Howard leads Rockets over Bulls
HOUSTON – Dwight Howard scored 23 points and James Harden and Chandler Parsons added 19 each as the Houston Rockets used a big third-quarter run to pull away for a 109-94 win over the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night.
The Bulls trailed by three with 5½ minutes left in the third before their offense went cold. Houston took advantage of the scoring drought, using a 15-1 spurt to make it 83-66 entering the final period.
Chicago missed six shots and had five turnovers in that span, while Omri Casspi scored seven points to power Houston's offense.
The Rockets picked up the victory in the return of coach Kevin McHale, who had missed the previous three games following the death of his mother.
Jimmy Butler's 20 points led the Bulls, who have dropped three in a row and 12 of 15.
Harden started despite spraining his left ankle Sunday night. His performance ended a streak of five straight games with at least 25 points. Howard had nine rebounds and Harden had six assists and three steals.
Bulls point guard Kirk Hinrich missed his third consecutive game because of back stiffness. D.J. Augustin, signed on Friday, made his first start for Chicago in Hinrich's place. He finished with eight points and nine assists.
Luol Deng scored 18 points for Chicago, Carlos Boozer had 17 and Taj Gibson added 14.
With 11½ minutes left in the fourth quarter, Deng scored Chicago's first basket since there were more than 5 minutes left in the third. Casspi scored four points soon after that to extend Houston's lead to 89-70.
Patrick Beverley had 15 points, Casspi added 11 and Terrence Jones had a career-high six assists for Houston.
The Bulls used a 10-4 run to cut the lead to 68-65 with about 5½ minutes left in the third quarter. Augustin scored five points in that stretch and Butler added a 3-pointer.
Casspi ended the run with a 3 and Howard tacked on a dunk a minute after that to start Houston's big run.
Houston was up by three about 5 minutes before halftime before using a 9-2 run to extend the lead to 48-38 about 3 minutes later.
Deng got Chicago within eight points late in the second quarter, but Beverley extended Houston's lead to 57-46 at halftime when Deng fell down and he sank an off-balance 3 at the buzzer. Officials at first said it didn't count, but a review showed that he got it off in time.
NOTES: Houston PG Jeremy Lin missed his second straight game with back spasms. ... Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said he doesn't expect Hinrich to be out for an extended period.