The Phoenix Suns and Chicago Bulls are eerily similar. Both teams face off with similar records, similar personnel, but under different circumstances, with neither of their stars.
When: 7:00 p.m. MST / 9:00 p.m. EST
Where: US Airways Center Phoenix, AZ
Watch: FSNAZ (Locally), NBA League Pass
The 4-4 Suns and the 4-3 Bulls find themselves in similar dilemmas. Chicago and the Suns both have rosters full of capable, important pieces that a championship team would need...but they are both lacking the star power to carry them beyond anything else besides a fringe playoff spot.
Granted, Chicago and Phoenix are in similar situations, but they find themselves in those situations with vastly different circumstances.
The Suns lost their guy to another team, that horse has been beaten enough. The Bulls, however, are without the most explosive point guard the league has seen in my generation and their ticket to a potential birth into the Eastern Conference Finals was shot when Derrick Rose suffered his knee injury against the 76ers in the the first game of the playoffs last season.
Both clubs are in limbo (Inception reference, couldn't help myself) and are looking to find their identity. Chicago, it appears, has turned to using Loul Deng as their first option and they've been working him into the ground. Deng has averaged 41.8 minutes per game in the Bulls' last five games because they really don't have any other player they can depend upon besides the former Duke Blue Devil.
The Suns will look to counteract with their platoon scoring and their 10-man rotation. Tonight's game should provide for some entertaining basketball. Let's look at three key match-ups in the game:
Michael Beasley vs. Luol Deng: This is the match-up of the night ladies and gentlemen. Beasley has to show up tonight against Deng, plain and simple. If Beasley can do that and put up respectable numbers against Deng, it would help Phoenix out tremendously. Realistically, the Bulls have the edge in this match-up. Right now, Deng is averaging close to 19 points per game and has always been known as a tough defender. Beasley, on the other hand, has looked well...like Michael Beasley, averaging only 13.3 points per game and shooting a lackluster 36.2% from the floor. Nothing has suggested to me that Chicago does not have the advantage in this match-up.
The Bigs, Marcin Gortat & Luis Scola vs. Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer: Hands down, advantage goes to the Suns in this one folks. Gortat and Scola have looked as advertised so far this season (knock on wood everybody) and are really the foundation of the roster. The Polish
Hammer Gazelle has been the double-double machine the Suns need him to be and Scola is proving his worth with close to 14 points and 8 rebounds per game. The Bigs for Phoenix should outperform the respectable Noah and the player formerly known as Carlos Boozer tonight.
Goran Dragic vs. Kirk Hinrich or Nate Robinson: The Bulls can put up Hinrich or Robinson, the Suns still would have the advantage in the floor general match-up. Dragic has been the MVP for Phoenix, shooting close to 47% from the field and tacking on 7.5 assists per game as well. If Hinrich does play, the former Jayhawk has barely looked D-League worthy in the six games he has played this season and Robinson would have his hands full with Dragic. Point guard advantage leans strongly toward Phoenix in this game.
The Bottom Line: The Suns should win. On paper, the Bulls just don't have the depth that the Suns have and don't possess the scoring capabilities like Phoenix does. If Chicago somehow manages to turn this game into a defensive struggle, however, don't count out Tom Thibodeau's trying to steal away this win from the Suns and piece together a low-scoring victory. My official prediction: The Suns win and move to 5-4 on the season entering into their game against the Los Angeles Lakers and their head coach, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.