by Brett Weisband | @weisband
Bulls (36-29) 111, Rockets (44-21) 87
Chicago is quickly becoming the opponent that teams least want to see on their upcoming schedule. The Bulls ground down the Rockets, pounding them from the opening tip and breaking them with an offensive explosion to start the third quarter.
Mike Dunleavy (21 points, 4-6 from 3, 7 rebounds) caught an elbow from Chandler Parsons in the first half while taking a charge and needed stitches to close the bloody cut. It didn’t faze him, as he returned and outscored the Rockets all by himself in the third quarter, 18-16, as the Bulls blew the game wide open. Joakim Noah fell an assist shy of recording his fourth triple double of the season, finishing with 13 points, 10 rebounds and 9 assists. The Bulls bounced back in a big way from their flat loss to the Spurs earlier this week and shot 50 percent on the night, knocking down 14-24 from long range. Kirk Hinrich poured in 19 points on 5-6 shooting from long range, while Carlos Boozer tallied 18 points and 7 rebounds.
Houston didn’t appear to want any part of the Bulls hard-nosed play from the start. Kevin McHale lamented their lackluster effort in his sideline interview in the first half, and that effort only waned as the game wore on. A top-five offense on a normal day, the Rockets shot just 35 percent against Chicago. Jeremy Lin scored 21 off the bench, but every Houston starter had a plus/minus rating of minus-20 or worse. Dwight Howard had 12 points and 10 rebounds, while James Harden struggled to 8 points on 2-7 shooting.
Hawks (28-35) 102, Bucks (13-52) 97
Atlanta shook off a hot start from the Bucks and earned a win in the fourth quarter, their second straight W following six losses in a row. In crunch time, Kyle Korver did what he does as well as anyone in the world, raining in 12 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter. Korver knocked down two triples in the period and drained a back-breaking fadeaway with 1:10 to go to end the Bucks’ chances. Jeff Teague, who signed an offer sheet with Milwaukee last summer, led the Hawks with 22 points and 8 assists, finishing the game off by hammering down a one-handed dunk. Paul Millsap added 17 points and 8 boards.
The Bucks were sizzling early on, hitting 20 of their first 35 shots. They cooled off significantly as the game wore on, dropping down to 41.6 percent by game’s end. Ersan Ilyasova posted 22 points and 10 rebounds and Brandon Knight chipped in another 20 points.
Thunder (48-17) 131, Lakers (22-43) 102
Just a few days after an embarrassing loss at the hands of the Lakers, Oklahoma City got their revenge by roasting L.A. on TNT. The defense that has been a problem since the All-Star break (and Russell Westbrook’s return to the lineup) locked in to take the Lakers out of the game early, holding L.A. to 8-26 shooting and 19 points in the first quarter, with L.A. finishing at 39 percent for the game. Russ had one of his best outings since coming back from knee surgery, getting hot from long range (4-7 on 3-pointers) and dropping in 29 points, also dishing out 9 assists.
Kevin Durant matched Westbrook in the scoring column, getting some garbage time points to run his streak of consecutive games scoring 25 or more up to 30 games. Serge Ibaka terrorized L.A., finishing with 15 points, 13 rebounds and 7 blocks as the Thunder shot over 50 percent and finished with 11 blocks in total.
After surprising the Thunder in last Sunday’s showcase game, the Lakers had no such luck when the game shifted to OKC. Jodie Meeks, who scored a career-best 42 in the last matchup, saw that total cut drastically, getting to 19 points on 6-15 shooting (3-4 on 3-pointers). Kent Bazemore had 16 points and 7 rebounds off the bench and Ryan Kelly put up 12 points and 6 assists. The Lakers’ run of historically bad defense continued; they allowed more than 130 points for the fourth time in five games, with opponents posting an average total of 129.8 in that span. No matter what Kobe is saying behind the scenes, numbers like that will be the reason if Mike D’Antoni loses his job this summer.