The Houston Rockets will go for their third win in a row when they visit the Chicago Bulls on Saturday night.
The Rockets are coming off back-to-back wins over the Memphis Grizzlies and Golden State Warriors, giving them five victories in their first eight games. Houston has scored 100-plus points in every game this season, but it also has allowed 100-plus points in every game.
“Defense is mostly — well, we’re doing the same thing we did last year and the year before that, and the year before that,” Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni told reporters this week. “So now with having almost the same guys, it’s just a matter of heart and will, and communication and getting it done. We can’t make adjustments until they play as hard as they can. They’re getting it. They know.
“That’s the good thing about these guys. They know where we’re at and they’re honest with themselves, and they have known they’ve stunk it up for a few games, but again we’ll work through it.”
The next test for Houston comes against Chicago, which is coming off a 20-point win over the Atlanta Hawks on the road Wednesday night. The Bulls have won only three of nine games this season but have been competitive on their home court.
Chicago will not have one of its best perimeter threats, Otto Porter Jr., on Saturday. He has been ruled out because of a left foot sprain, which clears the way for second-year forward Chandler Hutchison to make his first start of the season and the 15th start of his career.
Porter is averaging 11.2 points per game in nine starts. He has shot only 41.7 percent from the field but has made 12 of his last 18 attempts.
The 23-year-old Hutchinson has appeared in two games off the bench, averaging seven points per game on 50 percent shooting.
“His length and athleticism is something that helps us,” Bulls head coach Jim Boylen told reporters about Hutchison, a first-round pick (No. 22 overall) out of Boise State in 2018. “He does have a feel for how we want to play in the multi-handler system. He can guard multiple positions.
“His versatility is a big asset for us. He’s very coachable and takes great ownership of his play. We all know he’s a high-character player.”
Yet it will be difficult for anyone on the Bulls to slow down the one-two punch of James Harden and Russell Westbrook. Harden is averaging a team-high 36.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 8.1 assists, and Westbrook is averaging 20.7 points, 9.6 rebounds and 8.7 assists.
Rockets forward Clint Capela also is close to a double-double on average with 13.5 points and 9.6 rebounds per game.
The Bulls are led in scoring by Zach LaVine, who is averaging 20.4 points per game on 44.1 percent shooting from the field. Lauri Markkanen (15.1 points per game) and Wendell Carter Jr. (12.8) are second and third on the scoring list for the youthful Bulls.
The teams last met Dec. 1, 2018, when the Rockets cruised to a 121-105 victory.
–Field Level Media