Preview: The Chicago Bulls are back in multiple senses of the phrase.
Guys are finally coming back off the COVID-19 health and safety protocols list. Granted the Bulls don’t have all their key players back yet, but at least the roster isn’t gutted to the point where games can’t be contested fairly.
Having DeMar DeRozan back is huge. Not only is he the Bulls’ closer, but having him and Zach LaVine out simultaneously would have been just brutal for the offense, especially with Nikola Vucevic struggling to start the season.
The Bulls are also back in the sense that they are back winning big games in dramatic fashion. Led by DeRozan’s fourth-quarter heroics, the Bulls nipped the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday night for the second time this season. This time, LeBron James was playing, though Anthony Davis wasn’t. The Lakers are also dealing with their own COVID-19 issues, but this was still huge to sweep them this season.
The Bulls are hopefully on the tail end of their terrible COVID-19 outbreak. After getting forced to play a few games that they lost where they were unfairly shorthanded, the Bulls are hoping to get back on track. They own the second-best record in the Eastern Conference, and they’ve already defeated the team ahead of them (the Brooklyn Nets) twice this season.
The attention now turns to the Houston Rockets (third-worst team in the Western Conference). H-Town has a double former Chicago Bulls alert: DJ Augustin and David Nwaba.
In one of the most deflating losses of the entire season, the Bulls laid an egg against the Rockets in a 118-113 loss in mid-November. Houston was just 1-16 entering that game, but that game actually started a seven-game winning streak. The Rockets are up to 10-20 on the season, so this won’t be a cakewalk on the second of a back-to-back. Still, the Bulls will be out for some revenge and need to take care of business.
On the roster front, the Bulls signed Alfonzo McKinnie to a second 10-day hardship deal.
Injury Report: In addition to the laundry list of players still in COVID protocols (Zach LaVine, Ayo Dosunmu, Troy Brown Jr., Alize Johnson, Matt Thomas, Stanley Johnson), Derrick Jones Jr. is out with the hamstring injury suffered against the Lakers. Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr. remain out for the Rockets, and Armoni Brooks is questionable with an ankle injury.
Game Time: NBC Sports Chicago, 7:00 CDT