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Game Day Preview: Houston Rockets vs. Chicago Bulls

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After a valiant come back win Tuesday night against a Lebron-less Cavaliers team, the Houston Rockets will return home Thursday night to face off against a Bulls team who is 1-4 in their last 5 games.

With Utah losing in overtime last night to the defending champs (GSW) and the Mavericks stealing one late at home against the Knicks, all three teams are now tied with one game below the .500 mark at 37-38.

With most teams having 7 games left of the regular season, the playoff race for both the Western and Eastern Conference are under careful microscopic examination each and every single night. Tonight’s match up against two teams battling for playoff life in their respective conferences is one that is promised to be filled with excitement, grit and crucial bad calls down the stretch that may very well determine the game.

The Details

Venue: Toyota Center, Houston , TX

Game Time: 7:00 PM ET – 6:00 PM CT

TV: TNT

Radio: 790 AM, ESPN 1000 AM/ WRTO 1200 , Sirius:80(Internet H:884/A:890)

Recent History

This will be the second time the two teams match up this season. In the last five 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
  • 3/05/2016: Houston 100 – Chicago 108

Walking Wounded

More from Space City Scoop

Rockets:

(No player is listed on the injury report for Houston)

Chicago:

Projected Starters

Rockets: Patrick Beverley, James Harden, Trevor Ariza, Donatas Motiejunas, Dwight Howard

Bulls: Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, Mike Dunleavy, Taj Gibson, Pau Gasol

Keys to Winning

  • No Slow Starts: Last time out against the Bulls the Rockets fell behind early in the first half 43 – 55 only to rally back in the second half cutting the 13 point deficit to an 8 point loss. The theme this season for the under performing Houston ball club has for sure been the slow starts. A few times this season have the Rockets successfully been able to surge back in the second half to pull out a win, but how reliable can this be? The Bulls season in a sense has been a complete mirage of Houston’s with both teams in the battle for playoff positions. Falling behind by a large margin early and banking on a second half resurgence against a team desperate for wins is highly insurmountable.
  • Play Houston Defense: You’re probably thinking…, ” Houston defense? You mean the kind where they invite wide open threes and drives to the basket without a care in the world?” No, I’m not referring to the matador defense that this Rockets team has played for 75% of every game this season. I’m talking about the hair on fire defense that is displayed every single fourth quarter this season and all of last season. The kind of defense that scraps, gambles and flies around the court at 100 miles per hour. This defense was on show the last time out, holding the Cavaliers to 16 fourth quarter points. The same team that holstered in 35 points in the second quarter. Derrick Rose, like Russel Westbrook , tends to let the defense dictate his tempo. The two speedsters have a tendency of jumping and then making a decision in mid air which may lead to unfavorable decisions. Apply the pressure early and take the Bull’s ball handlers out of their comfort zone.
  •  Attack Relentlessly: In their last 5 games, the Bulls have given up 112.7 points per 100 possessions which ranks them 6th worst in Team Defensive Efficiency (stats per NBAStuffer.com). Whether it may be the fatigue of the rigorous season catching up to the Bulls or a lack of effort, this Chicago team who hovered around the top 7 in Defensive Efficiency for most of the season has been almost unapparent.

Prediction

The oddsmakers have made Houston 6.5 point home favorites with a total of over/under of 216.

Houston being 6 point favorites at home to any professional basketball team is laughable. How can a team that has been inconsistent all season long with zero lick of defense lay that many points to a talented Chicago team fighting for a playoff seed?

Well if we’re looking at recent performances from both ball clubs the line indeed does make sense. By the numbers, in their past 5 games, Chicago has been the 4th worst team in basketball according to Efficiency Differential ( a stat that takes the difference between Offensive and Defensive Efficiency) only ranking above the Lakers, Pelicans and Sixers. Whereas Houston is currently 16th overall with a Efficiency Differential of zero, while playing the 2nd toughest schedule through their last five.

This will also be Chicago’s third game in four nights. With the Bulls being two games out of the playoff race behind Indiana and Detroit, who by which, have favorable schedules through their last five games, it wouldn’t be too insane to think that perhaps little to no hope lies within this roster to make the post season.

Houston – 116
Chicago – 103

Next: Appreciating James Harden

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