BY K.C. JOHNSON
CHICAGO – Using a more profane term, Joakim Noah light-heartedly said he hoped Omer Asik played like garbage in Tuesday’s homecoming game
Instead, the Bulls did.
The Bulls got blown out 120-97 by Asik and the Rockets in their first Christmas Day home game in 15 years.
It was only second time in Tom Thibodeau’s tenure they’ve dropped consecutive games by double digits.
“Our defense wasn’t very good,” Noah said. “Terrible Christmas. We didn’t play with the right edge. Omer was great rolling to the basket. We should’ve fouled him more.”
Don’t let a fourth-quarter rally featuring Taj Gibson at center and four perimeter players fool anybody. The Bulls tied for the most points allowed in Thibodeau’s tenure, surrendered 56.1 percent shooting and were outrebounded for the fifth time in seven games.
“We were completely outplayed right from the start,” Thibodeau said. “My job is to have them ready. Obviously, we’re not ready. So that part’s on me.”
Asik’s dominant night featured 20 points, 18 rebounds and three blocks, falling one point and rebound shy of career highs. James Harden added 26 points, Chandler Parsons had 23 and Jeremy Lin finished with 20 points and 11 assists in the Rockets’ fourth straight win.
Houston enjoyed a 29-8 advantage in fast-break points and 66-32 in points in the paint.
In another lowlight for the Bulls, Luol Deng turned his right ankle and, limping badly, said he will see if he can play today.
Nate Robinson scored all 27 of his points in the second half to lead the Bulls, who trailed by 35 on Asik’s tip-in with 4 minutes, 58 seconds left in the third quarter.
Marquis Teague came off the bench to team with Robinson and provide some energy, finishing with eight points, as the Bulls once closed to within 15.
But for the second straight game, the Bulls looked lifeless and now have a back-to-back against the surging Pacers.
Just like on Saturday in Atlanta, the Bulls collapsed in the second quarter, getting outscored 31-19. After committing no turnovers in the first quarter, they had five in the first 3:30 of the second, allowing the Rockets’ transition game to get going and open with a 12-4 run.
The Bulls have been outscored 67-35 in the last two second quarters.
“We had a bad fourth quarter in New York,” Thibodeau said. “We had a bad performance in Atlanta. And we followed it up. Things can change very quickly in this league. If you don’t have an edge, you’re not going to win without playing with intensity.
“We’re not going to outscore people. So we have the wrong mindset right now.”
Asik now has 13 double-doubles
“It’s been fun,” he said. “It’s a young team that’s getting to know each other. We’re getting better each game.”
When Asik blocked Carlos Boozer and Harden scored on a three-point play in transition, the big man remained stoic, never cracking a smile. His teammates’ faces said it all.
“Omer is a big-time player in the middle,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. “He was blocking shots, playing big, getting the break going. It was a big-time game for him.”