HOUSTON -- Rockets coach Kelvin Sampson played the role of soothsayer early Wednesday evening, voicing his concern over the Bulls' rebounding prowess and his team's inability to corral defensive boards.
And then his greatest fears played out repeatedly, with Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer and Taj Gibson seemingly having their way on the glass and presenting the Bulls additional possessions on numerous trips.
But when it mattered most, the Bulls couldn't convert three shots in the final minute into the tying basket, and the Rockets rode a key Toney Douglas 3-pointer into a 93-89 win at Toyota Center.
Nate Robinson, Luol Deng (twice) and Gibson grabbed offensive boards on the same possession, with the Rockets clinging to an 86-84 lead. But after Gibson snared that final rebound, Robinson threw an errant pass to Deng as he stationed himself in the corner for a 3-point attempt.
Douglas, whose trey with 1:11 left erased a one-point deficit, converted two free throws to seal the win. Douglas (11 points off the bench) played down the stretch in place of Jeremy Lin, who scuffled with four points (on 2-for-9 shooting) and three assists against five turnovers.
James Harden paced the Rockets with 28 points while Patrick Patterson chipped in 20. Chandler Parsons added 18 points and 13 rebounds.
Robinson had 21 off the bench for the Bulls while Boozer (13 points, 15 rebounds) and Deng (19 points, 10 rebounds) recorded double-doubles.
While their turnover issues undermined their aspirations, the Rockets (5-7) were occasionally overwhelmed on the defensive glass. The Rockets committed 23 turnovers, but the Bulls (5-6) made equal progress attacking the offensive boards, shifting momentum by their workmanlike effort to gain second opportunities to reset their offense.
The Bulls finished with 17 second-chance points, as their aforementioned front line combined for 10 offensive rebounds.
The Rockets, following a costly lull in the second quarter, needed a spark, and Patterson obliged in the third. He pushed the Rockets ahead with a modest burst late in the period, turning a 55-53 deficit into a 61-55 lead with a free throw at the 2:36 mark before his late 3-pointer upped that advantage to 66-61 with 43.2 seconds left in the period.
But that basket followed a Gibson putback and preceded two more from Boozer, whose tip-in at the buzzer pulled Chicago to within 66-65.
After the Rockets failed to find inspiration from reserve forward Greg Smith, who sandwiched three dunks around a four-point play from James Harden, the assumption was that their road woes had followed them home. After Smith completed his assault on the rim, the Rockets led 30-23 with 10:27 left in the first half and got their partisan crowd excited.
But the Bulls responded with a 16-1 run interrupted only by a Harden technical free throw. Perhaps most disturbing for the Rockets was their sudden lack of purpose and vigor, surrendering a 5-on-1 break at one stage with only reserve forward Marcus Morris, who committed the turnover, even bothering to retreat back on defense.
By the time Rockets center Omer Asik completed a pick-and-roll with Parsons for a layup, the Rockets trailed 39-33. The Bulls were buoyed by the bench contributions of Robinson and Gibson, who combined for 13 points (on 6-for-11 shooting), five rebounds and four assists, and the brilliant all-around effort of Noah (11 points, five rebounds, four assists and three blocked shots).
Harden paced the Rockets with 16 first-half points, and his late scoring flurry enabled the Rockets to slice the Bulls' lead to 46-42 at the break.
NOTES: The Bulls have won two consecutive games at Toyota Center. Chicago last won three successive games in Houston between 1977 and 1980. ... After pacing the league in minutes played last season at 39.4, Deng is leading again at 40.1. ... The Rockets closed their three-game trip through Portland, Los Angeles (Lakers) and Utah winless and allowing 113.3 points per game.