The Rockets haven't seen this Joakim Noah, but they've watched plenty of film.
The last time the Bulls and Rockets squared off, in December, Noah scored six points, grabbed 10 rebounds and handed out three assists in a 109-94 loss.
That night, Dec. 18, marked the last game before Noah began his absolute tear that has lasted the past three months. Since that game in Houston, Noah has averaged 13.4 points on 49 percent shooting, 12.4 rebounds and 5.7 assists in nearly 36 minutes per game, and the Bulls are 26-13 in that span.
And the Rockets have noticed.
"He's as good as there is in terms of throwing the ball to him and making plays," Rockets head coach Kevin McHale said at yesterday's practice. "He gets everybody involved, he's got players making beautiful back-door passes. He's really their best facilitator and he's had triple-doubles this year, and he's really playing at an unbelievably high level. And he brings just a great amount of energy to the game every night."
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As if his own Hall of Fame career weren't enough to understand what a stellar center looks like, McHale has his own big man to watch each night.
Dwight Howard, who signed a four-year, $88 million deal this offseason, has been every bit as good as the Rockets expected him to be.
Since that Bulls game in December -- Howard finished with 23 points and nine rebounds in the win -- Howard has averaged 19.4 points on 59 percent shooting, 11.9 rebounds and 1.7 blocks. In that span the Rockets are 27-11, moving into the top-4 in the West. They have won 15 of their last 18, yet Howard still respects the kind of player Noah is and knows what he'll be up against tonight on Comcast SportsNet.
"Noah is one of those guys that just pays hard every possession. He's going for all the loose balls, making the right passes," Howard said. "He's one of those guys that's going to get his points form running the floor, tip-ins, pick-and-rolls, stuff like that."
See what else McHale and Howard had to say in the video above.