The Houston Rockets were slightly shorthanded tonight against the Chicago Bulls, with James Harden and Clint Capela sitting out, but they clearly weren’t needed as the Rockets jumped out to a big early lead and then never looked back for a 118-86 victory.
Eric Gordon led the way for the Rockets with 31 points in just 26 minutes of action. Gordon tied a career high by knocking down 8 three pointers, and he also finished a ridiculous +39 and went 11-17 overall from the field.
Gordon started in place of Harden, who suffered a minor ankle tweak several games ago, but was mostly sitting for rest, and the Rockets didn’t miss a beat when they jumped out to a 14-5 early lead.
They blew the game open in the second quarter behind the hot shooting of Gordon and Trevor Ariza and the defense of Paul, and they went into the halftime break up 60-39.
It was more of the same in the third quarter, with Houston’s defense stifling the Bulls and the Rockets’ offense on cruise control. In fact, Houston was up by as many as 40 points in the third period behind a 16-2 run, and they began pulling players to close the third and start the fourth. Tarik Black, R.J. Hunter and Zhou Qi all saw time in the final frame.
In addition to Gordon, the Rockets also got 21 points and 6 rebounds from Ariza, and Paul pitched in 13 points, 4 rebounds, and 10 assists, and he also harassed the Bulls on the defensive end, coming up with 4 steals.
It was his defensive effort that set the tone for the Rockets holding Chicago to just 38 percent shooting on the night and forcing 18 total turnovers. With Harden out, Paul was clearly in complete control of the contest on both ends of the court.
Houston also got 14 points from Gerald Green and 10 apiece from Nene and Joe Johnson to round out the Rockets players in double figures. P.J. Tucker was the leading rebounder with Capela out, grabbing 8 total boards in 26 minutes.
The Bulls were led by Lauri Markkanen with 22 points, and he was the only Chicago player who looked like he belonged on the court with the Rockets. They also got 12 each from Sean Kilpatrick and Denzel Valentine, 11 from Bobby Portis and 10 points from Noah Vonleh to round out their players in double figures.
The Rockets now move to 61-14 on the season, and their magic number to win the west is now just 2 games. It can drop to a single game depending on the results of tonight’s late contest between the Golden State Warriors and the Indiana Pacers. The Rockets also have their third double-digit win streak of the season, winning their 10th game in a row.
They’ll now take two nights off in a row before returning on Friday night for a home contest against the Phoenix Suns.