Chicago (5-3) at Houston (3-6)

By KATE HEDLIN, STATS Writer Tuesday, Nov 16, 2010 Tipoff: 8:30 pm EST Tue Nov 16, 2010

The Chicago Bulls’ annual two-week road trip at the end of November has historically gone very poorly, but new coach Tom Thibodeau hopes they will be looking at the trek differently this year.

The Bulls embark on a seven-game trip Tuesday night when they meet the Houston Rockets.

Chicago (5-3) is off to a promising start and takes a three-game winning streak into its annual circus trip, which is made necessary when the United Center is taken over by the circus.

However, the Bulls are 10-61 on that trip since Michal Jordan’s final season in Chicago, going 1-5 last year.

They will have a challenging start to this trip, playing on back-to-back nights against Houston (3-6) and San Antonio. However, Thibodeau said he’s trying to keep his team from looking at it as one long road trip, instead focusing on each game.

“I’m concerned about … Houston,” Thibodeau told the Bulls’ official website. “All the stuff about going on the road and the circus, all this stuff, I’m not concerned about that. I’m just worried about the next game.”

After giving up more than 100 points in three of its first five games, Chicago seems to be embracing Thibodeau’s defensive philosophy, holding its last three opponents to an average of 92.7. The Bulls held on for a 103-96 win over Washington on Saturday despite giving up 38 points in the fourth quarter - five more than they allowed over the second and third combined.

“I thought the whole team in the second half was capable of playing a lot better,” Thibodeau said.

Derrick Rose(notes) finished with 24 points and eight assists. He’s averaging 23.6 points and 9.5 assists and was named the Eastern Conference’s player of the week Monday.

The Bulls, who are 0-2 on the road, will go for their fourth straight win over the Rockets after losing 11 of the previous 12 meetings.

Houston returns home after winning the final two games of a three-game trip. The Rockets defeated New York 104-96 on Sunday behind 28 points from Kevin Martin(notes).

Houston was without Yao Ming(notes) and Aaron Brooks(notes), who both suffered sprained left ankles earlier this month and will miss Tuesday’s game. They led by as many as 19 and held the Knicks to 3-of-16 shooting from 3-point range.

“It was a good road trip for us,” said Martin, who averaged 26.3 points over the three games. “We’re going through a lot right now. Two of our top four players are out right now and we thought we were going to have them beginning of the year and find chemistry early, but now we’re going to have to rely on whoever we have at the moment.”

Improved defense has keyed the turnaround. Opponents shot 40.2 percent from beyond the arc during a five-game losing streak to open the season, but they’ve been held to 32.8 percent over the last four games.

The Rockets are yielding 96.8 points per game over that span after giving up 116.4 during the losing streak.

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Tuesday, Nov 16