Bulls blow out Rockets 120-100, have won four of last five.
Chicago outscored Houston 46-26 in the third quarter to pull away.
Remind Me Later •
Coby White had 24 points and 10 rebounds, Zach LaVine added 21, and Wendell Carter had 18 points, 13 boards, and 3 blocks as the Bulls shot 53.8% of the field en route to blowing out the Houston Rockets 120-100. The Bulls limited Houston's John Wall to 15 points on 4-of-14 shooting. Chicago (14-16) has now won four of their last fives games.
You don't want to look away when Superman is putting his cape on.
You're probably going to miss something special, which this time Coby White did when he had to briefly go to the locker room for repairs as Zach LaVine was scoring 11 straight points and 16 in less than three minutes to turn a Houston Rockets comeback into a Bulls rout Monday on the way to a 120-100 Bulls victory.
It got the Bulls at 14-16 into a tie for eighth in the Eastern Conference, just a game and a half out of fourth as one of the hottest teams in the conference with four wins in the last five and six of nine.
"Light years from where we were last year," said Thad Young with another Sixth Man of the Year game off the bench, eight of nine shooting for 17 points, eight rebounds and five assists. "Same team pretty much but just different mentality, different mindset, different understanding of the game. Everybody is being utilized sightly different than they were last year. Overall, this team is in a great space. We believe we can win every single game we go out there and play."
LaVine had a just-what's-needed 21 points with a team high six assists, and perhaps a significant, if capricious, development in finally getting the recognition he's deserved. ESPN's SportsCenter highlight show Monday night teased a Bulls game segment with a LaVine comparison to Michael Jordan and showed only LaVine's scoring highlights in the Bulls win like they always do with LeBron James.
White with 24 points and 10 rebounds led the Bulls in scoring, and Wendell Carter Jr. added 18 points, 13 rebounds, three blocks and two steals. Though with the All-Star game reserves scheduled to be revealed Tuesday night on the TNT pregame show, LaVine could use the additional attention.
And you also don't want to look away from LaVine's game lately. The ESPN statistic was LaVine's 35 per game scoring average the last eight games before Monday, which matches only Jordan in Bulls annals. LaVine is averaging 31 per game in February, during which more significantly the Bulls have won seven of 12 and are on the way to their first winning month in more than three years.
"Winning is important to him," said Bulls coach Billy Donovan. "He's learning, he's evolving, he's growing and he continues to get better. I'd imagine all the guys and coaches and players he's played against this year would probably have the highest of praise for him if you just look what he's done and how efficient he's been. It's pretty remarkable (plus-36 on plus/minus). Tonight, he had 20, 21 whatever it was. That first quarter he's facilitating and getting guys shots (in a Bulls 29-24 start and 54-48 at halftime). That third quarter he kind of took over and helped us open up the game."
Which came after White took a hard fall into the basket stanchion trying to defend a John Wall drive. White said the worst of it was a cut lip. He said he thought he'd sustained a broken nose. He apparently was not demanding, "Cut me, Mick" of the trainers to get back in the game.
The Bulls at the time were a little rocky against Houston's bottle Rockets. With several regulars out and DeMarcus Cousins apparently held out for trade, release or Boogie bored reasons, the Rockets tallest starter was 6-7 with everyone else 6-4 or under. This seemed like it would be a walkover for the Bulls with Victor Oladipo also out. It appeared that way with a 22-7 Bulls start, LaVine mostly setting up White's 11 first quarter points. But the Rockets with David Nwaba's 22 points on shots you wouldn't teach anyone tied the game at 38 before the Bulls edged ahead at halftime with Young even performing a hidden ball trick with a behind the back dribble and score.
Bulls broadcaster Stacey King has taken to calling the wily, old veteran of 14 NBA seasons Thadgic in tribute and deference to Magic Johnson. "I've heard of it," Young said. "I've been seeing it on Instagram and Twitter and everybody has been going crazy. I just think it's funny. I don't think too much about it. I laugh. I like seeing stuff like that where guys are making up names and guys are having their fun on TV and stuff like that. I'm very happy to see we can have some humor from it and be able to go out there and continue to just let me do what I do."
Which has been marvelous, Young shooting about 65 percent in February. And then, talk about shooting, Zach just did what he does.
