NBA

D'Antoni seeks 500th victory as Rockets visit Bulls

CHICAGO -- With 499 career victories, Houston Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni is on the verge of becoming the 30th coach in NBA history to join the 500-win club.

Yet D'Antoni is focused on a different statistic as the Rockets (44-21) prepare to visit the Chicago Bulls (31-33) on Friday night. The veteran coach wants his team to earn a win and avoid its first three-game skid of the season. A bounce-back effort would allow D'Antoni to join Gregg Popovich, Doc Rivers, Rick Carlisle and Nate McMillan as the only active coaches with 500 wins.

"We just have to get our stuff together," D'Antoni told the Houston Chronicle after back-to-back losses against the San Antonio Spurs and Utah Jazz. "I'm not worried about what (playoff) seed we're in. We like being third because that means we're playing well. But if not, it's fourth. We're going to try to finish up as well as we can, try to get our stuff together and get in the playoffs healthy."

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Meanwhile, the Bulls would just like to get to the playoffs -- period.

Chicago lost three consecutive games and will try to avoid a season-worst, four-game losing streak. Deflating losses against the Los Angeles Clippers, Detroit Pistons and Orlando Magic dropped the Bulls to two games below .500 and the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference.

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg was asked whether he still felt as if the Bulls were a playoff team.

"I hope so," Hoiberg told the Chicago Sun-Times. "Again, if you look back at this stretch, I loved how we were playing. We won those five out of six games (over the previous two weeks) against really good teams. You look at the teams we beat. We beat Boston, Toronto, at Cleveland, Golden State and then a Phoenix team that I think has lost once since we played them. Now we're on a little bit of a slide.

"You've got to get back to doing the things that made us successful. That's going out there and playing together and making the right plays, competing on a nightly basis."

The Bulls are expected to welcome back guard Dwyane Wade, who missed the previous two contests because of a strained left quadriceps. Wade is averaging 18.9 points, which is second on the team to forward Jimmy Butler (23.8 points).

Houston counters with a high-caliber offense led by guard James Harden, who scored 30-plus points in each of his last three games. The Rockets are 19-11 this season when Harden scores at least 30.

The game marks the second and final meeting of the regular season. The Rockets outlasted the Bulls 121-117 in overtime in the first matchup Feb. 3. Harden registered a double-double by scoring 42 points and pulling down 12 rebounds.

Rockets forward Ryan Anderson sat out Wednesday against Utah because of back spasms. His status is uncertain for Friday's game against the Bulls.

Regardless, Houston guard Patrick Beverley said he and his teammates were ready to regain their stride -- and give their coach a milestone victory.

"Just because we lose two (in a row), that don't mean nothing," Beverley told the Houston Chronicle. "Lot of teams are scared of us. Nothing changed with us. We still got the swag. We still got the confidence. Not to sound cocky, (but) teams get afraid when we play them."