BULLet Points: Bench leads season-saving comeback in Houston

The Bulls easily could have quit on after falling behind big at the start of each half, yet the playoff dream remains alive after a huge fourth quarter pushed Chicago over the Rockets. The Bulls inched a game over .500 and trail the Pacers by just one in the loss column after Indiana dropped a game to the Magic (Chicago holds the tiebreaker). The Bulls are hurting up and down the lineup, but still managed to rally late in a must-win game.

  • Nikola Mirotic remained red hot for the second straight game. After knocking down seven threes in the win against the Pacers, Mirotic was 5/10 from beyond the arc Tuesday, shooting 8/14 overall from the field and 7/8 from the line. Mirotic lead the team with 28 points for the shorthanded Bulls.
  • Derrick Rose attempted to battle through a left elbow injury that clearly hampered his ability to contribute. Rose played 12 minutes in the first half and did not attempt a single shot or secure a rebound. He dished two assists and turned the ball over three times and did not return after halftime. Rose never should have been allowed to play in this game. Look at how tender the arm looks before the game even starts!
  • I give Rose a lot of credit for trying to gut out a clearly painful injury to help the Bulls sneak into the playoffs. But the team should never have let him suit up if the arm hurt badly enough that Rose was afraid to draw contact in a high five line.
  • Cristiano Felicio stepped up for the Bulls in the absence of Taj Gibson (who has a broken rib). The Brazilian rookie played with high energy on both ends of the court and provided some rim protection in a game the Bulls were outscored 48-30 in the paint. Felicio scored five points, grabbed four boards and dished three assists in just 15 minutes on the court. It was surprising enough when the 6’10” Felicio made the team out of training camp, and even more surprising he’s been able to make positive contributions in late March.
  • It was a tale of two halves for Jimmy Butler. The Bulls’ slumping All-Star continued his poor play in twenty first half minutes. Butler shot just 3/7 from the field in the first two quarters and did not take a trip the the line. But Jimmy seemed to come alive after halftime and kept the Bulls in the game during a flat third quarter from the rest of the team. Butler scored 13 of the Bulls’ 19 points in the quarter, helping the Bulls keep the deficit to single digits in the fourth.
  • The Bulls as a team were excellent on three pointers in this game, something that is needed against a high volume three point shooting team like Houston. Chicago made 11/24 of their attempts and had contributions from Mirotic, Butler, E’Twaun Moore, Doug McDermott, Aaron Brooks, and Justin Holiday.
  • McDermott was a +26 and Mirotic was +22, both off the bench. That is extremely impressive in a three point game.
  • Pau Gasol posted another double-double, scoring 12 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Yet Gasol did little to contribute to actual winning basketball. The Bulls were crushed on the offensive glass all night as Houston converted their 13 offensive rebounds into 13 second chance points. Gasol is wary of creating contact under the basket and was pushed around by Dwight Howard and Clint Capela.
  • Pau’s unwillingness to bang bodies not only manifested itself battling for rebounds. On one play in the first half, Gasol caught the ball alone in the post. When he turned around he saw Patrick Beverley flying wildly through the air attempting to contest what should have been a dunk. Gasol could have easily leaned into Beverley to draw a foul and potentially create an and-1 opportunity. Instead, Pau settled for a difficult baseline floater that clanked off the rim.
  • Chinese Basketball Association MVP Michael Beasley was on a mission to prove the Bulls made a mistake at the 2008 draft. Beasley scored 20 points on 18 shots minutes off the bench, providing a secondary creator to compliment James Harden. Despite the high point total, Beasley was -19 in 31 minutes. He accounted for six of Mirotic’s eight free throws by falling for the exact same pump fake from the exact same spot on the floor twice within one minute.
  • Patrick Beverley scored a career-high 22 points, many of which were assisted by Harden. The two had a solid night, but it wasn’t enough for Houston.
  • Coming up: the Bulls host the Pistons tomorrow night.
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