The Houston Rockets and Chicago Bulls provided us with a handful of plot twists during their game tonight, a 124-119 decision that the Bulls ultimately claimed in overtime. This postgame recap could have went into one of a million directions tonight, none that I was truly expecting.
As the Bulls held a double-digit lead and the fourth quarter was winding down to near the halfway point, I figured that I’d focus on how the Rockets couldn’t make enough “winning plays” tonight. Perhaps the issue was that Houston was shorthanded, again without Dillon Brooks and Tari Eason. The issue could possibly have been that the Rockets were overmatched as Chicago sported their healthiest lineup in a minute with the return of Zach LaVine to the lineup.
I had already thought of things to write about, but then the energy changed...
Houston whittled down the lead as Chicago went into a scoring drought. Alperen Sengun came alive in a big way as he twisted and turned in a 25 point second half following a scoreless first half. There was wonky officiating on both sides, one play that punished both teams, yet somehow became a net-positive for the Rockets.
Jalen Green tapped DeMar DeRozan on a box out after Coby White’s heave at the end of the shot clock. It looked like a devastating foul for the Rockets that had negated all of the hard work on defense they had used to trim the deficit and force this late shot. However, DeRozan embellished the contact, resulting in a flopping call, thus rewarding Houston with a technical free throw.
After the tech cut it to a two-point game, Sengun tied it up on the Rockets next trip down. So while this play wasn’t that insane in the larger scope of things, it paints a picture of how up and down the end of this game turned out to be.
Riding the momentum into OT, Houston looked like they were going to complete the comeback as they got out to a quick four point lead. That turned up to be the peak of the Rockets’ night as the Bulls shifted back into the gear that had them leading for most of the game. Some clutch shotmaking from LaVine and White did the Rockets in and has led me back to my original sentiments of us not making enough “winning plays.”
The aforementioned Sengun looked great after the half en route to 25 points 9 rebounds and 5 assists. The way he took it to Nikola Vucevic made me forget about his first two lackluster quarters. Seeing Sengun have success as the focal point during the comeback attempt was a bright spot, and it only leads me to more optimism of him as the go-to guy going forward.
There were other bright spots in this game too, notably Jabari Smith Jr. His 18 points and 15 rebounds were a sight to behold, but I think his defense on DeRozan was the best part about his evening. Using his length to bother the multi-time All-Star was important in limiting DeRozan to just 5-19 from the field and throwing off his game-winning attempt at the end of the fourth.
Among others, Jalen Green had a so-so game, 18 points on 8-19 from the field, but he also had 8 assists. A number of soaring finishes isn’t enough for me to ignore him getting beat off the dribble too many times tonight. Chicago got too many easy looks at the basket, but in fairness to Jalen, he wasn’t the only one lacking in that department.
This game also feature a lot of Cam Whitmore, 16 points in 33 minutes, as he was out there during Houston’s comeback attempt and in OT. I wouldn’t mind seeing him supplant Jae’Sean Tate in the starting lineup while Brooks and Eason continue to be out.
My biggest takeaway from this game is that we definitely miss the intensity supplied from Brooks and Eason on the perimeter. Featuring what is in essence a four-guard lineup, Houston didn't have enough to slow down the Bulls from marching into the paint or getting open threes.
Acknowledging that he is in the midst of a breakout season, Coby White went off for 30 points against Houston tonight. However, that just can’t happen, especially if the Rockets want to overcome these road woes.
Ending on a positive note, this has been a great opportunity to see some of what Whitmore and Amen Thompson can offer. Cam is a cannonball and has earned more minutes. Amen has some catching up to do, but I can see growth and I’m willing to be patient with him. Plus, the overall product will look better when all of the reinforcements return.