Houston TX — James Harden returned to the lineup and was good enough for the Rockets to pull off the victory. Harden scored 25 points, including 11 in crucial run in the third quarter in his return as the Rockets defeated the Chicago Bulls 96-88 on Saturday night.
Harden also had seven assists, and guard Chris Paul has no concern that Harden will be his old self again. Carmelo Anthony had 17 points and James Ennis III had his best game as a rocket with 15 points. Ennis had a lot of energy in the first half, moving without the ball and putting himself in positions to be found by Harden and Chris to make open shots. More than 20 minutes into the game, the Rockets had a season high 13 points from Ennis and needed boost off the bench from Anthony and Gary Clark.
This game had 11 lead changes and 9 ties at the half, before Houston open it up in the third. The Rockets hit 13 straight points in the 3rd quarter to go up 71-59 with 3:59 left. The Rockets defense was outstanding in the third quarter, holding the Bulls to only 7 points going (2-17) from the field with 7 turnovers.
The Rockets coming off a win the night before in Brooklyn, they grabbed control on the defensive end, with the Bulls going from making 64.7% of their shots in the second quarter to 11.8% in the third. Houston opened up a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter, while Chicago decrease the lead to five points with 4:01 left using a 12-2 run and taking advantage on stretch of cold shooting by Houston.
“We had on bad quarter and unfortunately it was a really bad third quarter,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. The Bulls finished with 19 turnovers, including what Hoilberg called “mindless” ones down the stretch, to blunt their late comeback.
Zach LaVine led Chicago with 21 points, and Wendall Carter Jr. had 14 points and 13 rebounds. Jabari Parker added 15 points as the Bulls lost their fourth consecutive game, while dropping their fifth straight game to Houston.
Guard Eric Gordon was held out Saturday’s game with abductor strain, suffered in Brooklyn. Still, the Rockets were getting enough good shots, with Paul and Harden combining for as many assists (13) as the entire Bulls team, to expect the scoring to pick up overall the way it had for Harden late in the half. The Rockets performed a second-half defensive prevention, giving them all the time they would need for their stars to take it from there.
Rockets face Indiana on Monday in the third game of a five-game trip.