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Bulls vs. Rockets game preview, lineups, injury report

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Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

[Thanks to TheHungarianJordan for today's game preview -yfbb]

GAME INFO:

Chicago Bulls (30-19) @ Houston Rockets (33-15)
7pm Central/ESPN/CSN-Chicago

LINE: Houston -3.5, o/u 204.5

Injuries: Howard out (HOU), Dunleavy out (CHI)

The big story coming into this game is Houston's Dwight Howard undergoing a bone marrow aspirate injection today, whatever that is (paging psuedo doctors at blogabull). The injury will keep him out at least a month. The Rockets are pretty used to playing without Howard though, going 11-6 in his absence. They list Joey Dorsey as the probable replacement starter. If you've never heard of Dorsey, you're not alone. He's a crappy old undersized NBA journeyman center who has started the previous 4 games in Howard's absence and managed a measly 11 total points in those contests.

The last time these two teams played (1/5/15), the Bulls won a thrilling game at the United Center 114-105. Jimmy Butler held Harden to 20 points and had one of the Bulls' highlights of the year when he blocked a Harden shot right back into his face, causing him to fall at the feet of Jimmy and curl into a fetal position at the half. Do yourself a favor and rewatch that video if you're having a bad day.

Unfortunately, the Bulls haven't fared as well in Houston recently, losing their last two at Houston's Toyota Center.

The Bulls have been struggling, but they've had some much needed time off. They're coming off a rare 4 days of rest, having last played in Phoenix on Friday. The Rockets have also had some rest, with their last game a loss against the Pistons on Saturday. Both teams should be ready and sharp coming out of the gate.

As far as how these teams match up, some interesting points:

THJ'S KEYS TO THE GAME

-Houston shoots and has the most makes from 3 in the NBA while the Bulls give up the least amount of 3's. Will Houston be able to shoot volume 3's on this Bulls defense?

-Similarly, Houston takes the least amount of 2's and the Bulls force opponents into the most amount of 2's in the NBA

-Houston is a very good offensive rebounding team (4th in ORB%) and a poor defensive rebounding team (21st in DRB%). Sound familiar? We're 3rd in offensive rebounding and 20th in defensive rebounding. McHale has harped on rebounding as a key to this game in his talks with the media this week and has called out his bigs to step up that particular aspect in Howard's absence

-Houston fouls a lot (27th in the league at fouling) and the Bulls draw a lot of fouls (3rd in fouls drawn/gm), so look for the Bulls to be in the bonus early and often.

-The Bulls have been bad about taking care of the ball this year. They rank 18th in turnovers/gm, and Houston is the 3rd best team in the league at forcing turnovers. Houston also turns the ball over a ton too though.

-Neil Funk is a man of little joy. On a nightly basis, he must pretend to know about basketball and feign laughter at poor singing by his partner. But last night, he couldn't sleep in anticipation of the greatest day of the season. For tonight, Blogabull fans, he will get 24 minutes of ecstasy as he shits all over Josh Smith's game. Funk will be breaking out the full repertoire tonight. Sarcasm. Faux awe, wonder, and incredulity at shot selection. The backhanded compliment. It will all be on display in its full glory. Or you could just watch the ESPN broadcast. Shane Battier, Van Gundy, and Ryan Ruocco on the ESPN call.

HOW THE BULLS WIN

The Bulls win if: They keep Houston's 3 point shooting to a minimum. The Bulls' frontcourt crushes a depleted Rockets frontcourt, grabbing a ton of offensive rebounds. The Bulls draw a lot of fouls and don't foul Harden. The Bulls take care of the ball.

HOW THE ROCKETS WIN

The Rockets win if: They manage to shoot a lot of 3's on what has become a porous Bulls' defense. Harden is able to penetrate and dish for 3's (he's the best in the game at this - has the most assists for 3's in the league). Harden gets Butler in foul trouble. The Rockets force the Bulls into a lot of turnovers leading to fast breaks. The Bulls fail to keep the Rockets off the offensive glass.

The Bulls have already beaten the Rockets without Dunleavy earlier in the season. Let's do it again!

See how the other side thinks at the Rockets' SB Nation site, The Dream Shake