Zach LaVine led the Bulls with 33 points on 11/16 shooting as seven players scored in double digits to help the Chicago beat the Houston Rockets 125-120.
The Bulls hit 17 three-point shots, including a Lauri Markkanen (18 points, seven rebounds) three-point dagger with 0:48 seconds remaining, staving off an attempted Rockets comeback.
Victor Oladipo scored 32 points and added nine assists while Christian Wood scored 30 points to lead the Rockets.
The Bulls faced the Rockets for the first time this season and were looking to begin a winning streak after beating the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday. The Rockets hoped to get back to winning ways as they lost to the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday, 103-91.
Victor Oladipo made his second trip to the United Center this season, but his first in a Houston Rockets uniform. Oladipo came over from the Indiana Pacers as part of the blockbuster three-team trade that saw James Harden head to Brooklyn.
Both Otto Porter Jr. and Patrick Williams were out for tonight’s game. Garrett Temple got the start in place of the rookie. John Wall was notably absent for the Rockets.
Slow Start Offensively, Good Start Defensively
Both teams struggled offensively in the early stages of this one. In fact, the Bulls had an offensive performance ranked in the 17th percentile but were still leading by double-digits at the end of the first quarter, most likely because the Rockets were playing in the 0th percentile:
The Bulls started off shooting just 4/13 from the field (31%) mid-way through the first quarter. On top of that, sloppy basketball reared its ugly head again as the Bulls turned the ball over seven times in the opening frame.
However, the Bulls picked it up and went on a 16-6 run during the back half of the opening quarter and ended up shooting 50% from the field.
Furthermore, the Bulls showed up defensively, limiting new Rocket Victor Oladipo to just three points on 1/4 shooting. The Bulls also forced the Rockets into nine turnovers in the first quarter, the most turnovers forced by the Bulls in any quarter this season.
LaVine Picks It Up
The Rockets eventually did heat up in the second quarter, shooting 6/10 from beyond the arc. Oladipo and Christian Wood led the charge for Houston, scoring 12 and ten points in the quarter, respectively. The Rockets also cleaned up their play, only turning the ball over four times.
Similar to the last game against the Mavericks, Zach LaVine did start off slow, not hitting a shot from the field until 5:34 remaining in the second quarter. But the Bulls’ leading scorer eventually recorded ten points in the quarter, leading the Bulls to a 64-52 advantage at halftime.
LaVine continued with a hot start in the second half, scoring 14 of the Bulls 29 points in the third quarter on 5/6 shooting, including four three-pointers. He also scored and assisted on 80% of the Bulls scoring possessions in the quarter.
The Bulls needed every bit of Zach’s performance as the Rockets proved resilient. The Bulls’ double-digit lead was threatened as the Rockets cut the deficit to four points multiple times throughout the third quarter. They simply wouldn’t go away and it was mainly due to the Rockets’ debutante, Victor Oladipo, who added nine points to his tally.
Both teams shot very well from beyond the arc as well. The Rockets made six three-pointers for the second straight quarter, cutting the Bulls lead to seven points heading into the final frame.
Young Bulls Learning to Win Before Our Eyes
Oladipo and the Rockets continued to perform well in the last quarter, leading Houston to a 52% field goal percentage in the fourth.
The Bulls’ supporting cast had to perform as LaVine sat out the first seven minutes of the fourth quarter. Contributions came from up and down the roster as five different Bulls players made three or more three-point shots throughout the game, the first time the Bulls have done that since March 2011.
Oladipo kept it close until the last couple of minutes as he hit a big three-pointer with less than two minutes to go to cut the lead to three points, the closest the Rockets got in the second half. LaVine knocked down a couple of shots during the home stretch, hitting 30-plus points for the seventh time this season.
But the biggest shot came from Lauri Markkanen, who nailed a three-pointer with 0:48 seconds remaining to extend the Bulls’ lead to six points.
The Bulls made their free throws down the stretch as they won their second straight game to improve their record to 6-8.
What’s On Tap Next
The Bulls (6-8) head to Charlotte on Friday to take on LaMelo Ball and the Hornets (6-8). Tip-off is scheduled for 6:00 PM CT and the game will air on NBC Sports Chicago. Be sure to tune in to the Bulls On Tap podcast for postgame shows, analysis, and commentary throughout the entire season.