Harden, Rockets Look To Continue Win Streak In Chicago

The former MVP is putting up elite offensive numbers and Houston is riding a two-game winning streak

Keith Allison, Flickr

Houston Rockets (5-3) at Chicago Bulls (3-6)

HOU (-6.5, -255), O/U 234

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  • The Houston Rockets (5-3) will square off against the Chicago Bulls (3-6) on Saturday night. 

  • The Rockets are riding a two-game winning streak while the Bulls have lost two of their last three, but are coming off of a 20-point victory over the Atlanta Hawks

  • The Rockets (-6.5) are 2-6 ATS so far this season while the Bulls (+6.5) are 4-5 ATS.

  • Under Mike D’Antoni, the Rockets (-255) have gone 18-2 SU against horrible rebounding teams (those who have been out-rebounded by opponents by five-plus boards per game), 101-51 against good offensive teams (who have scored 106-plus points per game) and 67-19 versus poor defensive teams (who allow opposing offenses to shoot 46 percent or better). 

  • The over/under is a slate-high 234 points. The over is 4-4 in Rockets games and 4-5 in Bulls games so far this season. 

The NBA's Most Deadly Offense?

The Rockets average 120.5 points per game and, once again, have lived or died from beyond the three-point line. Their 47.8 long-range attempts per game leads the NBA, as do their 15.8 made threes. The fact that they’ve knocked down 33.0 percent of those shots (24th in the NBA) and still put up that scoring output is fascinating. Their 30.1 free throws attempted per game also leads the Association and helps to explain that as an indication of the outside-in style of Mike D’Antoni’s offense as well as the two strengths of their two superstars.

Houston can be even more dangerous moving forward, assuming that James Harden and Russell Westbrook figure out the right balance between facilitation, aggression and overall usage. The Rockets are 4-3 when both stars suit up and it’s clear they haven’t struck a chord yet — their cohesiveness is paramount to the success of the club. Westbrook will suit up in this contest after a one-game absence (rest).

Harden (36.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 8.1 assists in 35.4 minutes) and Westbrook (20.7 points, 9.6 rebounds and 8.7 assists in 32.9 minutes) are arguably the best one-two punch in the entire NBA, but beyond them, the Rockets will rely heavily on a group of role players, including center Clint Capela (13.5 points, 9.6 rebounds in 27.8 minutes), forward Danuel House (13.1 points, 5.4 rebounds in 31.0 minutes), forward PJ Tucker (11.5 points, 7.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists in 34.4 minutes) and Eric Gordon (10.3 points in 30.6 minutes). 

General manager Daryl Morey has done another solid job of assembling perimeter-oriented players to fit his head coach's system and with the exception of Capela and veteran backup center Tyson Chandler, essentially every Rocket who sees legitimate minutes is a threat from deep. That will be on full display again on Saturday night.

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The Exploitable Matchup Against Chicago

Overall, while the mixing and matching done by D’Antoni hasn’t fully come to fruition offensively, the Rockets own the league’s top Offensive Rating (112.1). While Houston’s defense has been egregiously-bad (113.1 — third-worst in the NBA), the Bulls rank 23rd in Offensive Rating (103.8), which somewhat diminishes that concern. In fact, under D’Antoni, the Rockets have loved getting in shootouts — going 101-51 SU against good offensive teams (who have scored 106-plus points per game). Further, Houston’s gone 67-19 versus poor defensive teams (who allow opposing offenses to shoot 46 percent or better).

Chicago ranks second-worst in rebounding (42.0 per game) and dead-last in rebound percentage (46.8). Under D’Antoni, the Rockets have gone 18-2 SU against horrible rebounding teams (those who have been out-rebounded by opponents by five-plus boards per game). If Houston's shooters get second (or third) chances to convert, the Bulls could be in store for a long night, especially since the Rockets' system requires constant perimeter attention, which forces defenders to stray away from the rim.

Otto Porter Jr. (foot) will miss this game for the Bulls, who could have benefitted from his defensive versatility and 11.2 points per game in this matchup. Second-year wing Chandler Hutchison will make the start at small forward in his absence while Chicago will hope for production from the duo of Lauri Markkanen and Zach LaVine, who have been inconsistent point producers this season. Some combination of Wendell Carter Jr., Tomas Satoransky, Coby White, Kris Dunn and Thaddeus Young would need to step up in massive ways in order for the Bulls to pull off the upset. 

Unless you think that will happen and that Houston's defensive issues are enough of a concern, it's hard to rationalize betting on the Bulls with confidence in this matchup.

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