Bulls-Rockets Preview

Injuries have stripped the Chicago Bulls into one of the NBA’s

worst offensive clubs, which doesn’t bode well heading into a

matchup with one of the league’s highest-scoring teams.

The Houston Rockets, however, may not be as prolific without

leading scorer James Harden.

With Harden’s status up in the air, the Rockets seek their ninth

win in 10 home games Wednesday night while the visiting Bulls try

to avoid their 12th loss in 15 games.

It’s uncertain whether Harden will be able to play after rolling

his ankle in the third quarter of a 106-91 loss at Sacramento on

Sunday. He limped to the locker room, but returned to finish with

25 points in Houston’s second loss on a three-game trip.

Assistant coach Kelvin Sampson, who is filling in for Kevin

McHale following the death of the coach’s mother, admitted he

”probably should not have put” Harden back in the game.

Fellow guard Jeremy Lin also could be out for the Rockets (16-9)

because of back spasms.

”It’s very, very painful,” Harden said. ”I am trying to get

through this, stay positive and focus on getting back.”

Harden, averaging a team-high 24.7 points, has missed four games

this season because of a foot injury. Houston has gone 3-1 in those

contest, including a pair of home wins by a combined 40 points.

The All-Star guard totaled 54 points on 15-of-27 shooting to

help Houston take both games from Chicago in last season’s


Chandler Parsons contributed 41 points and hit 16 of 28 from the

field in those meetings, while Dwight Howard has averaged 22.7

points and 14.3 boards in his last seven against the Bulls dating

back to his time with Orlando.

The Rockets are going for their fourth straight victory over

Chicago (9-14), which still ranks near the top of the league in

points allowed (92.4 per game) and defensive field-goal percentage


It’s been a much different story offensively for the reeling

Bulls. Luol Deng and Jimmy Butler have both missed a chunk of

games, and now Kirk Hinrich could be out for a third straight game

with a back injury.

Since sitting out 11 games because of a turf toe injury, Butler

has totaled 31 points while shooting 9 for 29 in his last three. He

missed 10 of 11 from the field on the way to four points in an

83-82 loss to Orlando on Monday.

Carlos Boozer hasn’t fared much better, averaging 9.3 points on

12-of-44 shooting over his last three.

Since Dec. 7, the Bulls have put up 79.5 points per game, a 36.1

field-goal percentage and 26.3 3-point percentage – the NBA’s

lowest marks over that span.

”It’s not pretty right now,” said Mike Dunleavy, averaging

16.7 points in his last six games. ”We are battling, we are

trying, we just keep coming up short.”

One Bull the Rockets will have to keep an eye on is Deng, who

led Chicago with 26 points in his second game back from an Achilles

injury but missed a potential game-tying layup in the closing

seconds Monday. The forward has averaged 25.7 points on 53.2

percent shooting in the last six games he’s played.

The Bulls hope to generate enough scoring to avoid their worst

record over a 15-game stretch since opening the 2004-05 season


That’s likely to be difficult against Houston, which ranks near

the top of the league with 107.0 points per game and has won eight

of nine home games by an average of 13.7 points.