The Chicago Bulls have had a rough start to 2018, losing three out of their first four games. They knew they had a challenge on their hands coming into tonight’s game as they were taking on the second best team in the western conference in the Houston Rockets.
The Rockets, however, were without their best player in MVP-candidate James Harden. Nikola Mirotic was also ruled out for the Bulls due to a stomach virus. Playing without Niko was obviously hard for Chicago, as they ultimately fell 116-107.
The Rockets are a fantastic three-point shooting team, and Bulls fans saw that early, as Rockets forward Trevor Ariza knocked down three three-pointers in just the first four minutes of the game. The Rockets long-range onslaught continued the rest of the quarter as they knocked down another five three-pointers.
The Bulls themselves hit four from beyond the arc in the first quarter, but they could not get the rest of their offense going as they hit only three other field goals the entire quarter. Chicago had a lot of ground to make up as they were down 35-22 after the first 12 minutes of action.
In the second quarter, Houston’s hot start from beyond the arc cooled down as they only added two more three-point field goals. Chicago took advantage of this offensive lapse to cut down Houston’s lead.
Bobby Portis led the effort, scoring 11 of his 22 points off the bench in the second quarter. The Bulls finished off the first half trailing by only five with the momentum in their favor.
Kris Dunn: “Nah” pic.twitter.com/RLMv50MEMJ
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) January 9, 2018
Chicago eventually lost the lead later on in the quarter as Houston went on a 14-3 run of their own. The three-point shooting may have slightly subsided, but the Rockets still put up points in a blur. As the buzzer sounded to end the third quarter, the Bulls were down 87-76.
In order to pick up a win tonight, the Bulls had to make some magic happen in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, the Rockets offense was too much to handle, and Chicago had no answer from their own offensive end. The game ended in a disappointing loss for Bulls fans after a great comeback effort earlier on.
Bobby Portis led the Bulls with 22 points off the bench, while Denzel Valentine put up 19 along with eight rebounds. Kris Dunn also had 19 points to go with eight assists. Lauri Markkanen had a solid game, scoring 16 points and racking up eight rebounds on 6-10 shooting.
Tonight’s contest was a very winnable game for the Bulls. Chicago battled back after being down by 21 at one point to eventually take the lead. The main issue was simply too many empty trips down the floor towards the end of the game.
Chicago forced five Houston turnovers in the first four minutes of the final quarter, but they did not convert any of those opportunities into points. Had they scored on just a few of those chances, the outcome of this game could very well have been different.
Overall, the Bulls did not do that bad of a job of limiting the Rockets’ three-pointers. Houston just attempts an insane amount of three-point field goals, 54 to the Bulls’ measly 28. The Bulls actually shot a better three-point percentage than Houston, 42.9% compared to 37.0%.
Chicago, however, was dominated down low on the glass. The Rockets had 51 rebounds, 11 of those being offensive rebounds, while the Bulls had only 37 rebounds and three offensive rebounds.
The Bulls need to focus on crashing the boards, as well as making sure that they do not mess up any easy openings, especially in late game situations.
After this game, the Bulls worsened to 14-27. Chicago’s next opportunity to improve upon their mistakes comes on Wednesday, January 13, against the New York Knicks. Catch the action at 6:30 pm (CT) on NBC Sports Chicago (TV) or WLS-AM 890 (Radio).