Asik burns former team as Rockets rout Bulls

CHICAGO -- Houston center Omer Asik played arguably his best NBA game Tuesday while facing his former team, leading the Rockets to a 120-97 victory over the Chicago Bulls at the United Center.

The 7-foot Asik finished with 20 points and 18 rebounds, one short of his career high in both categories. The native of Turkey spent his first two seasons with the Bulls. Last summer, he signed an offer sheet with Houston that Chicago didn't match.

Asik, who often shies away from interviews, didn't let the performance go to his head.

"I'm just happy we won the game," he said in the locker room. "It's a regular-season game. It's good to win. That's it."

All five Houston starters scored in double figures, led by James Harden, who had 26 points. Chandler Parsons added 23 points, Jeremy Lin produced 20 points and 11 assists, and Marcus Morris scored 10 points.

Tuesday's game continued an impressive run for the Rockets, who earned their fourth consecutive win and scored at least 120 points for the third straight game. Houston handed the Memphis Grizzlies their worst loss of the season Saturday.

"Our guys are starting to feel better about the style we're playing, getting comfortable pushing it and getting the ball going from side to side and doing what we do," Houston coach Kevin McHale said. "We've just got to keep on improving. We're still a very, very young team and have a lot of ways to improve."

Guard Nate Robinson led Chicago with a season-high 27 points, while Marco Belinelli scored 15 and Luol Deng had 14.

The Bulls managed to get the holiday crowd buzzing by trimming a 35-point deficit to 15 after Robinson hit a jumper with 8:10 remaining. However, the comeback fell well short of completion.

Coupled with a poor performance in Atlanta on Saturday, Chicago has lost consecutive games by more than 10 points for the first time in Tom Thibodeau's three seasons as head coach.

"Things can change very quickly in this league," Thibodeau said. "If you're not right and ready, and you don't have an edge, you're not going to win without playing with the right amount of intensity. That part, that's on me. Having us ready, having us playing hard -- I've got to have them ready. That's my job."

The Rockets were rolling for the first three quarters, opening an 86-51 advantage on Asik's tip with 4:58 left in the third. Asik was impressive, but Houston used speed and balance to do most of its damage.

The final count in fast-break points was 31-8 in favor of the Rockets, who also built a 45-31 edge in rebounds. Houston shot an impressive 56.1 percent from the field and canned eight of 20 shots from 3-point range.

"I thought we did a good job of getting three and four and five stops in a row, then getting three and four and five really hard pushes in a row, which is really key for us," McHale said. "I thought our guys really ran hard. We threw ahead beautifully."

Deng, who was limping in the locker room, said he turned his ankle in the first quarter.

NOTES: Chicago guard Richard Hamilton, out since Dec. 1 due to a torn plantar fascia in his left foot, participated in practice Monday. However, Thibodeau didn't want to project a date for Hamilton to return to game action. "We're just going day to day," Thibodeau said. "When he's ready to go, he'll go. He's doing a lot more right now." ... Houston forward Patrick Patterson missed his fifth straight game with a bone bruise in his right foot. ... The Bulls played on Christmas Day for the third straight year, but this was their first home game on the holiday since they beat the Miami Heat in 1997. The Rockets last played on Christmas in 2003, when they beat the Los Angeles Lakers. ... Chicago was 7-0 at home on Christmas before losing to Houston. The Bulls fell to 10-7 all-time on Dec. 25, while the Rockets improved to 3-4.