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Mar 20, 2024 8:22 pm

Bulls finding ways to win, try to solve Rockets next

DeMar DeRozan

With Lonzo Ball, Patrick Williams and Zach LaVine already sidelined for the season, the Chicago Bulls had the experience dealing with injury attrition to handle the loss of guard Coby White to a right hip strain last week.

In his stead, Ayo Dosunmu emerged. Dosunmu followed a breakout 34-point, nine-assist performance against the Washington Wizards last Saturday with 23 points and 10 assists in the Bulls’ 110-107 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday for their league-leading 24th clutch victory this season.

Chicago (34-35), which will face the Houston Rockets (33-35) on Thursday, led by 14 points entering the fourth quarter before being forced to hang on down the stretch. As their success in games within five points and with fewer than five minutes remaining would indicate, the Bulls have thrived when pressed late.

“We’ve learned from the losses when we haven’t played well and we just find a way,” Bulls guard Alex Caruso said. “We have that collective belief that at the end of the game, we’re going to find a way. We’re going to find a play to make whether it’s a rebound, a shot, a pass or free throw. Whatever it is, we have a belief we can get that.”

Veteran DeMar DeRozan paced the Bulls with 28 points while logging a game-high 40 minutes, and he continues to be their foundation through the avalanche of injuries. DeRozan, 34, is in his 15th season yet leads the NBA in averaging 37.7 minutes per game. His reliability even through a heavy workload has proven critical to helping the Bulls maintain their place in the postseason picture.

“I really try to take good care of myself the best I can,” DeRozan said. “I try to rest. And I just love hooping. I love playing the game no matter how many minutes it is. I just love being out there.”

The Rockets continued their torrid play on Tuesday, rolling past the Wizards 137-114 for their eighth win in nine games and their fifth consecutive road victory. Houston had won five road games all season before their recent run of success away from Toyota Center.

Jalen Green has been the Rockets’ linchpin during the win streak. Over the last nine games, Green is averaging 26.6 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.4 assists against only 1.7 turnovers. He owns a .500/.400/.805 shooting slash line during that stretch and has been even more potent following the loss of center Alperen Sengun (knee/ankle), who was sidelined four games ago.

Without Sengun, who leads Houston in scoring and rebounding, Green has produced 30.5 points, nine rebounds and 3.5 assists per game with a .513/.486/.808 shooting line. He scored a season-high 37 points against the Wizards on March 14, only to match his career high of 42 points against Washington on Tuesday.

“Regardless of the reads, you have to be confident to knock down those shots or take them if you make or miss a few, and he’s done that,” Rockets coach Ime Udoka said of Green. “When he’s taking those shots without thinking about it, reading the defense and being aggressive, especially in the pace that we’ve played with, (the results have been favorable).

“That faster pace, that gets him in the open court and he sees some easy ones go down and the basket opens up for him. He’s really been aggressive, and you can see his confidence skyrocket when one or two goes down.”

–Field Level Media

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