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Mike D’Antoni Earns 500th Career Win Against Bulls

Mar 4, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets forward Sam Dekker (7) shares a laugh with Houston Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni against the Memphis Grizzlies during the third quarter at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 4, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets forward Sam Dekker (7) shares a laugh with Houston Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni against the Memphis Grizzlies during the third quarter at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports
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The Houston Rockets helped celebrate Mike D’Antoni’s 500th coaching win with a comfortable115-94 victory over the Chicago Bulls.

After making the trip to Chicago, the Houston Rockets got off to a slow start Friday night. They trailed for most of the first half after conceding an early lead to the Bulls. It was evident that the they weren’t ready to play, continuing to give up easy baskets on defense and committing unforced turnovers.

However, after a first quarter injury scare for James Harden, the game turned around. The Rockets entered the second quarter with renewed energy, putting on a run that showed they were ultimately too talented for an out-matched Chicago Bulls team.

. 115. 169. 94. 24

After letting a well-rested Dwyane Wade push the Bulls out to a double-digit lead, the Rockets faced a 33-23 deficit nearing the close of the first quarter.  With seconds left on the clock and feeling the need to close the gap, James Harden made a drive to the basket that turned into a period of anxiety for Rockets fans. While trying to take it strong through three defenders, Harden stepped on Denzel Valentine‘s foot, turning an ankle as he went up for the layup.

The Beard stayed down for what felt like an eternity and the pain on his face was evident. Then, in true James Harden fashion, he got up and walked it off and made sure to have a word with the officials on his way to the bench.

Not like we needed it, but this is just more evidence that Harden is some kind of terminator sent from the future to bring Houston a championship. (Harden has only missed one game in the last three seasons and that was through suspension).

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After the scare, the Rockets went into the second quarter down 10 points and, as usual, turned it over to the bench. And for what feels like the first time in a long time, the bench ignited a run.

Lou Williams was a key factor, instantly hitting a pull-up three and following it up with an incredible lob to Dekker for a sick jam. The back-to-back baskets would bring the Rockets within striking range, which seemed to kick the defense into gear.

At the 5:50 second mark of the second quarter, Harden returned and looked healthy, alleviating everyones concerns. Not long after, the Rockets took their first lead of the game, 43-42. They powered on from that point to take a 56-49 lead at the break.

However, the onslaught was only getting started at halftime, with Harden and Ryan Anderson exploding out of the break to propel the Rockets to a 80-51 lead halfway through the third. The 29-point lead would signal the end of a 33-2 run–a twelve minute period that the Rockets utterly dominated. The game was basically over from there.

The fourth quarter was uneventful, outside of a barrage of out-of-place mid-range jumpers from Nene and Harden. Halfway through the fourth, the Beard came back in for some late-game stat padding that would result in a solid 19p-13a-7r stat line.

Highlights of the Game

This game was noteworthy because of the fact that it was Mike D’Antoni‘s 500th career win. With the milestone, he joins many coaching legends in a group with only 30 members. Only five other current coaches have reached the 500-win mark, including Gregg Popovich and Doc Rivers.

D’Antoni wasn’t the only highlight, though. In addition to coach’s big night, Anderson was incredible in his return outing with 21 points on 6/12 from three. This game showed just how important Anderson is and how much he was missed in the previous two losses.

Clint Capela continued his run of form and was extremely active, adding 17 points and 7 rebounds in 23 minutes. He also showcased some nice moves from the block and off the dribble. Hopefully, D’Antoni continues to have faith in him as his production grows along with his confidence.

Lou’s stat line isn’t extremely impressive and personally I don’t think it reflects his impact on the game. With 18 points on 4/11 shooting, Williams provided the spark for the pivotal run to start the second. It’s nice to have added another guy that can provide that with Eric Gordon struggling lately (he was 3/14 from the field).

Next: Top 5 Point Guards in Houston Rockets History

Overall it was a solid team performance, bringing the team back on track after two disappointing losses. Next, the Rockets have pivotal match-up against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Hopefully the team can provide a victory in another noteworthy game in the race for the MVP.

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