Chicago Bulls at Houston Rockets: Analysis of tough OT loss

Feb 3, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Michael Carter-Williams (7) dribbles the ball as Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) defends during the first quarter at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 3, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Michael Carter-Williams (7) dribbles the ball as Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) defends during the first quarter at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports /

The Chicago Bulls were on a mission to lift their winning streak to two games despite Jimmy Butler’s absence on Friday night against the Houston Rockets.

Jimmy Butler sat out of Friday night’s contest with a right heel contusion as the Chicago Bulls took on James Harden and the Houston Rockets. Michael Carter-Williams was given the starting nod in his place, so you’re probably thinking, “Well, this is a loss.”

Not exactly. That’s what happened, but it wasn’t as bad as you might think.

Here’s what happened on Friday night as the Butler-less Bulls battled the James Harden-led Rockets.

First Quarter

The Bulls began the game shooting 5-for-7 while the Rockets shot 1-for-5 out of the gate. However, rushed offense and missed shots led to many more offensive opportunities for this Rockets team. Pretty “Bulls-y” of them. The Rockets took a 13-12 lead after shooting a much better 5-for-13 by the first Bulls timeout. This fuel on offense was led by none other than James Harden.

Guess who entered the game and tallied five points, one 3-pointer, one rebound, one assist, and one block in five minutes of play? None other than the young gun Paul Zipser. Once again, he has been showing his promise with the allotted playing time given to him.

The Bulls made their presence known in the paint, outscoring the Rockets 14-6 heading into the second quarter. They also shot 54.5 percent from the field overall. Carter-Williams led all Bulls scorers with six points, accompanied by three rebounds and three assists.

End of 1st: Bulls led it, 26-24

Second Quarter

The Rockets scored a blazing-fast eight points in just 105 seconds. Momentum was surely swinging their way.

Cristiano Felicio made his best possible attempt to stop that momentum with a statement chasedown block on Eric Gordon on a fast break.

Of course, it wasn’t enough. The Rockets ran back down the floor and banged a 3-pointer to lift their lead to eight, 41-33.

In a matter of moments, the Rockets strong-armed their way to a 50-33 lead. By this point, they were already shooting 46 percent from the field. Fueled by this was the Bulls’ absolute defense killer: 3-pointers.

The Bulls got a little momentum when Harden checked back into the game, cutting the lead down from 50-33 to 52-40 before a Mike D’Antoni timeout.

The Bulls managed to cut the lead down to 11 by the half. MCW continued to lead all Bulls scorers with 11 points.

Also, credit to MCW for playing some solid defense on Harden for the first half, who shot 5-for-14 from the field.

Harden led all scorers with 14 points.

Halftime: Rockets led it, 60-49

Third Quarter

The second half began with a report that Felicio would not return due to a right leg strain.

Taj Gibson put some work in during the third quarter. He threw in 20 points on 9-for-12 shooting on the night with a chunk of them coming in the frame.

The Rockets found a way into foul trouble, putting the Bulls in the bonus with 6:55 left in the third quarter. Hopefully, the Bulls could capitalize on this free throw shooting. Without Butler in the lineup, they definitely missed his aggressiveness, shooting just eight free throws until this point in the game.

The Bulls finally started to flow, capping off the quarter with a graceful one-handed dunk by Doug McDermott off a steal and feed from Rajon Rondo.

The Bulls also found a spark to play some defense. They dropped the Rockets’ 46 percent field goal percentage at halftime down to 41 percent by the end of the quarter.

They outscored the Rockets 31-19 in the third quarter for some much-needed momentum heading into the fourth.

End of 3rd: Bulls led it, 81-77

Fourth Quarter

With the Bulls’ weird lineup, Zipser was forced to guard Harden for a large part of the quarter. Granted Harden faked him out numerous times, Zip was still in close proximity to contest shots. This played a part in stopping Harden’s shooting consistency.

Harden flailed off the ball to sell a loose ball foul on Zip. The play was reviewed, and Harden was granted a technical foul.

Wade converted the technical free throw to put the Bulls up by four, 97-93.

Due to Harden’s quick-draw shooting on offense, Harden began to miss shots. Gibson was forced to play one-on-one defense in which he was caught in the twilight zone known as no man’s land. Gibson got the block, which led to a MCW circus layup.

The next Bulls possession, Wade pulled through with a “Flash”-like dunk to light a fire under himself and the squad.

Then with about 3:15 left in the game, he pulled up and nailed a huge 3-pointer from the top of the key.

The Bulls started to break down in the final two minutes. The score was 106-104 in favor of the Bulls with 42.6 seconds left before a timeout.

Harden knotted the game at 108 with a step-back jumper over MCW, which was his 30th shot of the game.

On the potential game winning play of the game for the Bulls, Wade had the ball poked loose. Long story short, the Bulls were forced into a shot clock violation, putting the Rockets in position to win with 3.3 seconds remaining.

On the last play, Harden threw up a stepback 3-pointer for the win over Wade and MCW. He missed, and the two teams went to overtime.

The Bulls scored just two points in the final 3:15 of regulation.

End of 4th: Tied at 108


Rough start.

The Bulls gave up five quick points in a matter of 53 seconds.

A 47-second Bulls possession off two Zipser misses eventually led to a 3-pointer from Wade. The Bulls trailed, 113-111.

MCW would then foul out of the game when Harden literally attempted to leap frog his back for his sixth foul.

He finished with 23 points, nine rebounds, and six assists. He shot 61.1 percent from the field and was a huge factor in the Bulls’ offensive success.

Harden threw up an and-one step-back jumper over Zipser with 36.1 seconds left. Harden seemingly kicked his leg out, which by definition should be an offensive foul. He converted the and-one free throw.

The Rockets led at this point, 119-117.

The Bulls failed to convert possession after possession, dropping the game 121-117 off Harden’s questionable antics.

Final Score: Bulls lose 121-117 (25-26 season record)

Next: The Bulls appeared to have figured some stuff out, but it probably doesn't matter

Bulls Player of the Game

Michael Carter-Williams – 23 points, nine rebounds, six assists on 11-for-18 shooting

Next Game

The Bulls face off against the Sacramento Kings on Monday, Feb. 6. Jimmy Butler is on schedule to be making his return to action. Tip-off is at 9:40p.m. CST on WGN-TV.