The Chicago Bulls have been beaten handily by their last three
Western Conference opponents, but could be facing the right one to
end that slide.
The Bulls will be without Derrick Rose once again on Monday
night when they try to defeat the visiting Houston Rockets for the
sixth straight time.
Chicago (42-12) has lost by double digits to its last three foes
from the West, including Sunday’s 92-78 road defeat to
conference-leading Oklahoma City. The Bulls shot a season-low 33.0
“They really just kicked our (butt),” said center Joakim Noah,
who went 1 for 8 and finished with five points and six rebounds.
“That really hasn’t happened to us in a long time so for us to lose
like that is bad, we’ve gotta bounce back.”
Rose missed his 10th straight game due to an injured groin that
is preventing him from running. Coach Tom Thibodeau did not blame
the loss on the absence of the reigning league MVP.
“Derrick’s a great player. Obviously, we prefer to have him,”
Thibodeau said. “But we have more than enough. I was more concerned
(Sunday) with the mental aspect. I thought we made a lot of mental
Richard Hamilton, the other half of Chicago’s starting
backcourt, missed his 14th straight game because of a right
shoulder contusion but could return Monday.
“I feel good about Rip because Rip’s been practicing. He’s made
very good progress,” Thibodeau said. “He has no problems with his
lower body. He’s doing a lot of shooting. The thing is the contact
part of it. I just want to make sure from that aspect. But all the
lower body injuries he’s had, he’s completely healthy.”
The Bulls have won the last five meetings against the Rockets
(28-25), including a pair of three-point victories last season in
which Rose averaged 31.5 points and 9.0 assists while shooting 54.2
Luis Scola scored 27 points for Houston in each defeat, making
20 of 35 shots over the two games.
While the Bulls are battling the Thunder for the league’s best
record, the Rockets are merely trying to reach the playoffs. They
hold a one-game lead over Utah for the West’s eighth and final
playoff spot after falling 104-102 in overtime at home to Indiana
Houston blew a 10-point lead entering the fourth quarter, then
got outrebounded 9-0 in the extra session.
“I think they outhustled us, especially in the start of that
overtime,” Rockets center Marcus Camby said. “They got like three
or four possessions before they finally got the bucket. We had
opportunities to win, we just didn’t do a good job of closing out
All five Houston starters reached double figures, led by Goran
Dragic’s 22 points. Dragic is averaging 20.4 points over his last
five games, with three of those contests needing overtime.
Dragic continues to start in place of Kyle Lowry, who has missed
the last 13 games because of a bacterial infection. Fellow starting
guard Kevin Martin has been out 11 straight with a sprained right
Chicago fell to 11-5 against the West after Sunday’s loss, while
Houston dropped to 10-6 against the East.