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Preview: Houston Rockets @ Chicago Bulls

Someone should call Daryl Morey and let him know that rebuilds are supposed to take years, not months. The latest test of the Rockets’ sizzling offense and growing chemistry will take place on Christmas Day, in the house of Omer Asik’s old team, the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls lead the Central Division (15-11), but a Rockets win on Christmas would tie their record with the 14-12 Rockets.

Tuesday’s matchup against the Bulls is part of a brutal stretch for Houston, with 4 of the next 5 games on the road, and a total of 4 in 5 nights. As this one is on ESPN on Christmas day at 7:00 PM, it would behoove them to prioritize it. A nation of fans full of good cheer and egg nog will be waiting to be wowed by James Harden, Jeremy Lin and the rest of an uptempo young team from Houston.

The surprise blowout against the Grizzlies on Saturday showed that the Rockets have the potential to enforce their style on slower, defensive-minded teams. Coincidentally, that’s exactly what the Bulls are under head coach Tom Thibodeau. The Bulls feature a few similarities beyond pace and defense: Joakim Noah and Marc Gasol are both capable in the post and known for their stifling defense. Carlos Boozer and Zach Randolph both have the ability to sink endless midrange jumpers, and won’t hesitate to shoot. Luol Deng may not have the explosiveness of Rudy Gay, but he’s a very difficult cover on offense, and no slouch on defense. If any two teams can serve as practice for one another, it’s probably these two.

One major difference is that the Bulls don’t like to use their bench, despite it being quite good in recent years. Financial concerns in the past off-season have stripped away much of the “bench mob,” however, including Houston’s own Omer Asik. Especially with superstar point guard Derrick Rose still out, coach Thibodeau relies heavily on his starters, often giving them 40+ minutes of burn. For a time, the Rockets were similarly leaning on the starting five, but the emergence of Greg Smith, Marcus Morris and Toney Douglas has shifted minutes lately, giving Harden and Parsons some minutes relief. That will be important, with a game against the Timberwolves coming the following day.

The Rockets bench has begun to be a point of strength lately, but against an endless onslaught of starters, this may be a weakness against the Bulls. Greg Smith is able to defend well enough against second string centers, but it remains to be seen how well he deals with a Joakim Noah or a Carlos Boozer. Thankfully, the new practice of keeping at least one of Harden or Lin on the court at all times should keep pressure on a somewhat wan point guard position for Chicago.Kirk Hinrich is capable, but he will tend to be overmatched at his position.

The Bulls, unlike the Grizzlies, will be neither fatigued nor on the road on Tuesday, lending another question to the run and swipe formula the Rockets have been using. If they can keep the same level of energy and composure they’ve been exhibiting, the Rockets have a very good chance to grab a precious Christmas win. If the wind falls out of their sails and they get discombobulated, as they’ve been known to on the road, a workmanlike Bulls team will methodically put them away. This game should come down to effort and energy for both teams, and the team that sets the tone is likely to win. Additionally, three point specialists like Marco Bellinelli will need special care from a Rockets team that seems chronically unable to guard the perimeter.

The Rockets have a lot to prove on Christmas day, from proving themselves to their own fans to proving Morey’s seeming idea that losing seasons shouldn’t ever happen, to somehow proving that uptempo teams can be good. Hopefully, they can hit at least one of those and bring the best holiday gift of all to Houston: a delicious W on national TV.

Patrick Patterson remains inactive with a foot bone bruise. Royce White remains inactive as well. Tip off is scheduled for 7:00 pm central time on Tuesday, December 25th, 2012 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois.

