Get Chicago's Best Sports Content In Your Inbox!

Become a smarter Chicago sports fan with the latest game recaps, analysis and exclusive content from CHGO’s writers and podcasters!

Just drop your email below!

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.

Upgrade Your Fandom

Join the Ultimate CHGO Sports Community!

Chicago Bulls can't keep pace with small ball Houston Rockets

Will Gottlieb Avatar
March 22, 2024

The Chicago Bulls (34-36) race to .500 lives to fight another day as the Bulls fall to the Houston Rockets 127-117.

— For the second time in three games, Ayo Dosunmu has registered a career-high. After putting up 34 points against the Washington Wizards on March 16, he scored 35 points on 13-of-18 shooting against the Rockets. This included 5-of-6 three-point attempts and 4-of-4 free throws.

And while the three-point shooting continues to raise the floor of his game, it is his dribble penetration that has allowed him to be a source of efficient offense of late.

— After missing the previous three games, Coby White was back in action against the Rockets. He played 29 minutes in a reserve role and scored 13 points on 5-of-13 shooting.

— The Rockets lost their star center Alperen Sengun for the remainder of the season, but have now won seven-straight games in his absence. In addition to the improved play of Jalen Green (who scored 26 points on 10-of-22 shooting against the Bulls), the driving force of their recent success is the smaller, switchable, athletic lineups with rookie Amen Thompson playing center.

As it stands, the Bulls don’t have the ability to play small ball, and have at times instead opted to play with two bigs to put pressure on those smaller opposing lineups. Though Billy Donovan has gone away from the Twin Towers look of late, it was a weapon for the Bulls in the first half against the Rockets.

After going down by 19 points early in the second quarter, the Bulls brought Andre Drummond (nine points, eight rebounds) and Nikola Vucevic (16 points, 14 rebounds) to the court together. In seven minutes, that group went on a 24-12 run to cut the lead to seven points.

The duo was able to punish the smaller lineups on the offensive glass and on post ups. They were able to slow the game down after the Rockets sped them up earlier in the game.

In the second half, the dual-big unit was less effective. They got mixed up in transition, struggled to eliminate dribble penetration and weren’t making the Rockets pay with easy baskets on the other end. In total, they finished +1 in 14:47, as those lineups continue to be boom or bust for Donovan.

— Part of the reason the Bulls lost this game was because of the hole they dug themselves into in the first quarter. Allowing the Rockets to run on misses, Houston was able to pull the momentum in their direction with easy buckets before settling back in on defense.

The Rockets finished with 23 fastbreak points to the Bulls 14, but it felt even more lopsided than that. In the second half, the Rockets slowed down their offense to burn more clock, but this is a problem the Bulls have faced all season. They allow the ninth highest frequency of transition offense to their opponents and the third highest when it comes to transition specifically off of live rebounds.

— Mid-way through the third quarter, DeMar DeRozan, seemingly frustrated with the officiating, decked Rockets’ Green, sparking a kerfuffle and earning him a flagrant two ejection.

Dillon Brooks, took exception to the play and let DeRozan know about it. Brooks was ejected for a technical foul for escalating.

DeRozan struggled with his shot — only 4-of-15 in 24 minutes — but had nine free throw attempts. It’s unclear why this specific instance triggered his frustration, but it’s not like he wasn’t getting calls all game.

Despite the fact that the game never became “clutch”, it felt winnable for the Bulls if they had only had their closer on the court with them.

— Without DeRozan, Julian Phillips, Patrick Williams, Zach LaVine et al., Dalen Terry got extended opportunity and didn’t disappoint. Though his shooting continues to be the limiting factor in his game, he was aggressive attacking the basket and offensive glass. He displayed some nice passing chops on his drives and defended well.

Terry finished with six points, but chipped in seven rebounds and five assists.

The better he gets with his jumper, the more defenses will have to acknowledge him. This will create opportunities for him to put the ball on the floor and get downhill where most of his other skills can be unlocked.

Up next: The Bulls host the Boston Celtics on Saturday night for their final regular season matchup with the team with the best record in the league.

Get Chicago's Best Sports Content In Your Inbox!

Become a smarter Chicago sports fan with the latest game recaps, analysis and exclusive content from CHGO’s writers and podcasters!

Just drop your email below!

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.

Scroll to next article

Don't like ads?
Don't like ads?
Don't like ads?