Jeremy Lin and the Houston Rockets, left, look to end their three-game losing streak tonight when they host Joakim Noah, far right, and the Chicago Bulls in Houston, Texas. (Photo : Reuters)
Both the Houston Rockets and the Chicago Bulls have struggled defensively in the last few games, each team giving up more than 100 points.
However, the defensive lapses plaguing both teams could play in Houston's favor tonight when the Rockets-who have the league's fifth best scorer in their lineup, James Harden (24.2 points per game)-host Chicago at 8 p.m. at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas.
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Harden's availability for the game is up in the air after Harden was sick most of the game Monday against the Utah Jazz, who beat Houston 102-91. Team officials say that Harden was sick with the flu that game.
"We shut him down, gave him some medicine and tried to get him ready for Wednesday," Rockets acting coach Kelvin Sampson told NBA.com.
Without Harden-or perhaps even with him-Houston is going to need a solid game from Jeremy Lin, who scored 13 on 5 -of-15 shooting against Utah. Lin is focused on his playmaking abilities, averaging 6.6 assists, but his scoring and shooting have suffered drastically this season, Lin racking up only 10.5 points on 34.2 percent shooting in 11 games.
The Rockets have been giving up 113.3 points and 48.3 percent shooting during their recent three-game trip, but are averaging better defensive numbers at home, were they are holding opponents to 95.8 points.
One big key to the game will be whether Houston can take advantage of Chicago's normally strong defense.
While the Bulls had the league's best defense last season, holding opponents to only 89.9 points each contest, they have slipped drastically in that area, letting opponents score an average 102.5 points in the last four games, three of which they've lost.
A big key towards improving their own defense tonight could be the performance of Houston center Omer Asik, the former Chicago defensive stopper that the Rockets picked up in the offseason.
"O's the best defensive center I've been around since I've been in the NBA," Sampson said. "When Andrew Bogut was healthy, he was special, too, but I would put Big O in his class, and that's a big compliment to Big O because I thought Bogut was a great defensive center."
"In a lot of ways," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said of Asik to the Houston Chronicle, "he is like Yao Ming."