The Houston Rockets will be kicking off their 5 game Eastern Conference road trip Saturday night as they visit the “Windy City” to square off against the Chicago Bulls.
Rockets vs. Bulls
Chicago will be returning home after a short two game road trip and will be looking to break out of a four-game losing streak. While Houston will be looking to build off a home victory in which the Rockets rallied back to knock off Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans winning 100-95.
At 30-31 the Rockets are currently two games ahead of the Utah Jazz for the 8th playoff seed in the Western Conference. While the Chicago Bulls are in possession of a 30-30 record which positions Fred Hoiberg’s ball club half a game behind the 8th seeded Detroit Pistons.
With the playoffs quickly approaching, this Saturday night match up between two teams who many expected to be atop of their respective conferences holds many playoff indications moving forward.
Venue: United Center, Chicago , IL
Game Time: 8:30 PM ET – 7:30 PM CT
Radio: 790 AM, ESPN 1000 AM/ WRTO 1200 , Sirius:80(Internet H:884/A:890)
This will be the first time the two teams match up this season. In the last four meetings, the home team has come out victorious –
- 12/18/2013: Chicago 94 – Houston 109
- 3/13/2014: Houston 87 – Chicago 111
- 1/05/2015: Houston 105 – Chicago 114
- 2/04/2015: Chicago 90 – Houston 101
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- Terrence Jones (illness) – Out
- Taj Gibson (hamstring) – Questionable UPDATE: GIBSON UPGRADED TO PLAYING
- Derrick Rose (hamstring – Probable
- Nikola Mirotic (hematoma) – Doubtful – UPDATE: MIROTEC HAS BEEN UPGRADED TO PLAYING
- Jimmy Butler (knee) – Out UPDATE: BUTLER WILL PLAY
In addition to Butler and Gibson who are back and starting for the Bulls, Mirotic will return tonight, Hoiberg said.
— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) March 5, 2016
Keys To Winning
- Stay Solid Defensively: Statistically the Rockets are in the bottom tier of nearly every defensive stat known to man kind and it’s quite disappointing. As bad as Houston has been defensively this season, there have been games where glimpses of last season’s tenacity has been displayed. On the other hand, the Bulls acquisition of head Coach Fred Hoiberg was with all intentions to improve offensively but the exact opposite has occurred. Chicago has been horrid offensively all season long ranking 25th overall in Offensive Efficiency and 29th in their last five games. For Houston to maintain any type of consistency moving forward, the urgency defensively has to be a main stay. (All stats per nbastuffer.com)
- Feed The Beard: James Harden has been on a tear as of late (actually all season) but if you haven’t been watching you probably wouldn’t have noticed it with all the Curry madness going on. In the last 10 games Harden has averaged – 32.9 points per game, 7.3 rebounds per game and 6.2 assist per game. Let that sulk in for a bit.
- Limit Dribble Penetration from Rose: Offensively the Bulls thrive off the penetration of Derrick Rose. Despite all the media narrative of Rose not being the player he once was, the veteran guard is still quietly having one hell of a season and a big part of why the Bulls are still even in playoff contention. Derrick’s speed and ability to finish around the rim even with troubled knees has to be respected. It would be wise for Houston to pack the paint forcing Rose to settle for his inconsistent jumper or force him into a play maker rather than a score first point guard.
- Attack The Paint: Defensively the Bulls are sound on the perimeter with timely rotations and close outs ranking second over all in Opponent Shooting Efficiency (per Teamrankings.com). On the flip side of this, Chicago is one of the worst at defending the paint giving up 44.4 Opponent Points in The Paint per game. Most noticeably in the past few games, Dwight Howard has looked extremely aggressive on post up and second chance opportunities. Whether it’s feeding the big man down low or slashing to the lane in hopes of offensive rebounds, Houston should look to capitalize on Chicago’s weak interior defense.
The odds makers have made Houston a 1.5 point favorite with a total over/under of 216.5.
Mature, level – headed teams typically start off extended road trips with a strong effort. With that being said, the Rockets have been the most inconsistent team this season and can very well be walking into a trap. Behind a four game losing streak look for a collective effort from the Bulls behind future Hall Of Famer Pau Gasol. Too often will the Rockets start games off slow falling behind by double digits only to make a miraculous come back in the fourth quarter. I expect the same to happen tonight with the exception of Chicago hanging on to the lead with a minute to go.
Chicago – 108
Houston – 105
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