Chicago Bulls' struggling defense no match for Rockets' long-range game

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Houston Rockets' Chris Paul (3) passes the ball as Chicago Bulls' Kris Dunn defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Jan. 8, 2018, in Chicago.

    Houston Rockets' Chris Paul (3) passes the ball as Chicago Bulls' Kris Dunn defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Jan. 8, 2018, in Chicago. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 1/9/2018 12:20 AM

From a statistical sense, the Chicago Bulls have been playing the worst defense in franchise history.

They allowed at least 124 points over four straight games for the first time ever. So an appearance by the 3-point heavy Houston Rockets offense was cause for concern.

 

The Rockets met all expectations, launching a ridiculous 54 shots from 3-point range, and knocked down enough of them to beat the Bulls 116-107 on Monday night at the United Center. After their 10-2 surge, the Bulls have now lost five of the last six.

"We almost were in a little bit of awe with them hitting shots," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "Our closeouts got a little less urgent as they started hitting shots."

The Rockets didn't reach 124 points this time, but this is still the first time the Bulls have allowed at least 116 points in five straight games since January 1983.

Houston's 54 3-point attempts were the most ever against the Bulls. The previous record was 47, set by the Rockets last season at the United Center. The most 3-pointers attempted against the Bulls this season was 40.

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The accuracy was all over the map. Houston started out hitting 8 of its 10 shots from 3-point land and opened an early 34-13 lead. Then they went 1-for-12 and let the Bulls back in the game.

"They just kept hitting 2 threes every time we got close," Kris Dunn said. "It's kind of hard to simulate what they do. Some of them they're pulling in transition, way outside the line sometimes. So it's hard to simulate it, but they're good shooters."

The Rockets finished the night going 20-for-54 from long range. The Bulls had a decent night at the arc, hitting 12 of 28.

With Nikola Mirotic sidelined by the stomach flu, Bobby Portis led the Bulls with 22 points, while Dunn and Denzel Valentine added 19 points each. Eric Gordon and Chris Paul had 24 points each for Houston (28-11).

The Rockets were without top scorer and MVP candidate James Harden, who will be out a few weeks with a hamstring injury. Houston had lost seven of nine games heading into Monday's contest and seemed to come out determined to right the Rocket ship.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I thought we came out of the gate flat, obviously, digging ourselves a 21-point hole," Hoiberg said. "It will be really good to get back on the practice court tomorrow. We have not had much practice time. So to be able to get back on the practice floor, then have two days of practice after this game in New York (Wednesday) will be really good for this team to get our basics where we need them."

The Bulls (14-27) closed within 5 points by halftime, then took a brief 66-63 lead early in the third quarter. In the long haul, though, the Rockets had a better idea of how to play winning basketball and carried a comfortable lead for most of the fourth quarter.

Any chance of a late comeback ended when the Rockets knocked down 4 3-pointers in a row, the last 3 by Trevor Ariza, to make it 106-88.

"Our coaches do a really good job of having our game plan," Valentine said. "But it is kind of tough once you're actually playing against them and they're shooting those shots, hitting those 3s. We've just got to get back to having more grit out there."

• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls

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