CHICAGO (AP)Zach LaVine scored 33 points, and the Chicago Bulls overcame a strong effort by Victor Oladipo in his Houston debut, beating the Rockets 125-120 on Monday night.
LaVine led seven Bulls players in double figures and added seven assists. He scored nine points in the closing minutes of the third to help send Chicago to the final quarter with a 93-86 lead.
The Bulls made enough shots down the stretch to win for the second time in as many days after losing four straight by four points or fewer.
”It’s gonna take some time. But I see them fighting to get better,” coach Billy Donovan said.
Lauri Markkanen finished with 18 points. The 7-footer from Finland nailed a 3-pointer in the closing minute to make it a six-point game, helping Chicago squeeze out a tight win after an easy victory at Dallas. And the Bulls hit 20 of 45 from beyond the arc.
Oladipo looked good in his first game for Houston, setting season highs with 32 points and nine assists. The two-time All-Star was acquired from Indiana as part of the four-team trade that sent James Harden to Brooklyn last week after he said the Rockets weren’t ”good enough.”
Christian Wood scored 30 and grabbed nine rebounds. Eric Gordon added 21 points after missing back-to-back games because of tightness in his lower left leg. The Rockets lost for the fourth time in five games.
”Our better days are ahead of us, definitely,” Oladipo said. ”Off the fly, we kind of just went out there and winged it a little bit. Not very much time to prep. Our better days are ahead. Everyone, just stay patient, including us.”
The Bulls led most of the game, but Houston hung in until the end.
Oladipo nailed a 3 to cut it to 114-111 with 1:50 remaining. LaVine answered with a finger roll layup for Chicago.
Wood made a pair of free throws for Houston with just over a minute remaining. But Markkanen hit a 3 from the wing off a feed from LaVine after a driving Coby White passed out to the perimeter, making it 119-113 with 46.9 seconds left.
”I think we’re just taking good shots, moving the ball really well,” LaVine said. ”Guys are stepping up and hitting shots. I think we have the right personnel for it this year, as well.”
Rockets: Coach Stephen Silas took time to discuss with his team the sacrifices Martin Luther King made. He also mentioned the struggles his father, Paul, faced breaking into the NBA with the St. Louis Hawks in 1964, unable to go into certain restaurants and hotels. ”I just wanted the players to hear my story when it came to Martin Luther King Day and really let them kind of marinate on the sacrifice that he gave for all of us,” Silas said. … The Rockets were missing guards John Wall and Sterling Brown. Wall, a five-time All-Star, sat out his third consecutive game because of a sore left knee, while Brown (sore lower right leg) missed his second in a row.
Bulls: The Bulls held out rookie forwards Patrick Williams (bruised right hip) and Otto Porter Jr. (strained lower back). Williams, the No. 4 overall pick in the draft, started Chicago’s first 13 games.
Rockets: The Rockets host Phoenix on Wednesday before back-to-back road games against Detroit and Dallas on Friday and Saturday.
Bulls: The Bulls play at Charlotte on Friday before the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers visit on Saturday.
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