CHICAGO (AP)—Marcus Fizer’s big arms and strong hands helped him get a lock on the loose basketball, even as he was surrounded by three Houston defenders near the basket.
Then, with the clock about to run out, Fizer muscled the ball to the basket and his shot with four-tenths of a second left Sunday gave the Chicago Bulls a 100-98 win over the Rockets.
“All I was thinking that if I got my hands on it, I’d put a shot up,” Fizer said.
“I never really saw the rim at all. I prayed I had time to get the ball up. It was basically instinct. My main focus was getting the shot.”
Jalen Rose scored 29 points, including 11 in the final quarter, and then batted away a final Houston lob pass to secure the Bulls’ victory.
Steve Francis’ 26 points led the Rockets, who lost their fourth straight. Cuttino Mobley had 19, and rookie Yao Ming added 14 points and eight rebounds, two weeks before he will start for the Western Conference in the All-Star game.
“That was a fluke. You can’t say they drew that up. I thought we did a good job getting hands in there, we smacked the ball,” Francis said.
“The guy just picked the ball up and he was able to put the ball in the bucket.”
Rose said after he lost the ball, Fizer just reacted to a “free-for-all.”
“Marcus did the first thing that comes to mind. He was aggressive to the loose ball, he got it and knocked down the shot,” Rose said.
After a timeout, Rose knocked away a lob pass by Francis.
Houston tied the game at 98 on a three-point play by Mobley with 12.6 seconds remaining.
Yao scored on a wild shot with his back to the basket to tie the game at 87 with just under five minutes to go, hooked in a shot and score again from close range as the Rockets went inside to him several times in the final quarter.
Yao, cheered warmly at the United Center, shot 6-of-9 from the field after two straight games under double figures.
“I’d like to thank them for coming,” Yao said.
“It was a very physical game, but I think every game is physical.”
Chicago’s 7-1 Tyson Chandler tried to put the task of guarding the 7-6 Yao in perspective.
“He’s a big human being and once he gets that shot going, there’s not much you can do about,” Chandler said. “It’s unbelievable for a man that size to have that touch.”
Rose hit two free throws and, after a lob pass to Yao, went out of bounds, Donyell Marshall scored on a follow making it 98-93 with 1:23 left. Francis made two from the line before Mobley tied the game.
Chicago started the second half on a 14-0 run and outscored the Rockets 26-8 in the first eight minutes of the third quarter to take a 10-point lead.
But the Rockets regrouped, and two free throws and a jumper by Yao, coupled with a driving basket by Francis, cut the lead to 81-77 with a quarter to go.
Francis had a 3-pointer, a driving layup, a steal and dunk and a follow-up, scoring nine points in a 13-0 run late in the second quarter as Houston pulled ahead.
Rick Brunson’s 3-pointer with a less than a second to go got the Bulls to within 54-49. But Mobley somehow took the inbounds pass and let fly with a buzzer-beating 48-foot heave from beyond midcourt that swished and put Houston back up eight at the half.
Yao Ming was surrounded by reporters before the game and quickly showed his sense of humor. Asked what he remembered about Bulls general manager Jerry Krause during his pre-draft visit to Chicago last spring, Yao said: “He ate twice as much as I did.” Krause at is at least two feet shorter than Yao. … The Bulls are 15-0 at home when leading after three quarters. They’ve won fivestraight at the United Center, their longest streak at home since 1998.