Jan 5, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Houston Rockets head coach Kevin McHale questions a call during the game against the Chicago Bulls at United Center. The Chicago Bulls beat the Houston Rockets 114-105. Mandatory Credit: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports
Houston Rocket Game Summary: The game was close throughout with the teams entering the half tied at 62. Toward the end of the third quarter the Rockets managed to pull ahead but in the closing minutes of the game the Bulls took over on both ends. We examine why the game was lost and who were the key contributors:
Three keys to loss:
1. Free Throws: Entering the night James Harden and Jimmy Butler led the league with thirteen games in which they attempted 10 free throws or more. By night’s end Harden was well shy of this mark reaching the charity stripe on just 3 occasions including one trip courtesy of a Tom Thibodeau technical. In fact, the most glaringly diverse stat of the night was the disparity of the teams’ trips to the line:
Chicago shot 30 free throws to Houston’s 5. Many Bulls opponents say Chicago fouls on every play forcing the referees into not calling any fouls. While you can debate this factor or believe the Bulls were just more disciplined at the end of the day those extra 25 free throws can be pointed to as precisely why Chicago won the game.
2. Defense: Last season Houston was noted for their high octane offense, but this season they chose to focus on the defensive end of the court. The strategy worked early, especially when Howard and many of his teammates were out injured. In fact, the Rockets have been ranked as the second best defensive squad for the majority of the season holding opponents to 98.5 points per game.
So, when Howard returned from injury and Josh Smith was signed it was felt they could get even better defensively. Yet in the 12 games since Howard returned and 7 since Smith joined their opponent scoring has risen to 101.41 points per game. In this loss the 117 points they gave up is 18.5 points above their average.
3. Chicago stars outplay Houston stars: Simply put Pau Gasol and Derrick Rose exceeded their season averages while James Harden and Dwight Howard did not. The combined efforts of the team stars were 46 points, 17 rebounds and 12 assists for Gasol and Rose versus the Rockets 32 points, 16 rebounds and 4 assists for Harden and Howard.
Next: Which Rocket had three 3-point attempts in final 1:46 of game?