It worked better than coach Scott Skiles could’ve expected, as his leading scorer hit a driving layup with 1:32 left and fouled out Yao Ming in the process to help Chicago to a 94-89 win over the reeling Houston Rockets on Saturday night.
Skiles called a timeout to set up the play after David Wesley’s three-point play tied the game at 85. With the Houston crowd cheering as loudly as it has all year during the team’s 3-11 start, Hinrich blew past Yao and got slapped on the way to the hoop.
“I was able to lift him off his feet and go by him,” Hinrich said. “He tried to grab me and luckily, I made the basket. He about broke my back.”
The shot made up for a bad shooting night for Hinrich, who finished 2-for-10 for four points.
“It makes you mad that you fight so hard and at the end of the game, you give up easy, uncontested layups,” Houston rookie point guard Luther Head said.
Harrington’s season-high point total directly resulted from the Rockets’ inability to stop the simple pick-and-roll. Repeatedly, Bulls’ guards drove into the lane, drew Houston defenders, then found open men on the wings for wide-open looks.
“You can just lead every story with that: The Rockets can’t guard the pick-and-roll. I don’t care where it is, we won’t guard it,” Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy said. “It looks like we’ve never drilled or worked on it.”
The Rockets were pretty bad on offense, too, missing 18 of 22 shots in the third quarter.
They trailed by 15 early in the fourth quarter before Yao hit a hook shot and a driving layup to trigger a Houston comeback.
The Bulls suddenly started self-destructing, coughing up three turnovers in a minute, and Yao’s turnaround from the baseline with 8:19 cut Chicago’s lead to 75-69.
Chris Duhon turned a steal into a breakaway layup to push the lead to eight, but Yao continued the rally with a free throw and a three-point play.
He picked up his fifth foul with 4:51 left, then easily beat Tyson Chandler on a post move to cut the Bulls’ lead to 80-78.
Gordon sank a 3-pointer at the other end, but Yao scored over Chandler again with 3:36 to go.
“Yao is a great player,” said Chandler, who also fouled out. “If it wasn’t for him, we would’ve been able to run off with the lead.”
Nocioni hit an off-balance jumper from the baseline and Derek Anderson scored to keep the Rockets within three.
Wesley then leaned into Hinrich and hit a jumper from the top of the key, got fouled and sank the free throw to forge the tie.
Hinrich was the only Bull who touched the ball before giving his team the lead for good.
“The plan was for me to come off the pick-and-roll and make a play,” Hinrich said. “If the play was to take the shot, then I take the shot.”
For a while, Harrington was the surprising go-to guy for the Bulls. He came in averaging 4.9 points, but had 12 points at halftime. He finished 7 of 13 from the field.
“That was really helpful early in the game,” Skiles said of Harrington’s good start. “He got us going a little bit.”
Yao went 9-of-18 from the field in the game and 12-of-14 from the free throw line. He twisted his left ankle on a spin move late in the first half. Trainers checked him during a Houston timeout and Yao returned to sink two free throws.
:The Rockets are 0-4 in the second of back-to-back games this season. … Rockets star Tracy McGrady missed his fifth straight game and eighth this season with a back injury. Guard Jon Barry sat out with a bruised left foot. … The Rockets have the NBA’s second-ranked defense (89.5 points per game) and the lowest ranked offense (84.7 ppg). …The Rockets’ losing streak is their longest since losing 15 straight in 2001.