Bulls-Rockets Preview

Houston Rockets Status Check:
Record: 28-25
Division: 5-6
Conference: 18-19
Road Record: 8-17
Last 10 Games: 5-5
Streak: Lost 1
Last game: 104-102 loss to Indiana
PPG: 98.1 (9th)
Opponents PPG: 97.5 (20th)
Offensive Rating: 105.5 (10th)
Defensive Rating: 104.9 (15th)
Pace: 91.5 (16th)
Effective Field Goal Percentage: .495 (9th)
Turnover Percentage: .138 (16th)
Defensive Rebound Percentage: .736 (10th)
Offensive Rebound Percentage: .277 (14th)
Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt: .188 (24th)
Opp. eFG%: .487 (15th)
Opp. TO%: .135 (20th)
Opp. FT/FGA: .201 (11th)
Leading scorer: Luis Scola (15.8)

Stats from Basketball-Reference

Houston Injury Report:
Kyle Lowry: out 2-4 weeks (bacterial infection)
Kevin Martin: out indefinitely (torn labrum in right shoulder)

Overview:
With just 12 games left in the season, the Thunder showed that the Bulls have a long way to go to be the championship team many already think they are.

Chicago did not look good at all yesterday. And the Thunder looked amazing. It would be easy to hide behind the “but the Bulls didn’t have Derrick Rose” blanket, but would he have made that much of a difference? I don’t think so.

Chicago had been winning with defense, but they couldn’t slow down the Thunder at all. Kevin Durant (26 points, 11-16 shooting) and Russell Westbrook (27 points, 10-18 shooting) were scoring at will. Oklahoma City had 80 points through three quarters, and shot 48.6 percent for the game.

It was supposed to be Chicago’s defense that was stifling, but it turns out Oklahoma City can play some D themselves. Chicago shot 33 percent for the game and was held to just 12 third quarter points, when the Thunder were pulling away. The best defensive player on the court was probably Serge Ibaka, who had five blocks in the game and kept Chicago out of the paint.

The good news is the Bulls shouldn’t be very tired, because the starters got pulled. Kyle Korver, who was in the starting line-up rather than Ronnie Brewer, played the most minutes (32); Luol Deng (30 minutes) had what probably felt like a night off. C.J. Watson and Joakim Noah didn’t even play 20 minutes (Noah was 1-8 from the field in his 19 minutes of action).

And Noah summed up the game pretty well. “We were awful offensively and defensively,” Noah said after the game. “It’s disappointing they really kicked our (butt) in every aspect of the game.”

Well said Jo, well said. Luckily for Chicago, the Heat also got blown out by Boston, so the Bulls kept their 3.5 game cushion.

But today is another day, and the Bulls can get back on the winning track in the United Center. Chicago still hasn’t lost back-to-back games since February of last season.

And while the Bulls starters had a short night, the Rockets went into overtime against Indiana. Houston took a ten point lead into the fourth quarter, before falling to the Pacers by two points in the extra period. Indiana got to the line 18 more times, and made 19 more free throws than Houston. The Rockets also lost the rebounding battle 54-44.

Houston did shoot 42.9 percent from three, and every starter scored in double digits. Goran Dragic led the way for the Rockets with 22 points and six assists. Courtney Lee scored 20 points, Chandler Parsons had 14 points and Luis Scola added 13 of his own.

The Bulls will once again be without their point guard, for the tenth straight game. But the Rockets will be without their floor leader as well. Kyle Lowry is out for Houston with a bacterial infection. In his attempt to one-up Derrick Rose, Lowry has missed 12 straight games. Lowry was having a great season, averaging 15.9 points, 7.2 assists and 5.3 rebounds.

Houston is battling for the playoffs every night, as they’re currently in eighth place with a one game lead on Utah. The Rockets aren’t great on the road, going just 8-17 so far this season.

The Bulls last back-to-back games was their Portland-Philly stretch in mid-March. The Bulls lost the front end, but beat the Sixers the next night. Chicago is a very impressive 12-3 when they have no rest.

Houston is just 8-10 on the tail-end of back-to-backs, including losing their last two games on no rest (to Dallas and Phoenix).

The NBA season is now in its last month, and the Bulls are going to have to finish strong to keep their top spot. They play Miami twice in April, which could be a good gauge of where they are in relation to their probable Eastern Conference Finals foe. But most importantly for Chicago, they have to be healthy for the playoffs. That means Rose and Hamilton on the court, Deng getting rest for his wrist (and his entire body) and everyone else staying healthy.

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