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Luol Deng injured as Chicago Bulls rally to beat Houston Rockets
It is a word tossed about so often in sports that not enough weight is attached to it.
Every team strives for it; few master it. The Bulls play with it like a kitten pushes around a ball of string.
But Saturday night, they at least could discuss it in the winning team's locker room even as they knew forward Luol Deng could be lost for the season with a possible stress fracture in his right tibia.
Trailing by 17 points with 5 minutes 51 seconds left, the Bulls outscored the Houston Rockets 23-3 the rest of the way. They took the lead on Derrick Rose's floater with 32 seconds left and held on for a 105-102 victory.
The triumph provided the bookend for a ridiculous five-day period in which the Bulls defeated two of the best teams in the league in Orlando and Houston sandwiched around two embarrassing losses at mediocre New Jersey and last-place Washington.
The ups and downs continue, however, as X-rays on Deng showed a likely stress fracture of the right shin. Deng, who said he had been bothered by the injury for the last several weeks, left the game after playing 9:18 in the second quarter, scoring six points and committing three turnovers. He will undergo an MRI.
And like Deng's injury, even in victory, the Bulls seem braced for the worst.
"This was huge, huge," said Rose, who scored 16 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter and played the entire second half after sitting for much of crunch time recently.
"But you just have to keep it going. After we win a big game, we always lose like two games. We have to keep it rolling."
The Bulls snapped the Rockets' six-game winning streak and five-game streak at the United Center despite being outscored 30-16 in the third quarter and trailing by 17 in the fourth.
"I'm proud our guys hung in," coach Vinny Del Negro said. "It was a great win for us against a Houston team as good as any we've played with their size and shooting. I liked our toughness. I liked our attitude."
Ron Artest lit up the Bulls for 32 points on 13-of-24 shooting, 6 of 12 from three-point range. But he missed 6 of 7 shots in the last six minutes.
Following Rose's 7-footer to give the Bulls a 104-102 lead, the second of two missed three-pointers by Artest rolled down the arm of 7-foot-6-inch Rockets center Yao Ming with 11 seconds to go and ended in the possession of John Salmons.
Salmons, who was fouled, hit one of his two free throws, but it was enough.