Thursday night at Toyota Center, the Rockets roller coaster 2015-16 season continued, but as has happened time and time again, they were thrown off before it hit the bottom, though you can argue a 103-100 loss to the Chicago Bulls could be the bottom.
It started with the Rockets jumping out to an early 13-4 lead, but the Bulls got the game tied at 23 after the first quarter. The Rockets started the second quarter with a 13-5 run, but again, Chicago answered and the game was tied at halftime.
Houston scored the first nine points of the second half, and led by as many as 14, but the Bulls were able to pull within nine by the time the quarter ended, and it took just over five minutes for them to take the lead thanks to a Doug McDermott tip-in. For the next few minutes the roller coaster kept dipping and diving. There were a couple of ties mixed in between three lead changes, the final one starting a 10-0 Chicago run, which put them up by eight.
It looked like the ride was over, but it wasn’t. The Rockets made one last gasp.
Trevor Ariza hit a few free throws, and after Mike Dunleavy split a pair, Patrick Beverly knocked down a 3-pointer to bring the Rockets within three. After Nikola Mirotic hit a pair, James Harden’s 26-footer with 10.5 seconds left brought the Rockets within a bucket, and Justin Holliday’s free throw miss with a second to play gave the Rockets an opening, but Trevor Ariza missed a three-pointer from the right corner as the buzzer sounded.
The loss drops the Rockets to 37-39, a half game out of the 8-seed in the Western Conference with six games to play.
Harden led the Rockets with 24 points and 8 assists, while Beverly added a career-high 22 points.
Chicago pulls to within a game of Indiana for the final playoff spot in the East. Mirotic gave them 28 points off the bench, while Tomball native Jimmy Butler scored 21.