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Bulls vs. Rockets Game Preview and Open Thread

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No beard, Dunn, LaVine

NBA: Houston Rockets at Chicago Bulls Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago Bulls (24-49) at Houston Rockets (60-14)

7 p.m., WGN

Injury Report:

Once again, this reads like a casualty report from Iwo Jima.

The Bulls have ruled out Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine with their toe and knee injuries respectively. Paul Zipser will miss another game with the lingering foot issue that forced him to sit out a stretch of eight games from Feb. 24 to March 11.

But wait, there’s more!

Sensing that they could beat the tanking Bulls even if they suited up Mike D’Antoni and Clutch the mascot, the Rockets decided to use this matchup as an opportunity to rest several of their key players.

The Last Time:

A Harden-less Rockets squad shimmied into the United Center on Jan. 9 and beat the Bulls 116-107 behind 24 points apiece from Chris Paul and Eric Gordon. Nikola Mirotic missed this game with the stomach flu and the sickness came (probably not so) coincidentally shortly after he ate mayonnaise and jelly sandwiches and Oreos with orange juice in a Bulls promo video.

Preview:

What do you think is going to happen?

As long as Paul being probable equates to him actually playing, the Rockets should have no trouble in this one even with James Harden and Clint Capela resting. The Rockets have too much to play for, their magic number for clinching the No. 1 seed out west is at three, and the Bulls are pulling too many stealth tank moves and aren’t good enough across the roster to compete with an elite Rockets team even before their own injuries.

The Rockets dominate both ends of the floor; checking in at No. 1 in the NBA in offensive rating and seventh in defensive rating. Their no mid-range field goal offense predicated instead on loads of 3-point field goals and paint attempts is everything the Bulls wish their offense eventually evolves into.

Houston set a franchise record when they recorded their 59th win of the season against the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday. The Rockets are currently on a nine game winning streak and have only lost one time since Jan. 27.

In other news, Missouri freshman Michael Porter Jr. declared for the NBA draft yesterday. With lingering issues on the extent of the back injury that sidelined him for most of the season coupled with a poor showing when he did play, Porter conceivably could drop to where the Bulls will likely pick. With this in mind, the Bulls have absolutely no incentive to win another game this season and thus compromise their draft position. The last thing they want to do is blow their current losing streak to an elite Rockets squad when winnable matchups against fellow tankers wait in the near future.

The crawl to the finish continues tonight; however, at least the Bulls are playing a strong opponent and we don’t have to watch a drudge match against a fellow tanker again.