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Struggling Bulls visit Rockets on Wednesday night
By: Freddy Wander - StatFox
Published: 12/18/2013  at  4:12:00 AM
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Tip-off: Wednesday, 9:35 p.m. ET
Line: Houston -6.5, Total: 192

The Bulls attempt to regain their winning ways when they visit the Rockets and their high-octane offense on Wednesday night.

Chicago has struggled since PG Derrick Rose was lost for the season, and has gone 3-11 (both SU and ATS) over its past 14 games. The Bulls had another tough loss on Monday night, losing 83-82 as 7-point favorites at home to the Magic. They have lost games to many of the worst teams in the East over the past week (Milwaukee, New York, Toronto and Orlando) and need to find a new identity moving forward. Houston is returning home after a three-game road trip where it went 1-2, both SU and ATS. This includes getting blasted 106-91 to the 6.5-point underdog Kings on Sunday night. The Bulls are 3-9 (SU and ATS) on the road this season and will have a tough task on Wednesday with the Rockets being 10-3 SU (7-5 ATS) at home. Houston took both games last season (SU and ATS), winning by 23 points in their last matchup on Christmas day. The Rockets are 19-12 SU (18-12-1 ATS) in this matchup since 1996, with the Over going 22-9 (71%) during this stretch, which includes Houston's 10-5 SU mark (7-7 ATS) when hosting Chicago. PG Kirk Hinrich (back) is questionable for the Bulls, but the Rockets expect both SG James Harden (high-ankle sprain) and SF Chandler Parsons (back) to play on Wednesday. Houston PG Jeremy Lin (back) will not play in this game though.

Can the Rockets beat the struggling Bulls comfortably on Wednesday night? For the answer, connect to The Platinum Sheet for all the Expert picks throughout the entire 2012-13 season. The five experts are at 58% ATS (30-22) on Best Bets in December. During this timeframe, StatFox Zach has a stellar 91% ATS mark (10-1) and is currently 58% ATS (21-15) on Best Bets for the season. StatFox Dave has an excellent 73% ATS (8-3) Best Bets record in December.

Chicago has been a team that has relied on defense to win games, scoring only 91.2 PPG on the season (28th in NBA). During their current six-game ATS losing skid (1-5 SU), the Bulls have managed only 79.5 PPG on 36.1% FG. Their defense is still strong though, allowing just 92.4 PPG this season (3rd in NBA), including a mere 87.4 PPG on 42.5% FG in the past seven contests. SF Luol Deng (19.6 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 4.1 APG) is the top offensive weapon for this team, and has averaged 25.0 PPG on 51.4% FG in the eight games he has played since PG Derrick Rose went down. He scored 16.5 PPG with 7.5 RPG in two games last season against Houston, and is averaging 14.5 PPG (47% FG) with 5.4 RPG in 16 career games against the Rockets. PF Carlos Boozer (14.8 PPG, 9.2 RPG) is another player that needs to step up in the wake of the Rose injury, but has scored only 14 points on 7-of-28 shooting (25% FG) over his past two games. He really struggled with only 9.5 PPG (36% FG) and 9.0 RPG in the two games against the Rockets last season and it won't be easier this time around with Dwight Howard lurking in the paint. C Joakim Noah (10.3 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 1.1 BPG) has three double-doubles over his past four games and has scored 8.3 PPG while grabbing 7.3 RPG in 10 career games against Houston. SG Jimmy Butler (11.0 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 1.8 SPG) returned to the lineup last Friday after missing 11 games with a toe injury and has averaged 10.3 PPG (31% FG), 3.0 RPG and 1.7 SPG in his three games back.

Houston has consistently put up points on offense to the tune of 107.0 PPG (2nd in NBA). The fast-paced Houston offense leads to a lot of points on defense (102.2 PPG allowed, 4th-most in NBA), including 109.7 PPG during the just completed road trip. The Rockets will have trouble reaching 100 points in this game if leading scorer SG James Harden (24.7 PPG, 5.8 APG, 4.6 RPG) is limited by his high-ankle sprain. Harden has scored 25+ points in each of his past five games and averaged 27.0 PPG (56% FG) with 4.5 RPG, 4.5 APG and 3.5 SPG in two games against the Bulls last season, so his possible absence could be a big factor in this game. C Dwight Howard (17.4 PPG, 13.2 RPG, 1.8 BPG) continues to be a force down low and has a six-game streak of double-doubles (20.0 PPG, 16.0 RPG) coming into this one. He has done well against Chicago in 29 career games, posting 18.2 PPG while grabbing 13.2 RPG and getting 2.3 BPG. SF Chandler Parsons (17.0 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 3.9 APG) has looked solid since returning from a back injury that caused him to miss the first two games of December, as he has averaged 18.5 PPG on 49% FG (44% threes) over the past four contests. PG Patrick Beverley (9.5 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 2.3 APG) will likely see more minutes with PG Jeremy Lin out, but he's tallied just nine assists and seven turnovers in his past five games combined.

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