NBA Preview from The Sports Network
Monday, March 22nd (All times eastern)
Houston Rockets (36-32) at Chicago Bulls (32-37), 8 p.m.
(Sports Network) - Two teams on the outside looking in on a postseason berth get together this evening in the Windy City, as the Chicago Bulls play host to the Houston Rockets at the United Center.
The Bulls are 2 1/2 games off the eighth and final playoff spot in the East and a recent 10-game losing streak didn't do them any favors. They ended the lengthy slide with a 98-84 victory at Philadelphia on Saturday thanks to the healthy returns of Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah. Rose had missed the last four games with a sprained left wrist and finished with 23 points and five assists for Chicago, which won for the first time since February 26 versus Portland.
Noah was sidelined for 10 straight games because of a foot problem and ended with seven points off the bench against the Sixers. Kirk Hinrich collected 17 points and 11 assists, and Brad Miller added 16 points, six rebounds and six assists in a winning cause.
"We moved the ball better and got some open shots," said Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro. "But our defense was better and I think there was more of a rhythm to what we were doing tonight."
Chicago will commence a three-game homestand Monday versus the Rockets, Heat and Nets, and is 19-14 at the United Center. It has dropped five in a row in the Second City. Hinrich is averaging 11.5 points and 7.0 assists in his last four games, while Rose owns 23.6 ppg, 5.6 apg and 2.5 rpg over the past eight.
The Rockets, meanwhile, will resume a three-game road trip tonight and opened the swing with Sunday's 116-112 triumph at New York behind 28 points from Kevin Martin. Aaron Brooks scored seven of his 16 points late in the fourth quarter for Houston, which is 4 1/2 games off the pace for a playoff berth.
Kyle Lowry and Chase Budinger each netted 18 points off the bench, as the Rockets rebounded after having their season-high four-game winning streak halted in Friday's setback against Boston.
"I thought we were so impatient even though we were scoring. We scored 45 points in the second quarter and I didn't like the way we were playing," Rockets head coach Rick Adelman said. "The ball has got to move. They did a lot of switching, they did a lot of stuff, but if you move the ball, you make cuts, you get opportunities."
Houston hopes to take advantage of their opportunities on the road and will wrap up the swing on Wednesday at Oklahoma City. It is also 16-17 as the guest. In injury news for the Rockets, forward Shane Battier left Sunday's game with a hyperextended left knee and is questionable for Monday.
Chicago dropped Houston, 104-97, on January 23 this season at the Toyota Center, but the Rockets have won 15 of the last 21 matchups in the series. Houston has won seven of the past 10 encounters in the Windy City.
03/22 10:36:40 ET