also went 15-of-28 (.536) from the stripe the prior season at Houston (11/16/10).

James Harden totaled a game-high 28 points (8-14 FG, 9-13 FT) and a career-high-tying five steals tonight. Harden also matched his career best with five steals vs. Denver (11/7/12). He originally set his career high with five thefts at Sacramento (2/12/11).

Patrick Patterson recorded a season-high 20 points (8-16 FG) tonight to go with eight boards. Patterson came into this game off his previous best of 19 points (8-14 FG) and two blocks at Utah (11/19/12). Overall, it marked his third career 20-point performance.

Chandler Parsons posted another 18 points (7-13 FG) and a career-high 13 rebounds tonight. He posted his previous career best of 12 rebounds vs. Portland (11/3/12). Parsons now has four double-doubles over the last five outings. He came into this season with just two career double-doubles.

Toney Douglas added 11 points (8-8 FT) off the bench tonight, marking his third double-figure scoring game of the season.

Nate Robinson came off the Bulls bench with a season-high 21 points (9-22 FG) and five assists. He also tallied a team-high 18 points (5-10 FG) at Portland (11/18/12).

Luol Deng, who led the Bulls in scoring with 24 points (9-14 FG) in the last meeting with the Rockets at Chicago (4/2/12), notched 19 points (7-20 FG), 10 rebounds and three steals tonight. It marked his second double-double of the season.

Carlos Boozer finished with 13 points (6-14 FG) and 15 rebounds tonight. Boozer came into this game averaging 18.0 points and 9.7 boards over his previous three outings. He had 16 points (8-14 FG), 13 rebounds and a team-high seven assists against the Rockets last season at Chicago (4/2/12).

Joakim Noah recorded 11 points (5-9 FG), seven boards, four assists, four blocks and two steals tonight. Noah actually posted 23 points, 10 rebounds, five steals, three assists and three blocks in Chicago’s win earlier this season over Sacramento (10/31/12).