White was nearly supine by the basket support for a time, eventually coming out of the game and back to the locker room with the Bulls leading 58-53 with about 10 minutes left in the third quarter. White later went back in the game. When he returned to the bench a few minutes later, he looked at the scoreboard and saw the Bulls were leading 86-65. LaVine had seven points when White left; when he returned LaVine had 21.
"I think Zach had like, six points at the half, or eight points," said White. "I went back for like two or three minutes and when I come back I see Zach's got 20. So I asked Wendell like, ‘What happened?' He said, ‘Bruh, he went on a 14-0 run.' And I was like, ‘Dang.' I come back and I see we're up by like 15. I said, ‘Something happened.'"
Zach happened. It's been happening a lot for the Bulls this season.
The Rockets scored 12 straight points after the Bulls led by 31 points with 6:32 left in the game. Donovan even brought back his starters. Yes, development appears to be over. But this game was really over during Zach Time.
"When he lets it go from behind the line you feel like it's going in all the time," said Donovan. "He has a great touch and great ability to make shots. I thought he was a real catalyst in that first quarter, getting guys shots. He was driving and kicking and made some really good plays, got Coby a couple of open shots. All of a sudden they maybe start backing off him a little bit because they're trying to control his penetration. That's when he gets his threes. He can kind of go on a run like he did."
And perhaps the Bulls are off and running?
No one is getting too excited yet as .500 still takes some squinting. But the Eastern Conference isn't as daunting as it seemed before the season with Milwaukee, Boston, Toronto and Miami all at different levels of disappointment. The 76ers are a problem as the Bulls discovered last week, and, of course, the Brooklyn Nets even with Kevin Durant playing little. But it's suddenly a relatively wide open conference, and playing for a play-in may be less goal than disappointment.
A franchise record 46-point third quarter in which the Bulls shot 76 percent and made seven of nine threes and had 10 assists gets a team thinking like that.
"I've been harping on before every game, I'll say something like, ‘They throw a punch, we've got to throw three back.'" said Young. "Trying to get guys to understand teams are going to come out swinging. You have to be able to take their punches and then come back and swing two or three times and back them up. I think we've done a good job of that throughout the course of the season. Being a young team you are going to have some bursts where those punches are coming and you can't withstand them. Tonight we threw a punch, they came back and threw a punch and then we threw two or three of them right back. I think it was a 46-26 quarter or something like that in the third. Which was probably one of the best quarters I've been a part of in my career."
It's not looking like a fluke anymore. Patrick Williams added 14 points and Tomas Satoransky had 10. Garrett Temple with rugged defense had a team best plus-39.
"We know it starts with the defensive side of the basketball," said Young. "You have a team that's willing to play for each other. It's kind of like the same thing when I was in Indy. We played for each other. We always tried to have 30-plus assists a game and everybody just played for one another. This kind of gives me the same vibe and the same feel. We understand who our main guys are, but we also understand there are four other guys out there that are around the guy with the basketball. So we all try to move, cut and make reads for each other and try to make the game as easy as possible. I think that's what it has been."
Others continue to notice. Where in most recent seasons the Bulls were a walkover on the schedule for opponents, it's becoming interesting to listen to opponent broadcasting teams. Houston's Bill Worrell has been broadcasting Rockets games for 40 years and has been familiar with the Rockets recent domination of the Bulls behind James Harden. Apparently unaware Harden isn't with them anymore, the Rockets repeatedly drove and passed out for threes, missing 27 of 40. The backcourt of Wall and Eric Gordon was two of 13.
Late in the game when the Rockets were making what seemed like a meaningless run, Worrell trying to retain the home audience said, "There's no quit in these Rockets." But then he added, "There's more talent on the Bulls."
Nice to hear for a change.
Though while most everyone was laughing through the end of the laughter, not so much Donovan, who brought back LaVine, Temple and Young with 4:24 left and still leading by 20.
"There's been some games this year where leads for us have evaporated pretty quickly and we needed to get guys in that were gonna close it out," Donovan explained. "It wasn't really sending a message or anything else. I think they cut it down to 19. I think we started that fourth quarter up 28 (26). And we're all the way down to 19 with four to go. I know that's a big lead, but the three-point line, possessions; things happen in the league. Trying to close the game out."
No need to apologize. It now seems about winning. About time.
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