James Harden returns to action tonight in a game that Houston will want, but will need to be careful with since it’s a back-to-back. Their opponents are another young bunch in the Chicago Bulls. Luckily for Houston, tonight will also be a back-to-back for the Bulls, who lost to the Pacers last night on a late Darren Collison jumper.
Chicago is in a similar position to Houston in that they are lacking in length. The Bulls started 6-10 Wendell Carter Jr. as their tallest player last night. Robin Lopez and Cristiano Felicio will come off the bench and provide a punch in the middle, but Houston has to attack the basket while keeping the Bulls on the perimeter. They have not been successful with that much this season, but this is one area that will flip the game.
The Bulls made a high-profile move to bring Jabari Parker back to his hometown this offseason. He’s basically putting up his career averages (15/6/2) on a slightly worse shooting (45-32-62).
The real story for the Bulls has been Zach LaVine rewarding the team for matching the contract offer he received this summer. LaVine, who spent the beginning of last season on the injured list, is averaging 28 points a night on 51% shooting overall and 38% from deep. It’s becoming more and more clear that Minnesota should have traded Andrew Wiggins, not LaVine.
One final player to mention is second-year guard Antonio Blakeney. The 6-4 LSU product has shot 50% or better in every game except the opening game of the season, and is averaging 16 points per game on 58% shooting from the field, including (*spits out drink*) 64% from deep over his last five games. It’s only a matter of time before Blakeney forces Cameron Payne back to the bench and into the G-League where he belongs.
Tip-off is at 7pm CT