Chicago (14-36) at Houston (27-21)

  • Game info: 8:30 pm EST Fri Feb 6, 2004
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It had been nearly two years since the Chicago Bulls beat a Western Conference team on the road.

They will have an opportunity to do it twice in three days when they end a seven-game trip against the Houston Rockets.

After opening their trip with five losses, the Bulls beat the Utah Jazz 95-79 on Wednesday to end a 26-game road losing streak against Western Conference teams.

Eddy Curry had one of his best games of the season with 23 points and 12 rebounds, and rookie Kirk Hinrich added 17 points as Chicago ended a nine-game road losing streak overall.

The Bulls last won on the road in the West on March 16, 2002, edging Houston 114-112 in overtime. They went 0-14 on the road against the West last season and lost their first 12 against that conference this season.

“It was real important for us, especially since we haven’t got a win yet out here,” Curry said. “I feel like we played pretty good the last couple games and it was time for a win.”

Bulls coach Scott Skiles knows a win anywhere is important for his struggling club.

“Whenever we get a win, it’s a big win,” Skiles said. “The guys on this team have been through a lot. We’ve had the lead in an awful lot of games and haven’t been able to come up with wins.”

Curry is enjoying the best season of his three-year career, averaging 13.3 points and 6.0 rebounds. He has been particularly good in the past three contests, averaging 25.0 points and 8.3 rebounds.

“I’m feeling stronger, that’s for sure,” Curry said. “I’m getting my legs back under me. My stamina is better. Plus, I’m going to the basket harder, and my shot is starting to fall.”

Houston ended its longest losing streak of the season at four with a 103-89 victory over visiting Milwaukee on Wednesday.

All-Star Steve Francis scored 23 points in his first game since his suspension and Maurice Taylor scored all 19 of his points in the second half, helping the Rockets score 100 points for the first time in 13 games.

Francis missed the team plane for Houston’s game at Phoenix on Monday and was accused by coach Jeff Van Gundy of attending the Super Bowl instead of traveling with the team.

“It’s a good win, it’s good for morale, but tension is good. Tension is not a bad thing if that tension is developed into an urgency,” Van Gundy said.

Houston, one of the league’s worst offensive teams, improved to 25-10 this season when scoring 80 points or more. The Rockets are 2-11 when scoring fewer than 80 points.

STANDINGS (through Feb. 4): Bulls - 8th place, 22 GB, Central Division. Rockets - 5th place (tied), 7 GB, Midwest Division.

PROBABLE STARTERS: Bulls - F Jerome Williams, F Antonio Davis, C Curry, G Hinrich, G Jamal Crawford. Rockets - F Jim Jackson, F Kelvin Cato, C Yao Ming, G Francis, G Cuttino Mobley.

TEAM LEADERS: Bulls - Crawford, 17.1 ppg; Davis, 9.0 rpg; Hinrich, 5.8 apg. Rockets - Francis, 16.7 ppg and 5.9 apg; Yao, 9.1 rpg.

SEASON SERIES: Rockets, 1-0.

LAST MEETING: Nov. 3; Rockets, 98-66. At Chicago, Francis scored 19 points, Mobley added 14 and Yao had 12 points and seven rebounds for the Rockets, who held the Bulls to 27 percent (21-of-79) from the field.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Bulls - 6-20 on the road; Rockets - 15-7 at home.

INJURIES: Bulls - G Chris Jefferies (ankle); F Kendall Gill (Achilles’); G Jay Williams (knee); F Scottie Pippen (knee); F Corie Blount (knee). Rockets - G Mike Wilks (foot).

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