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Total comments: 12
  • kjunfood says 1 YEAR ago Ah so Morris does shoot the 3 better than 2Pat. Paradigm shift once again in my head haha. As far as the advanced defensive stats though, I wonder how much of that is affected by Morris having played secondary units for most of this season (as opposed to 2Pat starting). Also, I remember reading on here that part of 2Pat's defensive skill set, which seems rare, esp. for younger players, is something about his adeptness at defensive rotations, etc.?, which would not be caught by the advanced stats I presume.
  • bob schmidt says 1 YEAR ago According to http://www.basketball-reference.com/teams/HOU/2013.html , Morris shoots the 3 at .398 while PP shoots it at .333 . In the area of advanced stats, Morris rates a couple of points better at defense than PP.
  • kjunfood says 1 YEAR ago Wow I hadn't realized 2Pat was shooting it at THAT high of a clip. But wasn't it mainly the corner 3? I actually don't know the answer to this, but is Morris a bit more "varied" in where he can go/expected to go to shoot that 3?
  • Rahat Huq says 1 YEAR ago But wasn't Patterson shooting the 3 at a 40% clip? Why would Morris be pulling the man further out? You all know I'm as big a Morris fan as there is out there, but not sure if I can attribute this surge to that swap.
  • kjunfood says 1 YEAR ago Longtime lurker, first time poster.

    While I do agree that Morris probably stretches the floor a bit better than 2Pat, and is better offensively, aren't the Rockets the last team to need to worry about offensive production? Esp. at the expense of any defense?
  • rockets best fan says 1 YEAR ago

    Rahat Huq, on 26 December 2012 - 19:37 PM said:

    But Patterson was spacing the floor as well.
    but morris shoots a better 3 ball which pulls the D man just a little futher out.
  • Rahat Huq says 1 YEAR ago But Patterson was spacing the floor as well.
  • rockets best fan says 1 YEAR ago

    Bigtkirk, on 26 December 2012 - 17:58 PM said:

    It's also interesting that the Rockets' surge has coincided with Patterson's injury. Morris hasn't been a world beater as a replacement, but his advanced stats are far superior to Patterson's and he is within 60 minutes of so of Patterson in terms of total playing time. My sense is that this episode may usher Patterson to his proper role as an NBA player, which is as a backup big.
    I agree. this may be the beginning of the end for patterson. while morris is not as good defensively he is better offensively which is spreading the floor better which in turn is creating better shots.
  • Bigtkirk says 1 YEAR ago It's also interesting that the Rockets' surge has coincided with Patterson's injury. Morris hasn't been a world beater as a replacement, but his advanced stats are far superior to Patterson's and he is within 60 minutes of so of Patterson in terms of total playing time. My sense is that this episode may usher Patterson to his proper role as an NBA player, which is as a backup big.
  • Sir Thursday says 1 YEAR ago Since I'm in San Francisco for the Christmas period, I was able to have the novel experience of watching this game at a reasonable time of day for once. Makes a nice change to not be falling asleep at the end of the game! I thought the Bulls looked incredibly sluggish tonight - it feels as though it shouldn't be possible to run a fast break off a made basket against any half awake NBA team, yet the Rockets seemed to be able to do It almost at will. There were some gorgeous scores in delayed transition out of situations like that in the second half.

    It occurs to me that this is the most dominant stretch of basketball I've seen the Rockets play since I've been following them seriously (2-3 years). I can't recall the team stringing together a series of wins with this margin of victory, anyway. It is worth noting though that there are asterisks to be put against each of our wins in this streak though: New York had no Melo, Philly had no Holiday, Memphis were in the second night of a back-to-back and the Bulls had obviously had too much Christmas lunch (incidentally, I hate that the NBA schedules the marquee matchups for Christmas Day, as the standard of play is generally lower and it makes it less likely that we'll see the high quality game you'd get at any other time of the year. This year there were some close ones though, so maybe I'm just being a bit Bah Humbug). I might start to get excited if we can beat Minnesota in similar fashion tomorrow.

  • carlosrod says 1 YEAR ago Come on Red94 is better than this. Just read the opening paragraph and tell me this is Truehoop quality:
    "The Rockets continue to blast opponents, beating Bulls and the NBA’s 4th best offense in a blowout that featured a 35 point lead in the third quarter. Nate Robinson may have been able to unload 27 points in 27 minutes, but it was too little, too late. The Rockets done to the Bulls the same thing they’d done to the Grizzlies."

    For one, the Bulls are awful offensively, I believe you're referring to the defense. And "The Rockets done to the Bulls the same thing they'd done to the Grizzlies." I'm not any grammar nazi, but this stuff is pretty bad. In general, it's just not good writing.
  • Red94 says 1 YEAR ago New post: Recap: Houston Rockets 120, Chicago Bulls 97

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