The Bulls Saturday endured late in the game against a furious Houston Rockets rush to earn a well deserved 108-100 victory.
The win broke a four-game losing streak as the Bulls had lost nine of 12. The win enabled them to climb back over .500 at 31-30. Houston fell to 30-32.
The Bulls were led by Pau Gasol with 28 points, 17 rebounds and six assists. Derrick Rose added 17 points and nine assists.
Jimmy Butler in his return from a knee injury got a nice ovation with 2:34 when he fouled out with the Bulls leading 104-92. Butler had 24 points, 11 rebounds and six assists. James Harden scored 36 points for Houston.
The Bulls committed a staggering 26 turnovers in a sometimes sloppy but fast paced game in which they also had 24 fast break points and 28 assists. Houston had 19 turnovers and got to 100 points late for the 16th straight game the opponent scored at least 100. It did appear Rose’s back stiffened up from an earlier fall in the game as he wasn’t handling the ball late and sat out much of the fourth quarter.
The Bulls got Butler and Nikola Mirotic back from injury, and the effect was immediate, especially from Butler. The Bulls were 3-8 while Butler was out with a knee injury. But combining in an uptempo game with Rose, Butler took a lob pass from Gasol late in the first quarter with a spectacular one handed dunk that Rose followed after a Rockets’ miss with a blazing fast reverse layup for a 22-11 Bulls lead, a rare first quarter edge of late. The Bulls also were moving the ball adroitly and with purpose, chalking up 10 first quarter assists and 58 percent shooting for a 29-23 lead. Rose was brilliant with the ball on the run for four assists and Gasol had nine points and eight rebounds. Though eight first quarter Bulls turnovers enabled Houston to stay close.
Rose and Butler continued to work well to start the second quarter, but the Bulls with more shaky play with the ball allowed the Rockets to get out on the break and follow misses with similar inattention to the offensive boards as Houston pulled within 34-32 with 8:50 left in the half. The Rockets eased out ahead 39-36 in what was becoming a nettlesome game. Patrick Beverley got a steal from Rose and fast break and when Butler followed that with a steal and fast break, Rose and Beverley got technical for taunting and Bulls assistant Jim Boylen added another technical. The Bulls then continued to attack the basket with Butler going 10 of 11 from the free throw line in the first half as the Bulls took a 55-43 halftime lead. They held Houston to 35.4 percent shooting and Gasol had 13 points and 10 rebounds at half.
The Rockets got going behind James Harden after Rose’s three gave the Bulls a 58-43 lead early in the second half. Houston cut it to 60-52 before Butler operating inside and on the break scored twice to put the Bulls back ahead by 15 with 7:50 left in the third quarter. The Bulls remained ahead 71-57 after a Doug McDermott three. But Butler had to get a rest after being out so long and Harden took over, blowing by Bulls players to push the Rockets back within 75-68 with three minutes left in the third quarter. The Bulls got Harden better under control with E’Twaun Moore on him and moved ahead 83-72 before a late Gasol turnover led to a Rockets’ three and the Bulls with an 83-75 lead entering the fourth quarter. Though Harden drew his fifth foul late in the quarter.
The Bulls looked like they might run away early in the fourth after a Mirotic three and fist pump for a 92-75 lead and then 98-82 after a three by Moore with about seven minutes left. But the Rockets kept the Bulls guessing with a Harden three that still had Houston within 102-92 with 2:38 left.