Ever since the Bulls were able to stifle the high-powered Golden State Warrior offense in a winning effort on March 2nd, they find themselves as the losers of their last three games. With two of their three disheartening losses at the hands of the Pistons (current 7th seed) and Magic, the Bulls went from possibly making a late climb in the standings to hanging on to the 8th seed by the skin of their teeth.
At 31-33, the Bulls are just a half a game up on both the Bucks and Heat for the 8th and final playoff spot. On top of that, tonight they prepare to play host to another high-powered offense in the Houston Rockets and MVP candidate James Harden.
Here are the keys to the game v.s. the Houston Rockets:
Rebound. Rebound. Rebound Again.
The Houston Rockets (44-21) come into tonight’s game 2nd in the NBA in scoring at 115 ppg behind only the Golden State Warriors (117 ppg). The Bulls on the other hand are 24th in the league in scoring at just over 102 ppg. So, what is the one thing they can do to combat Houston’s offense? Rebound. After all, it is probably the one single solitary thing they’ve done consistently this season. They’re 3rd in the league in rebounding at 46.2 per game, but lead the league in offensive rebounds pulling down 12.5 per game. Rebounding will be imperative to the Bulls success. The Rockets are 4th in the association at nearly 17 ppg in fastbreak points and lead the league in 3-point makes (14.6) and 3-point attempts (40.4). If the Bulls can rebound like they’ve done all season, maybe they will eliminate some of those opportunities.
Keep their Hands to Themselves
The Bulls are second in the NBA in personal fouls at 17.7 per game behind only the Charlotte Hornets (17.0). On the opposite end of that, the Rockets lead the league in free throw attempts at 26.2 attempts per game, while knocking down 20 per game. While that only translates to roughly 77% and doesn’t help them crack the top 15 in free throw percentage, the Bulls need to be extra careful on defense and not give away chances at extra points.
Contain James Harden
James Harden has been stating his claim for most valuable player all season long. Let some tell it, he’s neck and neck with Russell Westbrook (if not ahead) for the association’s greatest individual honor. Deservedly so. Averaging 29.1 ppg, 11.2 apg and 7.9 rpg, he is leading the Rockets in most statistical categories and is undoubtedly the tone setter for the game. To be frank, there is really no stopping him. The only knock against him is his effort on the defensive end. So, the Bulls can only hope to get him in foul trouble or pray he has an off night. If not, the Bulls will be in for a nightmare of a game.
There are just 18 games left in the season for the Bulls and they must start winning fast-or they will face a highly likely fate of missing the playoffs for the second straight season.