Chicago (37-37) at Houston (37-38)
When: Thursday, March 31st 2016
Where: Toyota Center, Houston, TX
Time: 7:05 ET | TV: TNT
A couple of teams looking to make the playoffs in their respective conferences meet Thursday night in Houston as the Rockets host the Chicago Bulls in a pivotal game for both squads. The Rockets are currently tied with Utah and Dallas for 7th place in the Western Conference and only two of those teams will make the playoffs. Houston came storming back on Tuesday night after being down by as many as 20 points to defeat the LeBron-less Cleveland Cavaliers 106-100. James Harden again led the Rockets in scoring with 27 points and dished out 8 assists and had 6 rebounds as well. Center Dwight Howard, who only took three shots from the field, managed to pitch in 11 points and 11 boards in the winning effort. Michael Beasley continues to be valuable off the bench contributed 17 points on 8-of-15 shooting in 27 minutes of action. The Rockets will face the Thunder and Mavericks next before finishing up with four teams with losing records. Tuesday’s win at Cleveland broke a four-game road losing streak for Houston who will get five of their last seven at home.
The Bulls are on the outside looking in after losing four of their last five contests. Tuesday’s 98-96 win at Indiana broke a four-game skid and keeps Chicago within striking distance of the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot. The Bulls are two games behind Indiana and 2.5 behind Detroit, who they host on Saturday. All-Star guard Jimmy Butler buried a jumper with 3.7 seconds left on Tuesday to lift the Bulls to victory over the Pacers. Nikola Mirotic saw his minutes increase when starter Taj Gibson left with a rib contusion and responded by going 7-of-13 from 3-point range en route to a team-high 28 points and 10 rebounds after totaling 17 points in the previous three games. Mirotic was held to seven points but Pau Gasol delivered 28 points and 17 rebounds in a 108-100 home win over Houston on March 5th. Chicago has to play five of their last eight games on the road, but will finish the season at home against Philadelphia.
The Rockets should win this game at home despite a mediocre 20-16 record, but the Bulls have enough fire-power to keep it close. Take the points.
Pick: Bulls +6.5