In a Christmas Day miracle, everything went right for the Rockets as they crushed the Bulls in Chicago, taking the game 120-97. With four starters hitting 20 points and nobody on the Bulls outside of Nate Robinson to get anything going, it was a complete blowout. An Omer Asik layup with 6:05 remaining in the second quarter not only pushed the Rockets lead to 11, it would be the last time the Bulls would be within single digits.
Returning to Chicago for the first time since signing a $25 million contract with the Rockets, Asik took center stage, outplaying all the Chicago bigs and dominating the inside. On the night, Asik finished with his best line as a Houston Rocket, a remarkable 20 and 18.
For the past few weeks, I've been singing the praises of Jeremy Lin, Omer Asik, and James Harden. After an initial stretch of inconsistent play, the trio have been absolutely bringing it, leading their team to a now-four game winning streak.
Tonight was no different, as Chicago had no answer for the Rockets' young back court and center combination. As we mentioned earlier, Asik was dominant inside, and Lin (20 points and 11 assists) and Harden (26, 6 and 5) put up staggering stat lines. As we go forward, could games like this become more commonplace? If these brands of performances start to resemble the new normal, the Rockets could be on their way to great things.
However, as you can probably imagine in a match up this uneven, Lin, Harden, and Asik were not the only ones to play well. All five starters were in double figures, and Chandler Parsons' 23 point game was a welcome blessing after he hadn't reached double figures in three games. For the night, the Rockets shot 56% from the field, a stat made even more significant by the fact that they were facing the third rated Chicago defense (allowing 42.6% going into tonight). For the second straight game, the Rockets' opponent allowed a season high, as the 120 scored by the Rockets eclipsed Bulls' previous high of 106 points allowed.
Some late game lapses allowed this one to be much closer than it should have been, but it was an all-around tremendous performance. The Rockets have now won six out of seven, with the loss in Toronto the only blunder on an otherwise spotless record. Not only have they won, but they've won big: in their last six victories, the Rockets have won by an average of 18.5 points, with five of those wins coming against playoff teams.
Now, after the thrilling win over the Bulls, the Rockets will be forced to turnaround and play the Timberwolves in Minnesota tomorrow night. Because of how the team let up late in the third quarter into the early fourth, the starters were forced to play far too many minutes than they should have. Let's hope that doesn't bite the Rockets in the butt as they play a Minnesota team that hasn't played since last Sunday.