Updated: November 17, 2010, 7:43 AM ET

1. Korver, Bulls' Bench Come Up Big

By John Hollinger
ESPN.com

HOUSTON -- If you're a 6-foot-7, 212-pound NBA player, few things are better for a bad knee than flying two-and-a-half hours in economy class.

That's the only conclusion we can reach after Kyle Korver shook off a knee injury, reacquainted himself with the joys of 31-inch seat pitch on a United Airlines flight to Houston, and delivered a stat-sheet-stuffing 26 minutes -- 10 points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals-- in the Chicago Bulls' 95-92 win over the Houston Rockets.

"Perhaps," Korver said of the correlation between commercial aviation and his on-court success. "But don't tell the Bulls that."

Derrick Rose was the headliner, and deservedly so -- his 14-point outburst in the Bulls' 18-0 to start the fourth quarter was one of the most dominant individual stretches of the young season.

But we expect excellence from Rose. The difference, then, between his Bulls and the Houston Rockets was that he got a ton of support from a much-maligned second unit. Chicago's subs outscored Houston's 29-10, with Korver (+23), Ronnie Brewer (+16) and rookie big man Omer Asik (+16) partaking in a dominating second quarter that reversed a slow start. The trio then formed three-fifths of the Bulls' lineup through most of crunch time.

They needed it, too. On a night when Taj Gibson (1-for-9) and Luol Deng (6-for-21) couldn't buy a basket, Chicago's second unit turned a seven-point deficit after the first quarter into an eight-point advantage at halftime.

"Our bench was terrific," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "Omer coming in, Ronnie coming in, they gave us energy and a spark. And of course Derrick was Derrick.'

Korver in particular stood out in that second quarter, which Chicago won 30-15. Twice he took the ball from counterpart Courtney Lee on defense, and in addition to making all three shots he hit Brewer multiple times on his trademark cuts around the basket -- plays that seemed right out of Jerry Sloan's playbook.

Ironically, Brewer and Korver hardly played together with the Jazz because they usually subbed in for each other.

"In the preseason [Brewer] was hurt a lot," Korver said, "and we've kind of been finding our way in our new system. But I thought tonight we had a couple pretty good plays. I always see him cutting to the basket. He knows my game, I know his game, and I feel we play off each other well."

Korver was questionable with a bruised knee and skipped the Bulls' charter flight to Houston early Monday so he could undergo an MRI. Instead, he took a commercial flight on Monday night and, with first class full, parked himself in a window seat three rows from the back.

Korver said he injured his knee contesting a shot against Washington on Saturday, but it felt good once he got on the court.

"He was terrific," Thibodeau said. "He did a lot more than shoot the ball. I thought he played terrific defense. When he plays on the floor with Derrick, it opens it up, because they can't cheat on him at all."

However, he got plenty of help. Brewer, not renowned for his defense, played a season-high 32 minutes and had a major role in bottling up Houston's Kevin Martin. He also set season bests with 11 points and three steals, with the only negative being a cringe-inducing set of three missed free throws in the fourth quarter after a lane violation gave him an extra try.

And Asik was a revelation. The 7-1 rookie from Turkey provided a presence around the basket while using his surprising mobility to choke off Houston pick-and-roll plays. The Bulls used him as a backstop in the fourth while having Luol Deng playing power forward and fronting Luis Scola, a set-up that helped limit Scola's touches after he'd run amok on Gibson earlier in the game.

Asik's inclusion for nine minutes in the fourth -- at Noah's expense -- raised eyebrows among Bulls watchers, but Thibodeau said he was too valuable to remove.

"He's so active," Thibodeau said, "and with his size at the rim, [because] they're such a good cutting team, you have his shot blocking there and his activity. And he sets such a good screen on the pick-and-roll, and he rolls to the rim and has great hands.

"Plus, that group was functioning extremely well, so I wanted to stay with him longer."

As a result, the Bulls got off to an important first step on the first date of their seven-game "circus trip," so named because of the two-week circus that takes over their home court at the United Center.

Further tests await, including Wednesday's tilt in San Antonio and upcoming road battles in Dallas, L.A., Phoenix and Denver before, finally, a weaker opponent comes up in the finale against Sacramento.

And they may not get such favorable circumstances in all of them. Houston played without Aaron Brooks, Yao Ming and Chase Budinger, helping offset the fact the Bulls were without Carlos Boozer. Truth be told, this was some ugly November basketball -- the two teams combined for 43 turnovers, 19 missed free throws and five shot-clock violations.

But winning ugly is part of the drill in the NBA's 82-game grind, and on Tuesday the Bulls succeeded. If they can keep getting solid contributions from the second unit, there will be plenty more nights when Rose (and eventually Boozer) can do the rest of the work. And if they're doing it with one particular player flying from city to city in a cramped seat in the back of the plane, you can blame it on Tuesday night's success.

Dimes past: Oct. 27 | 28 | 29 | Nov. 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12-13 | 14 | 15

2. Knicks Fall To The Nuggets

By Chris Sheridan
ESPN New York
Amare
Amare

The losing streak has reached six games, but the New York Knicks at least showed some resiliency by coming back from an 18-point deficit in the fourth quarter and tying the game with 3:07 remaining. Danilo Gallinari appeared to be doing all he could to sabotage his own trade value as he missed his first six shots, all of which were 3-pointers, although he recovered somewhat and finished with 21 points. The Knicks missed 15 of their first 16 attempts from 3-point range, and Toney Douglas finished 0-for-4 from the field, making him 1-for-15 over his past two games. Amare Stoudemire had 24 points, including a late 3-pointer with 15 seconds remaining to cut the Knicks' deficit to 2. But the Knicks finished 9-for-31 on 3s and missed 10 of 33 free throws.

To read the entire blog, please click here.

3. Daily Dime Live Recap

ESPN.com writers and TrueHoop Network bloggers chatted with fans and gave their in-game opinions throughout Tuesday's games -- all in Daily Dime Live.

4. Hawks' Smith Gets It Done

Elias Sports Bureau

Josh Smith registered 25 points and seven blocked shots to help lead the Hawks to a 102-92 win over the Pacers in Indiana on Tuesday night. It is the second time in his career that Smith has had at least 25 points and seven blocked shots in a game, previously doing that on Dec. 6, 2007 against the Timberwolves (28 points, seven blocks). No other player in Hawks franchise history has done that even once (the NBA began tracking blocked shots in 1973-74).

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