• There are six games on the NBA schedule for Thursday, March 31st, and we here at Hoop Ball are here to help navigate you through some of these stinkers and bring you to the game you don’t want to miss.

    The Honorable Mentions: The Celtics go up against the Blazers and the Magic look to take down the Pacers in Indiana.

    Now for the only game that matters, here is your ‘must watch’ game of the night.

    Chicago Bulls vs. Houston Rockets

    Tip Time: 7 pm (est)

    Where: Toyota Center, Houston, TX

    Player Matchup: Jimmy Butler and James Harden

    The Rockets (37-38) and the Bulls (37-37) are both desperately in need of wins with the regular season quickly coming to a close. The Bulls find themselves two games back from the Indiana Pacers for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.

    It has been a disappointing year for Chicago after firing coach Tom Thibodeau and bringing in first-year coach Fred Hoiberg. If the Bulls can sneak their way into the playoffs that would be at least a sigh of relief for what has been a rough year. Veteran Pau Gasol, despite dealing with injuries, has had a very productive season averaging 16.6 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks through 66 games this year.

    The Bulls’ schedule is an unfavorable one as the next four of five games will be on the road. Jimmy Butler helped Chicago avoid a five-game losing streak against the Pacers by knocking down a 10-foot jumper with 3.7 seconds left on the clock in what was a ‘must win’ game in Indiana.

    Meanwhile, the Rockets are in a three-way tie for the seventh and eighth seed in the West. They got a big win against the Cavs on Tuesday, and they did it – surprisingly – on the defensive end of the floor, holding the Cavs to 36 percent shooting from the field.

    James Harden has done all he can to help his team claim a playoff berth. Over the month of March, Harden has been spectacular averaging 28.9 points, 6.5 rebounds and 9.6 assists per game.  In the last meeting against the Bulls he was slowed down by Butler, finishing the game with 30 points but on just 38.5 percent from the field.

    It all comes down to these final two weeks of the season for both the Bulls and the Rockets. If the Bulls lose it feels like it could be the end for them, whereas the Rockets are still right in the middle of the fight.  Still, the loser is going to be in a rough spot at the end of this one.

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