***** NBA Previews from The Sports Network *****
Thursday, March 13th
(All times Eastern)
HOUSTON ROCKETS (44-20) AT CHICAGO BULLS (35-29), 7 P.M.
(SportsNetwork.com) - It appears both the Houston Rockets and Chicago Bulls
will reach the playoffs, but the two squads are coming off losing efforts.
Something has to give when the Rockets pay a visit to the Bulls Thursday night
at the United Center. The Rockets opened a tough three-game road trip with
Tuesday's 106-98 loss at Oklahoma City, as James Harden netted 28 points and
Chandler Parsons added 19.
Dwight Howard was limited to nine points and grabbed 10 rebounds for Houston,
which had a five-game winning streak stopped and fell to 18-13 on the road.
The Rockets missed several opportunities to keep their winning streak intact.
"We missed 15 layups out there," said Houston head coach Kevin McHale. "We
went in there soft tonight. We didn't attack the rim."
The Rockets are fourth in the Western Conference standings, one game behind
the Los Angeles Clippers and four off the top seed.
Houston will close the trip Sunday afternoon in Miami.
Meanwhile, the Bulls will continue their quest for a playoff spot and a six-
game homestand versus the Rockets.
Chicago has alternated results in the last six games and dropped to 1-2 on the
stay with Tuesday's 104-96 loss to San Antonio. Chicago was down 38-14 after
the first quarter and a second-half surge fell short.
"There's nothing to take (from a game) when you get down by 30 and then make a
run at the end. We've got to get it figured out," Bulls head coach Tom
D.J. Augustin and Jimmy Butler scored 24 and 23 points, respectively, while
Joakim Noah rounded out the double-digit scorers with 13 points to go along
with eight rebounds, seven assists and two blocks. The Bulls shot 42.7 percent
and committed 14 turnovers.
The Bulls have a 19-12 record as the host and are fourth in the East
standings, 1 1/2 games behind the Toronto Raptors. They still have Sacramento
and Oklahoma City slated to visit the United Center.
Chicago suffered a 109-94 loss at Houston on Dec. 18 and was led by Butler's
20 points. Howard had 23 points in that one and both Harden and Parsons ended
with 19 for the Rockets, who have won four in a row in this series.
Houston is 7-3 in the last 10 trips to the Windy City.
MILWAUKEE BUCKS (13-51) AT ATLANTA HAWKS (27-35), 7:30 P.M.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Atlanta Hawks are back home for two straight games,
starting with Thursday's matchup with the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Hawks will also welcome Denver to Philips Arena and are coming off a
disappointing six-game road trip (1-5). They ended a six-game losing streak
with a 112-110 victory at Utah on Monday, as Kyle Korver led the way with 26
points and Paul Millsap added 23 against his former team.
Jeff Teague and Pero Antic scored 14 and 12 points, respectively, for Atlanta,
which prevailed for just the second time in the past 16 contests.
"It was a good win. It's good for our guys in the locker room to have that
feeling," Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer said.
Budenholzer's squad is still eighth in the Eastern Conference, three games
ahead of the hard-charging New York KNicks.
The Hawks have a 17-11 record at home.
Milwaukee will resume its three-game road trip and opened the journey with
Tuesday's 112-101 loss at Minnesota. Kevin Love led the Timberwolves with 27
points and 10 rebounds.
The Bucks were paced by Brandon Knight's 21 points, while Nate Wolters added
14 points in the loss. Milwaukee, which made 52.7 percent from the field, has
dropped six of its last eight games.
"We had some bad shot selection in the fourth quarter, and on the road those
are as good as a turnover," Milwaukee head coach Larry Drew said.
Milwaukee will close the trip at New York on Saturday and has a 5-25 record
away from the Bradley Center. The Bucks are winless in three straight on the
road and hope forward Ersan Ilyasova can shake an ankle issue Thursday. He is
questionable against the Hawks and has an average of 11.0 ppg.
The Hawks defeated Milwaukee 112-87 on Jan. 25 thanks to 20 points from
Millsap. Knight had 27 points in that one for the Bucks, who have lost five in
a row in this series and are 2-9 in the past 11 meetings.
The Bucks have lost four straight and 15 of 20 visits to Philips Arena.
LOS ANGELES LAKERS (22-42) AT OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER (47-17), 9:30 P.M.
(SportsNetwork.com) - Kevin Durant will continue his campaign for MVP
Thursday, when the Oklahoma City Thunder welcome the Los Angeles Lakers to
Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Durant is the NBA's leading scorer with 31.9 points per game and is averaging
35.7 ppg in his last 12. He helped the Thunder to a 106-98 win over the
Houston Rockets on Tuesday with a 42-point performance on 12-of-22 shooting.
He also made 13-of-16 from the foul line.
Russell Westbrook scored 24 points and Serge Ibaka chipped in 12 to go with 16
rebounds, as the Thunder ended a two-game losing streak and won for the fourth
time in the last six tries. Oklahoma City held the high-scoring Rockets to
41.8 percent shooting and used a 30-17 advantage in the second quarter to
build a sizeable lead.
"Defensively I thought we did a great job of locking in for four quarters,"
The Thunder will close out their three-game homestand Sunday versus Dallas and
have won four in a row in the OKC. They are 27-6 as the host, including a 17-2
mark against visiting Western foes.
Oklahoma City, which is headed toward another playoff berth, also sits one
game behind San Antonio for the West's top seed.
Now that Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant is officially done for the season with a
balky knee, the team can move on. The team made the announcement Wednesday.
"With Kobe's injury still not healed, the amount of time he'd need to rehab
and be ready to play, and the amount of time remaining in the season, we've
simply run out of time for him to return," Lakers trainer Gary Vitti said.
"However, Kobe will have the entire offseason to heal, rehab and prepare, and
we look forward to him being 100 percent for the start of next season."
Bryant also made a statement.
"Obviously this has been a frustrating and disappointing season, but I
appreciate all the support I've received from the Lakers and the fans, and
look forward to being back and ready for the start of training camp."
The Lakers will play two in a row on the road against Oklahoma City and San
Antonio, and have an 11-22 record as the visitor this season.
The well-rested Lakers won the last time out in a 114-110 victory over the
Thunder on Sunday and were led by Jodie Meeks' career-high 42 points. Meeks
sank 6-of-11 3-pointers and scored 20 points in the third quarter, while Pau
Gasol ended with 20 points and 11 rebounds for Los Angeles, which ended a
three-game slide and won for just the fourth time in the past 14 tries.
"Jodie Meeks has been our most consistent performer all year," said Lakers
head coach Mike D'Antoni.
In milestone news, Gasol will play in his 900th career game.
L.A. snapped a three-game losing streak to the Thunder last weekend, but has
lost eight of the past 11 meetings between the teams. The Lakers have lost
four in a row at Oklahoma City.
03/13 10:52:53 ET
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