Tonight your Phoenix Suns take on the Chicago Bulls in Chicago. Life without Robin Lopez goes on as the Suns seek to maintain the 4th spot while the Bulls continue their mad rally for the 8th and final seed in the eastern Conference.
Chicago has won four of five games after losing 10 in a row and now sit a game back of the Raptors for the 8th seed in the East. It's desperation time for the Bulls as they slug it out with Toronto for the East's final playoff berth.
After getting destroyed at home against Miami by 29 points, Chicago had an easy go of it against the Nets (San Antonio may want to take some notes from that one) and then shot 55 percent at Detroit in Sunday's 7 point win. Your Friendly Bulls Blogger had this to say about the weekend:
"Seeing them be in control takes some sting off of that TNT debacle last week, but it's still worrisome that the time they played a team with something to play for they not only lost but got humiliated."
Every game for the Bulls now is a must win, and I'm going to take their Miami "performance" of 33% shooting, -92 combined from Rose, Gibson, and Hinrich, and three straight quarters of under 20 points scoring as an anomaly.
Apart from the obvious concern over Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, who would have been an interesting match-up for Robin Lopez (sniff, sniff), is slowly getting back to 100%
While we lament the temporary loss of Robin, the Bulls have had their own health problems. Apart from Noah's 3 week vacation with plantar fascittis, Luol Deng is expected to miss a "few more weeks" with a right calf strain, and rookie big man James Johnson is also suffering from a plantar fascia situation.
The rest of the Bulls look to be ready to roll. At 6' 9'', James Johnson is set as the small forward, while Taj Gibson at the 4 has logged double digit rebounding totals in 5 of his last 6 games. Brad Miller rounds out the Bulls front line at center, and is always a big body that must be dealt with.
Said Vinny Del Negro:
"We have the same record right now (35-38) as we did last year, and we had a good run in the playoffs, so hopefully we can duplicate that. Our injury situation right now is much different than last year. But I still have faith in our guys."
Steve Nash appears to be a game time decision with back issues. With his recent numbers versus Rose, perhaps it wouldn't be a bad thing to get him some rest and let Dragon and Hill trade off PG duties. Nash has been held to 9.7 points and 7.3 assists per game in three matchups with Rose, while averaging 5.0 turnovers. I do not mean to imply that Hill and Dragon Dragic would fair any better, but they are in better health than Steve and the only thing the Suns have at stake is playoff seeding. Yes that's vital, but I'd rather have Nash somewhat healthy for the big dance as opposed to him exacerbating his condition in a game where he may not even be a major factor (if history dictates).
MAX Stoudemire managed 23 and 5 in January's meeting against the Bulls, and over his career (12 games), 20 and 9. He'll most likely get his tonight, and even if he replicates his Sunday effort at Minnesota, the Suns still face a huge challenge in fending off the Bulls bigs. Expect more Lou, more Jarron (simply as a big body to bang with the likes of Miller and box out the rest of the front line), Dudz, Rich, Hill and Frye need to slap on some of that armor like Amare and plan on a war tonight.
RPG: Bulls 44.2 (2nd NBA) Suns 43.1 (8 NBA)
RBDIFF: Bulls +1.2 (11th NBA) Suns +0.5 (15th NBA)
FG PCT: Bulls 47.3 (19th NBA) Suns 50.9 (2nd NBA)
FGDIFF: Bulls +0.5 (13th NBA) Suns +3.9 (3rd NBA)
Amar'e Stoudemire- 22.9
Derrick Rose-Chi 20.2
Amar'e Stoudemire-Pho 8.9
Joakim Noah-Chi 10.7
Steve Nash-Pho 11.1
Derrick Rose-Chi 5.8
- The Suns haven't won eight in a row since Nov. 9-23, 2007
- Derrick Rose has averaged 25.3 points on 68.6 percent shooting against Phoenix and had a 32-point, three-steal effort in a 115-104 victory at the US Airways Center on Jan. 22.
- In the past two weeks the Suns have shot 52.0 percent - 42.4 from 3-point range - in winning seven in a row by an average of 16.0 points.
- The Suns are 32-14 when Grant Hill scores 10 points or more
- Jason Richardson has 27 20+ games this season. The Suns are 23-4 when J-Rich scores 20 or more
Suns vs Bulls coverage
Paul Coro: Suns Equipped with pads and more-Stoudemire's body is jostled like a pinball as defenders bang and clang, and there's nothing to protect Stoudemire's frame but a jersey - or so it would appear. But Stoudemire goes to battle with armor.
Other Links That Have Been Gathering Dust...
Hey, Mister Hill, can you sign this? | StarTribune.com
Video of Suns signing or not signing autographs outside their hotel in Minnesota
Phoenix Suns equipped with pads and more
Amundson wears two pair of socks for warm-ups and a fresh pair for games. Amundson also is the only one on the team who needs hair bands for his ponytail. The right kind is as essential to him as Carmex lip care is to Stoudemire or Bubbaloo gum is to Barbosa. On a March game day in Los Angles, he searched for the rubber sport hair band for hours before finding it at a Whittier, Calif., Target store.
Basketball Prospectus | Articles | No Lopez Tonight
Kevin Pelton takes another look at the with and without Robin Lopez numbers and concludes that maybe the Suns will be ok and maybe not
azcentral.com blogs - Coro's Suns dish - PaulCoro - Lopez out at least 2 weeks
"It's not easy to read," Suns General Manager Steve Kerr said. "Everybody responds differently to back issues. On the bright side, the long term is he should be fine and maybe even this year."
NBA Talking Points: The Chris Bosh Conundrum (Who's Worth Max Money?) - SB Nation
If you had rundown the list of candidates for the "Tim Thomas Award," otherwise known as "NBA Player That Looks 50% Better In A Contract Year," wouldn't Amare be number one? People don't necessarily see it—because he's so talented, in general—but Amare is Tim Thomas, and Erick Dampier, the 2002-2003 Clippers, and every other player that's ever killed themselves for one season, or even half a season, just before a contract year. He's played well enough so that Phoenix might even re-sign him to a max deal. And maybe it's just me, but five years from now, I see Amare hobbling around on one good knee, with about forty extra pounds, making a good $23 million dollars on a terrible Phoenix Suns team. It's called Karma, Robert Saver. Karma.
For Yao, patience has become a necessity - NBA - Yahoo! Sports
“A lot of kids look up to me,” Yao said. “I just want to give something back. …Most of the kids, 99 percent of the kids, come from poor areas. It’s not their fault. They have the right to enjoy their lives and to create a better future for them.” As for his own future, Yao is trying to follow the advice Ilgauskas gave him: Be patient. Stay positive.
Loss of Robin Lopez Could Be a Big One for the Suns -- NBA FanHouse
The next five games, though, to end the regular season, will likely tell us all we need to know about Phoenix if indeed they have to enter the playoffs without Lopez. Home games against the Spurs, Rockets, and Nuggets, along with two road ones against the Thunder and the Jazz, should provide an accurate preview of the Suns' playoff rotation without him.