The Bulls got their road trip off to a great start against Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder. This was a game that Chicago wasn’t supposed to win, which exactly explains why they won. Led by Jimmy Butler’s 28 points on 11 of 17 shooting, the Bulls blew out the Thunder 128-100 on National TV. Typical Bulls.
Unfortunately they’ll be without their leading man tonight as Butler was a late scratch with a heel contusion. It’s the first report of the injury for him and hopefully not an ongoing issue. Without Jimmy, slowing down Houston’s superstar will be a very tall task.
After facing a MVP candidate in Westbrook, Chicago will be facing another one in James Harden. He has been one of the best players in the NBA and it’s clear that his switch to point guard has paid off for the Houston Rockets. The Rockets are currently third in the Western Conference with a record of 36-17. With them being four games behind San Antonio and three games ahead of the Clippers, Houston is sitting firmly in their spot. In their most recent game, it was a horrid collapse for Mike D’Antoni’s side as they gave up 40 points in the fourth quarter and blew a 22-point lead to the Atlanta Hawks. It’s been an up and down past couple of games for the Rockets and they are looking to find some consistency before the All-Star break.
The key danger man is Harden, who is averaging 28.4 points, 11.5 assists, and he’s doing that while shooting a eFG% of 52.6. So to summarize: He’s been very good. Harden’s ability to create his own shot causes defenders to leave their man to sometimes help on the drives. Which in turn opens up shots for the plethora of shooters that Houston puts on the floor alongside Harden. So for a team that isn’t really good defensively, it’s sort of like a pick your poison. Harden will likely be guarded by Butler and it will be a must watch battle. But Chicago has to be wary of the shooters that will be open if the defenses collapse on the Beard.
The last time these two teams played it was back in March of last year and it was a 103-100 Bulls win. Chicago is currently on a two-game winning streak against Houston and will face them in March after this.
Besides Butler, the Bulls are all healthy and everyone else should be available to play. Except for Denzel Valentine, who is still in the D-League with the Windy City Bulls.
For the Rockets, Eric Gordon was dealing with a back injury till last week but should be good to go for this one.
Game time: 7 PM ET, CSN