Rockets roll after Bulls’ 7-point 3rd quarter
Rockets regain form as Bulls put up anemic 7 points in 3rd quarter
Give the Bulls credit for this as they concluded an 0-4 homestand with a 96-88 loss to the Rockets on Saturday night at the United Center.
They keep coming up with creative ways to lose.
After a competitive first half that ended with a 56-54 Bulls lead, they sank a franchise-low six field goals in the second half and produced one of the worst quarters in team history in the third with a series of almost indescribable turnovers.
The 19 giveaways forced the Bulls to waste a mostly strong defensive effort throughout, holding the Rockets to double digits on a night they welcomed back James Harden from a three-game absence with a hamstring injury. Harden finished with 25 points, seven assists and four steals but committed eight turnovers, including one when Jabari Parker picked him clean while isolated up top.
“At the end of the day, we lost,” Parker said. “So it wasn’t enough.”
The Rockets used pick-and-roll to get switches and repeatedly attack Parker, who actually fared fairly well in at least moving his feet and contesting shots. But Parker committed seven turnovers, including the most bizarre of the evening — and that’s saying something.
Wendell Carter Jr. — huge again with 14 points, 13 rebounds, four blocks and two steals — rebounded a Harden miss with just more than three minutes left and the Bulls trailing by seven. Carter’s outlet to Zach LaVine hit a running Parker in the feet and rolled out of bounds.
Harden converted a three-point play on the ensuing possession for a 10-point lead.
“I don’t know,” Parker said when asked what happened. “I wasn’t even paying attention myself.”
Is that why the turnover happened?
“I don’t think so,” said Parker, who shot 50 percent and scored 15 points.
The Rockets built a 17-point lead early in the fourth mostly thanks to a third quarter that almost defied description.
The Bulls missed 15 of 17 shots. They committed six turnovers. They went scoreless for 6 minutes, 52 seconds. They scored seven points, just one more than the lowest-scoring quarter in franchise history.
“We had one bad quarter. Unfortunately, it was a really bad quarter,” coach Fred Hoiberg said. “We were settling for shots. And then in the fourth, we got back in it by attacking the rim.”
Indeed, the Bulls shot 17-for-18 from the line in the fourth and 26-for-27 for the game. LaVine missed 12 of 16 shots but ran his career-high streak of 20-point games to 11 dating to last season by shooting 12-for-13 from the line. He finished with 21 points.
But every time the Bulls got within sniffing distance, they seemed to commit another creative turnover.
“Just mindless turnovers,” Hoiberg said.
Beyond Carter’s strong game, fellow first-round pick Chandler Hutchison posted a season-high 12 points. But even he sees what’s plaguing the short-handed Bulls.
“It seems like we get off to those good starts where our offense is clicking and defensively we’re doing pretty well, and then we just slip up, whether it’s a stretch in a quarter or a whole quarter,” Hutchison said. “We can’t do that in order to win. Our margin for error is so small.”
The Rockets can be overwhelming when firing on all cylinders — they can bury teams with a quick avalanche of points. It just has happened with far less frequency this season. Will the Bulls?
“We just need to get better,” Parker said. “That’s all we can control. Just playing hard and giving it our best, that’s how we get better.”
Rockets guard James Harden leans into rookie Wendell Carter Jr. in the third quarter of Saturday night’s Bulls loss.