BULLS AT ROCKETS, 8 P.M. ET

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  • After missing the second half of Monday’s loss in Utah due to upper-respiratory discomfort, Rockets guard James Harden said he is feeling much better and is well enough to start Wednesday’s encounter with Chicago. But Houston coach Kelvin Sampson will still be without two members of his usual rotation as Carlos Delfino (strained groin) and Cole Aldrich (sprained right ankle) remain sidelined.
  • The Rockets (4-7), who have allowed an average of 26.5 fast-break points in back-to-back blowout defeats, have set their sights on improving their transition defense to prevent opponents from going on game-changing runs. With a 1-4 record this season when trailing after the first quarter, Sampson said Houston cannot afford to continue sleepwalking through the opening minutes of contests if it plans to be competitive this season. “We want to be the team that runs, that gets stops and pushes it,” Sampson said. “It’s a lot tougher to accomplish that when you’re behind before you begin to play with the type of energy you need to play with.”
  • For the first time since Tom Thibodeau took over as Bulls head coach, Chicago (5-5) has allowed at least 100 points in four consecutive games. To return to their winning ways, and avoid dropping three in a row for the first time during Thibodeau’s tenure, Thibodeau said the Bulls must recapture the defensive identity they carried throughout the previous two seasons.
  • One factor in Chicago’s dip in defensive production this season is the offseason departure of center Omer Asik. With the Bulls unable to match the Rockets’ three-year, $25.1 million offer sheet to the free agent during the summer, Thibodeau has admittedly lost some confidence in his second unit’s ability to maintain the progress that his starters make during various stages of games.

Matt Miller

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