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Rockets don’t bring the energy, so Bulls bring the pain in securing a 24-point blowout victory

Mar 13, 2014, 10:36 PM EDT

Joakim Noah AP

The Rockets came into Thursday night’s contest in Chicago with the league’s best record since Jan. 1, a 23-7 mark that included a record of 15-3 over the team’s last 18 games.

But it’s difficult to bring the necessary energy on a nightly basis, and especially against a fiery Bulls team playing at home, not doing so is a recipe for disaster.

Houston struggled to get on track in the early going, and Chicago opened the third quarter on a 20-2 run to put this one away much more quickly than expected. The Bulls secured the 111-87 victory before the fourth quarter ever began, and while this performance was just one of 82 for a Rockets team that has been consistently elite, it does raise some questions about what might happen in a similar battle once the postseason begins.

If the shots aren’t falling, the defense has to dig in and ensure that the team’s principles are followed to perfection in limiting their opponent’s chances — at least until the offense can find its way back. In this one, Houston seemed to fold much too quickly under the pressure of the Bulls defense.

Mike Dunleavy took a nasty (but unintentional) elbow from Chandler Parsons in the first half that spilled plenty of blood and required 10 stitches to repair, but he returned in the third quarter to pour in 18 points in the period to help put the game out of reach.

Dwight Howard, clearly not all that inspired by his coach’s gameday remarks, finished with 12 points, 10 rebounds and four blocked shots in 29 minutes of action, but also turned the ball over seven times. James Harden added five more turnovers to the team total, while managing just eight points on 2-of-7 shooting in 27 minutes himself.

The Bulls will do this to you if you’re not fully prepared to match their intensity; if you are, however, they’re extremely beatable — just ask the Spurs about that, who got out to a lead of as many as 32 points just two nights earlier.

The Rockets, though, weren’t anywhere near the right mental state to deal with this Chicago team. It was evident during a lackluster the first quarter, and they seemed to give up completely once the second half began. That’s fine during the regular season, especially considering how great Houston has been since the first of the year. But it may serve as an internal warning of what could happen when the game slows down in the playoffs.

  1. rickditka - Mar 13, 2014 at 10:28 PM

    When Noah started out, he was so limited that you wondered if he could stay on the floor. What hes become is nothing short of incredible.

    • norcal031 - Mar 14, 2014 at 2:25 AM

      Yo I pressed thumbs down when trying to hit reply. Noah was just raw back then, real ugly styles. He could do a little of everything average. But now, dog he is the best big man in the league. He brings that fire you need. And he would roll one up with you afterward!! I can only imagine partying with him in the offseason I mean come on. I mean he and BG are battling for # 1 big man all NBA. The steps they have taken are out of control. Mello better get his @55 to Chicago quick.

  2. totoywoods - Mar 13, 2014 at 10:36 PM

    bulls all the way!

    can’t wait for bulls vs heat play-off series…

  3. 00maltliquor - Mar 13, 2014 at 10:40 PM

    CHI +3.5
    $$$$$$$$$$

    Cha-ching!

  4. alshonsmeathooks - Mar 14, 2014 at 12:15 AM

    Dunleavy 4 prez

  5. Professor Fate - Mar 14, 2014 at 12:42 AM

    Looks like McHale’s attempt to motivate Howard and the Rockets’ defense went to waste. http://probasketballtalk.nbcsports.com/2014/03/13/kevin-mchale-who-coaches-dwight-howard-says-joakim-noah-is-the-defensive-player-of-the-year/

  6. jolink653 - Mar 14, 2014 at 1:24 AM

    While I love Kevin Durant because the Thunder are one of my two favorite teams and because he’s just so great and so much fun to watch, and while I think he deserves at least one MVP at some point, I think the league’s most valuable player currently plays for Chicago. Take Lebron off the Heat and they’re still a top 2 team in the East; take KD off the Thunder and they’re probably still a 4 or 5 seed in the West; take Noah off the Bulls and they’d probably be in the lottery right now. Noah is playing out of his mind this season and put the entire team on his back. I always understood MVP to be the most valuable player to their team, and Joakim Noah has easily been the most important player to his team. He just doesn’t get the recognition because he doesn’t score 30 a game

  7. losanginsight - Mar 14, 2014 at 3:40 AM

    Well, looks like coach Kevin was right. Look at the contrast between Noah and She12. If she had Noah’s heart, energy, and competitiveness she would be a Laker still. Noah was 1 assist away from a triple double and She was 3 Turn overs away from hers. I thought playing after an injury was the cause for all the turn overs last year. Nope, its called effort and concentration. Hopefully she’s having fun! Keep coaching em up Kev. Special thanks to Ms. Chandler for recruiting this clown. Asik should be the starter but winning is not important in H town.

  8. chitownmatt - Mar 14, 2014 at 7:16 AM

    Just one “A” short of another Trip-dub…. Noah continues his wonder year.

    The one good thing about being a Bulls fan the last few years is that we have always had considerable “hope” for a brighter future. Seriously, the Bulls are just one healthy knee out of first place. Can’t wait for next year.

    • nickjackalson - Mar 14, 2014 at 7:51 AM

      said knee is never gonna be like it used to be…
      said player won´t become who he could have become, pre-injury..
      which is just sad, because we will never know what could have been ..
      still it´s easy to like Chicago´s chances next year, or their team for that matter – Noah is just great
      RISEOFNOAH

      • chitownmatt - Mar 14, 2014 at 10:12 AM

        Can’t disagree with you more.

        Rose will be back and he will be better than ever.

        Mark my words (again), a year from now Bulls will be in first place and we will all be talking about Rose as MVP, and laughing about all the people who speculated that he would never be back.

        Its so easy to doubt a guy’s future and prophesize doom because the odds of actually being great are so slim. Hell, I can still remember all the talk about how Jordan 45 could never be as good as Jordan 23 was.

  9. pudgalvin - Mar 14, 2014 at 9:58 AM

    The Rockets are going to have to find a way to run their offense through Howard at least on occasion in the playoffs. I’ve only watched them a few times this season, but you just want to scream at them as they’re jacking up terrible jumper after terrible jumper to get the ball deep to Howard.

  10. dablakdrphil - Mar 14, 2014 at 11:54 AM

    I wish these writers would proof read their own articles GEESH

    But Chicago is my 2nd Favorite team and supported them through all the turmoil they suffered after Jordan retired. I love watching Noah he just gets you amped up and he loves the game and plays extremely hard on a nightly basis. Very happy for him

  11. cpcheung - Mar 14, 2014 at 12:40 PM

    Rockets need to resume Jeremy Lin to be the starter and let him distribute the ball as a real point guard. Destroying Lin’s confidence is destroying the entire team. Putting James Harden in charge of ball distribution is just like putting Carmelo Anthony in charge and the tragic result of Knicks is an obvious example.

  12. losanginsight - Mar 14, 2014 at 10:09 PM

    Well, looks like coach Kevin was right. Look at the contrast between Noah and She12. If she had Noah’s heart, energy, and competitiveness she would be a Laker still. Noah was 1 assist away from a triple double and She was 3 Turn overs away from hers. I thought playing after an injury was the cause for all the turn overs last year. Nope, its called effort and concentration. Hopefully she’s having fun! Keep coaching em up Kev. Special thanks to Ms. Chandler for recruiting this clown. Asik should be the starter but winning is not important in H town.

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