HOUSTON—All they wanted was a measure of respectability. It had eluded the Bulls on their November road swings since Michael Jordan retired after the 1998 season.
But they gained that and more Saturday night when they ended their six-game trip with victories over the Los Angeles Lakers, the NBA champion San Antonio Spurs and the Houston Rockets.
The back-to-back victories in Texas were especially gratifying. Although they have struggled against Rockets giant Yao Ming, the Bulls used their momentum to weather Yao's 30 points in a 94-89 victory before an announced sellout crowd of 18,005 at the Toyota Center.
The Bulls got their usual lift from Ben Gordon, who scored 18 points off the bench, and a welcome contribution from veteran reserve Othella Harrington, who added 16.
But the Bull to watch in the coming weeks is Tyson Chandler, who has experienced shortness of breath and was diagnosed last week with a hiatal hernia, also known as diaphragmatic hernia.
"I knew something wasn't right," Chandler said. "I was feeling like I couldn't get my wind."
Chandler said he is taking medication twice a day, except on game nights when he skips an evening dosage to avoid potential side effects.
It's hard to say if Bulls coach Scott Skiles is concerned. Asked about it before the game, he said he didn't know anything about it.
The episodes certainly made Chandler nervous. He coordinated a visit to a specialist with team athletic trainer Fred Tedeschi.
Chandler has struggled with acid reflux in the past and also had lesions in his esophagus from acid buildup. The reflux is under control and the lesions have healed, Tedeschi said.
Information on the Mayo Clinic Web site says a hiatal hernia can form at the opening of the diaphragm where the esophagus joins the stomach. It causes chest pain similar to heartburn, Chandler said.
"It makes you nervous because you can feel it in your heart, it seems," he said.
The extent of its effect on his play is unclear.
He didn't start the season in great shape, but that was attributed to a poor workout regimen in the summer.
He said he often fights fatigue from the condition, especially in the fourth quarter.
Nevertheless, last week Chandler appeared to be hitting his stride on the court. He played his best game of the season against the Lakers last Sunday and followed with a solid game against the Spurs and star Tim Duncan.
He had five points and seven rebounds in 24 minutes against the Rockets, succumbing mostly to foul trouble.
Harrington and Andres Nocioni picked up the pace in his absence. Nocioni scored 17 points to go with eight rebounds.
The Bulls (6-5) led by 15 points in the fourth quarter and had to hold off a rally by the Rockets, who are trying to survive without Tracy McGrady.
Houston (3-11) has lost seven straight games, and five of the losses have been without McGrady, who has a strained lower back.