Chicago Bulls go deep to knock off Rockets
Not sure the Bulls would have even attempted to pull off this strategy back in the old days when James Harden played for the Rockets. But since Harden has moved to Brooklyn, the Bulls went ahead and turned Monday's game at the United Center into a 3-point shootout.
And it worked. The Bulls knocked down 20 of 45 attempts from long range, Zach LaVine scored 33 points and the Bulls beat Houston 125-120.
"We've got a lot of firepower," LaVine said. "I think we're all starting to learn to move the ball a little bit. I think I've doing a really good job this year of picking my spots, understanding when to shoot and when to pass."
Even with LaVine's big night and missing four rotation players, the Bulls still had seven double-figure scorers. Lauri Markkanen finished with 18 points, while Garrett Temple and Denzel Valentine each scored 13.
The Bulls played without Otto Porter (back) and rookie Patrick Williams (hip), along with Chandler Hutchison and Tomas Satoransky still coming back from the coronavirus.
The Bulls' record for 3-pointers in a game is 22, which they set in last season's crazy comeback at Charlotte. They've hit 21 twice, both in games that went to overtime.
According to Bulls radio statistician Jeff Mangurten, this was the second time in franchise history they had five players with at least 3 3-pointers. The first time happened on March 12, 2011, when Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, Keith Bogans, Kyle Korver and C.J. Watson did it.
And the Bulls beat Utah that night, so the Bogans 6-point rule held true. Maybe Valentine or Ryan Arcidiacono scoring at least 6 points will be the key to this victories for this team.
"I envision trying to play like that," Bulls coach Billy Donovan said. "I've always felt like if you can get five to seven guys every night in double figures, I think it keeps everybody engaged. I think the ball finds the open man. I think guys shoot the ball more confidently.
"Clearly, Zach for us is an elite scorer. You have to go to him. But I think if the weight of that is on him every single time down the floor, I think it takes players out of rhythm. I think it's hard to play and make shots when the ball does find you."
This game had similarities to the overtime loss Friday in Oklahoma City when the Bulls lost a big lead. The Bulls led by as many as 17 and saw the Rockets get as close as 114-111 after a Victor Oladipo 3-pointer with 1:50 left.
LaVine answered with a lane drive, then after free throws by Houston's Christian Wood, Markkanen hit the clinching 3-pointer with 46.9 seconds remaining. LaVine made the pass to Markkanen and also found Thad Young for a wide-open 3 at the 2:41 mark.
"Over the last couple years, especially last year, they start doubling you and I have to learn I can't beat them by myself, I have to learn how to use the pass," LaVine said. "I went into the offseason trying to figure out, watch film on where I could make those plays and let the game come to me."
After the debacle in Oklahoma City, the Bulls have won two in a row and are 6-8 on the season.
"It's good to see them respond to the adversity than maybe we had a little earlier in the year," Donovan said. "But those are habits we have to keep building. I'm not saying we're perfect at it, we still need to improve upon it. We didn't handle it well in Oklahoma and we did a much better job in Dallas and here against Houston."
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