In the spirit of Christmas, I'll keep this short.
Omer Asik is making his triumphant return to the United Center as a member of the Houston Rockets. Pretty much everything I wrote the last time the Chicago Bulls took on the Rockets still applies. However, the Rockets seem to have kicked things up a notch, coming off a blowout win against the Memphis Grizzlies. The Grizzlies, by the way, still own the league's best defense even after a shellacking by Houston. That's how good they've been.
The Bulls are second in defense, and they have more quality individual defenders than Memphis, so it's possible that they'll be able to hold their own. They held Houston to a respectable total of 93 points when the two met in Texas, but that was early enough in the season that the dynamic backcourt of Jeremy Lin and James Harden was still trying to figure out how to play together and Lin was struggling mightily. He's been much better of late.
Joakim Noah is going to need to limit Asik's rebounding from impacting the game too much, and Luol Deng will need to limit Harden. Kirk Hinrich will try to keep Lin in check. The key will be transition defense. Houston beat Memphis senseless in transition, winning that battle 33-3. The Bulls do have a good track record defensively against teams that like to get out and run (see: Heat, Miami), but they can't afford any lapses.
The Rockets become substantially more beatable when Harden is their only creator. To that end, Hinrich will actually be useful if he can slow Lin down. And he was actually pretty solid against the New York Knicks. Yeah, he struggled against the Atlanta Hawks, but so did everyone else. So, we'll see, I guess.
Happy Holidays from all of us here at Bulls 101. Here's to a great day with family and/or friends and a Bulls win.
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