Bulls return home with a thud, watch Rockets' point total soar

This was one of those "Highway to the Danger Zone" moments for the Bulls.

They were feeling good after winning three in a row on the road and facing a young Houston Rockets squad Monday at the United Center that arrived riding a five-game losing streak.

So naturally, the Bulls made the Rockets look like a team that was loaded with all-stars. And the Bulls reverted to last week's defense in a 133-118 loss. They seemed to right the ship after giving up 150 points against Minnesota on Dec. 18.

"Not the same mentality, came out a little bit lackadaisical, probably, taking that team for granted," Zach LaVine said after the game. "You can't do that in the NBA. You give them confidence and they don't know any better

Houston guard Kevin Porter Jr. filled the stat sheet with 36 points, 9 assists and 7 rebounds. Center Alperen Sengun had 25 points and 10 rebounds, while Jalen Green scored 24. Porter and Green combined to hit 12 of 22 shots from 3-point range.

DeMar DeRozan finished with 31 points and had 10 assists for the second straight game. Zach LaVine scored 22, but the run of four straight 20-point games for all of the Big Three ended as Nikola Vucevic had just 10 points.

"They clearly started the game as the aggressor," Bulls coach Billy Donovan said. "The ball went wherever it wanted to. For guys like Green and Porter, those guys get going early in the game, it's hard to turn them off. That's what ended up happening."

The Bulls were caught flat-footed at the start. The energetic Rockets shot 67% from the field and shot out to an early 23-5 lead. The Bulls' attention to defense didn't change much, but they did manage a 12-0 run late in the first half to take their first lead.

When the Bulls went up by seven early in the third quarter, they seemed to get a very false sense of having things under control. They slid into their old bad habits, including but not limited to, lazy shot selection, careless turnovers and low energy on defense.

The Rockets went back ahead with a 13-0 run and it took some effort for the Bulls to get back to within 9 points midway through the fourth. With a chance to get closer, Coby White and Patrick Williams missed 3s, then Porter knocked down two in a row and the lead was back to 15.

"They just came out playing harder than us," LaVine said. "We tried to come back, compete, but even with the refs, they usually give it to the team that's playing harder and then you try to come back and offensively we didn't do terrible; we didn't do a good job defensively. One guy got confidence and then the rest of the team got confidence. We tried to switch up our defense a couple of times, it was just too late."

On the injury front, Alex Caruso missed his second game with a right shoulder sprain and Derrick Jones missed his third with a sprained left ankle. Javonte Green was listed as a game-time decision, then sat out for the eighth time in the last 11 games with right knee soreness.

"They're certainly three of our better defenders," Donovan said. "In the fourth quarter, we tried to switch, just to keep the ball in front of us some. I know Vuc got caught in a couple of mismatches, which I was fine with, but I thought they were hurting us from behind the line and I was just trying to do something different.

"Whatever you have out there group-wise, there's enough there to win in my opinion and we've got to be better defensively. We've got to coach it better and help them more."

This was the first of four straight home games for the Bulls, with a mix of lottery dwellers and Finals contenders. Milwaukee follows on Wednesday, then Detroit and Cleveland this weekend.

Twitter: @McGrawDHsports

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Houston Rockets forward Kenyon Martin Jr. (6) is fouled while shooting a layup against Chicago Bulls center Andre Drummond (3) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday. Associated Press
Houston Rockets guard Jalen Green (4) shoots a layup against Chicago Bulls center Andre Drummond (3) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday. Associated Press
Houston Rockets guard Jalen Green (4) drives to the basket against Chicago Bulls guard Ayo Dosunmu on Monday. Associated Press
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