Back from COVID-induced break, Bulls cap back-to-back vs. Rockets

NBA Basketball

After going eight days between games and one week between team activities amid a team-wide COVID-19 outbreak, the Chicago Bulls will brace for an endurance test when they host the Houston Rockets on Monday.

Chicago will complete a back-to-back set after topping the Los Angeles Lakers 115-110 on Sunday in the opener of a four-game homestand.

If the performance from leading scorer DeMar DeRozan was any indication, the Bulls figure to be anything but fazed. In his first game back following a two-week stint in the NBA’s health and safety protocols, DeRozan scored 19 of his game-high 38 points against the Lakers in the fourth quarter.

DeRozan finished 11-for-24 from the floor while adding six assists and four rebounds.

“There’s a calmness to him,” Bulls coach Billy Donovan said. “He doesn’t get rattled.”

Chicago had as many as 10 players in COVID-19 protocols last week, prompting the postponement of two games. All-Star Zach LaVine is among five players who remain in protocols, with Donovan saying Sunday he didn’t expect anyone in the group to return to the lineup before Christmas.

Some of the team’s usual suspects helped Chicago earn a regular-season sweep of Los Angeles.

Nikola Vucevic had 19 points and 13 rebounds for his team-leading 12th double-double. Lonzo Ball (19 points) and Alex Caruso (17) finished in double figures, with Caruso contributing nine rebounds.

Houston snapped a two-game skid with a 116-107 win at Detroit on Saturday in the opener of a five-game road trip. Christian Wood posted a team-high 21 points, leading the Rockets in scoring for the first time in five games.

Wood also hauled in eight rebounds, and seven Rockets scored in double figures.

“We were getting to the paint, making extra passes and getting touches for everyone,” Houston’s Kenyon Martin Jr. said.

Josh Christopher, selected 24th overall in the 2021 NBA Draft, made his first career start Saturday, contributing 10 points and seven assists in 28 minutes.

Christopher, who is averaging 12 points over the past seven games, addressed the milestone with good humor.

“I didn’t have my contacts in when I got here, so I was squinting at the board to see if my name was really up there,” he said. “I knew I was probably going to start, but it was exciting to see it for sure.”

Jae’Sean Tate, the lone Rocket to have played in each of the team’s 30 games this season, is averaging 5.3 assists over the past 12 games. The starting forward averaged only 1.8 assists per game over the first 18 contests.

Houston will aim to sweep the season series from Chicago after netting a 118-113 home victory over the Bulls on Nov. 24. Long-range success boosted the Rockets, who drilled 17 3-pointers in a game that featured 13 lead changes.

In that contest, the Rockets ended a 15-game losing streak and began a seven-game winning streak.

The Rockets are 1-2 against the Bulls since winning a series-high seven consecutive meetings from Feb. 3, 2017, to Nov. 9, 2019. Houston leads the all-time series 72-70.

–Field Level Media

Copyright 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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