The Bulls dominated the second quarter, outscoring Houston 29-14 by owning the Rockets on the glass and forcing them outside for a 5-22 shooting slump and handing Chicago an 11-point halftime lead.
Save for that stretch of basketball, Houston was the aggressor, pounding the ball inside early and hitting the long ball late. Luis Scola (18 points, 11 rebounds) and Marcus Camby (12 points, 11 rebounds) scored 18 of Houston's 26 points in the first quarter.
Chicago battled back during its extended run by getting on the offensive glass, grabbing 11 first-half offensive rebounds, accounting for 18 of the team's 26 second-chance points for the game to get its temporary advantage. The Bulls were getting any shot they wanted to during the run as the Bulls' second unit took control.
Ultimately, the Rockets defense tightened its rebounding in the second half, and Chicago began to be undone by turnovers. The Bulls turned the ball over 19 times in the game, leading to 25 Rockets' points and stunting every effort to regain a lead after Houston took it right at the end of the third quarter.
The Rockets bench may have given the Bulls their mojo in the first half, but they were not about to provide that advantage again when they emerged in the second half. Chase Budinger and Earl Boykins combined for 14 fourth-quarter points, knocking down all four of Houston's three-point shots for the game and joining Patrick Patterson in scoring 25 of the reserves' 29 points for the game down the stretch.
The Bulls made a final run, getting the Rockets' now double-digit lead down to four when Courtney Lee, who had struggled throughout the game with his shooting (4-14, 13 points), knocked down a jumper to extended the lead back out to six with less than a minute left. The Rockets defense would then provide no opportunity for Kyle Korver (3-9, eight points) or Luol Deng (9-14, game-high 24 points) to three-point the Bulls back into the game as the Rockets closed out the road win.
The loss was the first time in 86 games during the regular season the Bulls have had a losing streak.
As your friendly bullsblogger notes at Blog-A-Bull, you know, the Bulls really miss MVP Derrick Rose:
Derrick Rose wasn't able to join his starting backcourt mate for the game, and the PG depth was exposed as both CJ Watson and John Lucas played quite poorly. The duo shot a combined 5-16, 0-5 from three generating for only 10 points. They were also eaten up defensively by Goran Dragic (who looked very impressive), and suffered a humiliating-if-common Earl Boykins experience. Boykins led the Rockets on a huge second half run that also starred Chase Budinger's three three-pointers, and Thibodeau flipped back and forth on his PGs to no avail. While there haven't been any updates given that he's playing and isn't Derrick Rose, Watson's ankle is likely still not 100 percent. And while I won't say that he would've helped much or that having 1.5 healthy PGs for this stretch is a big-picture problem, the Bulls could've used Mike James tonight.
For an excellent winner's take, check out The Dream Shake.
For all of Monday's NBA box scores, check out SI.com's NBA scoreboard.