Game: Chicago Bulls vs. Houston Rockets
Time: 6:00PM CST
Location: United Center
TV: Channel 37, CSN (Chicago)
Following an emotional 95-88 overtime victory over the Miami Heat, the Chicago Bulls and their fans were hit with a dose of reality when the San Antonio Spurs beat them 104-96 a few nights later.
In the previous meeting between these two teams out west, the Rockets thumped the Bulls 109-94 behind 23 points and nine rebounds from Howard to go along with 19 points each from James Harden and Chandler Parsons.
The previous contest was close until the Rockets ended the third quarter on a 15-1 run to take a 83-66 lead into the fourth quarter and the Bulls never made a serious threat after that.
Chicago missed six consecutive shots and committed five turnovers during that stretch.
It is said that if we don’t learn from our mistakes, history will repeat itself, and if the Bulls are going to even the score in this season series, they will need to adhere to the following blueprint:
Get off to quick start
One of the reasons why the Bulls lost to the Spurs was because they came out with a lethargic effort early on, and as a result, the Spurs jumped out to a 38-14 lead after the first quarter.
If the Bulls are going to have any chance of pulling out a victory, they will have to play with a high level of intensity right from the start instead of saving it for the fourth quarter.
Call it a hunch, but it would be very difficult to foresee this proud Bulls team coming out with a lackluster effort in consecutive games.
Protect the paint
This sounds pretty basic right? Well, the Bulls failed to do this the last time these teams squared off against each other in mid-December, and they paid the price.
The Rockets recorded 66 points in the paint, which accounted for more than 60 percent of the team’s total points.
In addition to that, Howard connected on 11 of his 14 shot attempts, which is completely unacceptable.
Being that Howard is only a 56 percent free-throw shooter, Chicago may want to consider making him earn a few of those points at the line instead of allowing him to score at will inside.
With the triple threat of Howard, Harden and Parsons, it should be of little surprise to anyone that the Rockets are the third-best scoring team in the NBA with an average of 106.5 points per contest.
That being said, it is imperative that the Bulls impose their defensive presence against a team capable of putting up points in bunches.
As we saw with the Spurs, if you allow a team to do what they do best, you will lose those games more times than not.
Although the Bulls will have their hands full trying to contain the Rockets, they are more than capable of winning this game if they play with the same kind of intensity they have over the past few weeks.
Prediction: Bulls 98, Rockets 92
Please note: stats provided by ESPN
Tags: Chicago Bulls