Injuries have stripped the Chicago Bulls into one of the NBA's worst offensive clubs, which doesn't bode well heading into a matchup with one of the league's highest-scoring teams.
With Harden's status up in the air, the Rockets seek their ninth win in 10 home games Wednesday night while the visiting Bulls try to avoid their 12th loss in 15 games.
It's uncertain whether Harden will be able to play after rolling his ankle in the third quarter of a 106-91 loss at Sacramento on Sunday. He limped to the locker room, but returned to finish with 25 points in Houston's second loss on a three-game trip.
Assistant coach Kelvin Sampson, who is filling in for Kevin McHale following the death of the coach's mother, admitted he ''probably should not have put'' Harden back in the game.
Fellow guard Jeremy Lin also could be out for the Rockets (16-9) because of back spasms.
''It's very, very painful,'' Harden said. ''I am trying to get through this, stay positive and focus on getting back.''
Harden, averaging a team-high 24.7 points, has missed four games this season because of a foot injury. Houston has gone 3-1 in those contest, including a pair of home wins by a combined 40 points.
The All-Star guard totaled 54 points on 15-of-27 shooting to help Houston take both games from Chicago in last season's series.
Chandler Parsons contributed 41 points and hit 16 of 28 from the field in those meetings, while Dwight Howard has averaged 22.7 points and 14.3 boards in his last seven against the Bulls dating back to his time with Orlando.
The Rockets are going for their fourth straight victory over Chicago (9-14), which still ranks near the top of the league in points allowed (92.4 per game) and defensive field-goal percentage (42.4).
It's been a much different story offensively for the reeling Bulls. Luol Deng and Jimmy Butler have both missed a chunk of games, and now Kirk Hinrich could be out for a third straight game with a back injury.
Since sitting out 11 games because of a turf toe injury, Butler has totaled 31 points while shooting 9 for 29 in his last three. He missed 10 of 11 from the field on the way to four points in an 83-82 loss to Orlando on Monday.
Carlos Boozer hasn't fared much better, averaging 9.3 points on 12-of-44 shooting over his last three.
Since Dec. 7, the Bulls have put up 79.5 points per game, a 36.1 field-goal percentage and 26.3 3-point percentage - the NBA's lowest marks over that span.
''It's not pretty right now,'' said Mike Dunleavy, averaging 16.7 points in his last six games. ''We are battling, we are trying, we just keep coming up short.''
One Bull the Rockets will have to keep an eye on is Deng, who led Chicago with 26 points in his second game back from an Achilles injury but missed a potential game-tying layup in the closing seconds Monday. The forward has averaged 25.7 points on 53.2 percent shooting in the last six games he's played.
The Bulls hope to generate enough scoring to avoid their worst record over a 15-game stretch since opening the 2004-05 season 2-13.
That's likely to be difficult against Houston, which ranks near the top of the league with 107.0 points per game and has won eight of nine home games by an average of 13.7 points.
- Sports & Recreation
- Houston Rockets
- Chicago Bulls
- James Harden