The Bulls came oh so close Friday to a blast off in Houston with an eight-point lead with under three minutes in regulation. But the Bulls couldn’t close with Jimmy Butler out injured and lost 121-117 in overtime.
The Bulls fell to 25-26 while the Rockets moved to 37-17. The Bulls had trailed by 17 points in the second quarter, but looked like they’d get a big victory before the Rockets scored the last eight points of regulation.
In the overtime, the Bulls fell quickly behind by five, rallied to go ahead 117-116 on a Dwyane Wade jumper after some big plays from Michael Carter-Williams. But James Harden made the big shots to carry Houston to the win.
Carter-Williams led the Bulls with 23 points and Taj Gibson had 20. Wade had 19 points shooting eight of 22. Doug McDermott had 12 points, Paul Zipzer 11 and Nikola Mirotic 11. Harden led Houston with 42 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists and shot 13 of 33.
The Bulls were hoping to move back over .500 after their two highest scoring games of the season with the wins over the 76ers and Thunder making it four wins in the last six games. The Bulls were heading to Sacramento next for Monday’s game, the third on the six-game Western Conference road trip. Denzel Valentine remained with the Windy City Bulls. It was a tough assignment with Bulls’ team’s high scorer, Butler, out with a right heel contusion. It was a big night in Houston with the retirement of Yao Ming’s number at halftime and the NFL Super Bowl being played Sunday. Carter-Williams returned to the lineup to start for Butler. Carter-Williams played briefly at the end of the Wednesday win over Oklahoma City after not playing the previous four games. The Bulls took an 8-3 lead to start, taking the ball inside and attempting to slow the game against the fast shooting Rockets of Mike D’Antoni. Houston missed five of its first seven three-point attempts, but Harden then made a pair for a 13-10 Houston lead. Carter-Williams was adding to the scoring inside as the teams were tied at 19 with two minutes left in the first quarter. A Rajon Rondo three enabled the Bulls to lead 26-24 after one quarter with Houston attempting 13 threes. The Rockets began making the threes, especially Eric Gordon, but the Bulls stayed close until Harden went out and the Rockets hit the Bulls with a 15-0 run, pushing the ball and beating the Bulls in transition. Wade was struggling trying to pick up the leadership from Butler, missing his first five shots with three turnovers as the Rockets surged to a 50-33 lead midway through the second quarter. But Wade would come back in the second half like in Oklahoma City. Carter-Williams, who was defending Harden, had a team high 11 points in the first half. He converted a driving three-point play and Gibson continued to battle inside as the Rockets, nevertheless, went into halftime leading 60-49. Houston was 10 of 24 on threes in the first half and 16 of 43 for the game, but outrebounded the Bulls 24-20 in the first half. The Rockets also ran for nine fast break points in the half for none for the Bulls.
That changed to start the second half as the Bulls returned to taking advantage of the smaller Rockets inside. Gibson ran scorer Ryan Anderson out of the game with dunk after dunk as the Bulls scored eight straight to open the third quarter and get right back in the game within 60-57 two minutes into the half. It was an 18-7 Bulls run that enabled the Bulls to tie the game at 67 with 6:24 left in the third quarter as Gibson had 12 points. Cristiano Felicio was out for the second half after a first half leg strain. Rondo made a classic hustle play getting a steal and outworking Gordon for the ball that led to a McDermott dunk. That gave the Bulls an 81-79 lead entering the fourth quarter. Mirotic with a three and McDermott with aggression on the offense end enabled the Bulls to move ahead 92-86 three minutes into the fourth quarter. Houston began going to Harden exclusively with the Bulls leading 97-93 with 5:45 left. Carter-Williams continued to beat the Houston defense with his size and a pass to Paul Zipser for a jumper to make it 108-100 Bulls, but the Bulls mishandled the ball as the Rockets scored six straight to trail 108-106 with 42.6 seconds left. A pair of Wade miscues and one by Zipser in the last two minutes were costly. Harden then missed a potential winner at the regulation buzzer.