The Phoenix Suns head into another gauntlet of games, starting with a showdown in Phoenix against the Chicago Bulls followed immediately by the Golden State Warriors on Saturday night.
The Bulls (30-18) just lost in double overtime on Thursday night to the Los Angeles Lakers in what Suns fans might call the best night of the week. Not only did the Lakers solidify their hold on the 4th-worst record with their 13th win (their pick is only Top-5 Protected), they did so against the Bulls who played four of their top players 42+ minutes each in the losing effort. Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol should be good and tired for tonight's breakneck pace against the Suns.
- What: Phoenix Suns vs. Chicago Bulls
- Where: US Airways Center, Phoenix, Arizona
- When: 8:30 PM
- TV: ESPN, FoxSports Arizona
- Radio: ArizonaSports 98.7 FM
Big thanks to our 'Find the Best' partners for the snazzy graphic! Feel free to click all over that interactive graphic for an in-depth comparison of the teams for tonight's game.
Derrick Rose is back healthy. Pau Gasol is putting up 18 and 12 in a resurgent season. Jimmy Butler is an All-Star. Rookie Nikola Mirotic has been a revelation, and rookie Dougie McBuckets looked like a perfect fit to spell shooter Mike Dunleavy.
So how have they lost 8 of their last 13 games, with four of those losses to bad teams (Lakers, Heat, Magic, Jazz)?
Part of the problem is that Joakim Noah has been plagued by injuries all year, but part is that the roster is a mismatch full of players that coach Tom Thibodeau doesn't trust beyond his top 4. Just in last night's double overtime loss to the Lakers, the top four players all played 42+ minutes while Mirotic barely played 12 and super-sub Taj Gibson played only 26. On top of that, a year after Noah looked like a Top 10 player in the NBA, he hasn't meshed well with Paul Gasol on the Bulls front line. Noah's stats are down across the board, and his on/off numbers are just pedestrian.
Now coach Thibs is under fire for potentially riding his guys too hard for too long and maybe burning them out. What was once a top-flight defense is now barely middle of the pack, and in some games the Bulls have failed to show up to play their best ball.
Check out more on the Bulls at our brother site Blog a Bull
Your Phoenix Suns have won 15 of their last 21 games, including a 5-2 record on their franchise-long home stand over the past two weeks. That home stand ends tonight against yet another team with a better record than the Suns, their fourth such consecutive game.
The Suns' formula has been to run the other team off court, and then close out games with the efficient offense of Markieff Morris. Morris has made huge buckets in both the wins over the Cavaliers and the Wizards, and was sorely missed in the loss to the Clippers (benched for a technical foul call).
The players and coach have since kissed and made up, putting the onus on the coach to dole out punishment for techs going forward. Let's hope Hornacek can keep his head straight when the going gets tough and make the right decisions. Hindsight tells you that last weekend's benchings would have been overturned, at worst, during the break between the third and fourth quarters and maybe those games would have ended differently. But hindsight is also a bitch, because it loves to play on your fears and beat you over the head with couldas and shouldas.
Out on a limb
A night after overplaying his stars, and facing a run-n-gun club in the Suns, expect the unexpected from coach Thibs. You just might see a ton of shooters Tony Snell and Nikola Mirotic after neither had much impact in the Lakers game.
And of course there's shooter Mike Dunleavy, who always seems to have good games against the Suns.
If Pau Gasol can feel his legs tonight, expect him to put up a double double and very likely something like a 20 points, 15 rebound game.
And finally, if there was a game in which Joakim Noah got "good" again, it would be against the Suns. Let's hope we don't see the gunslinger act he puts on when he's hitting those ugly jumpers.
Interested in playing Daily Fantasy Basketball with the chance to win money? Sign up for FanDuel here! You can bet on Suns players doing well this weekend, or bet on their opponents like Derrick Rose, Nikola Mirotic, Jimmy Butler, Stephen Curry or Klay Thompson or any other star.
If the Suns don't win this game, look out. The next four opponents (two on the road, two on the second night of back-to-back) are teams the Suns just don't play well. First, the Golden State game was kind of a fluke earlier this year and will be on a back-to-back the Suns have never handled well. Then Memphis. Ugh. Then Portland on the road, followed by the Jazz who always play the Suns tough.
So, the Suns need to win this game. They need to come out running, and find a way to wear down the tired Bulls so much they can't mount a big comeback or beat the Suns to death on the boards.
Suns by 5.
50% off after every Suns win
Papa John's has a running promo this season: If the Suns win, you can get half off a Papa John's pizza by using promo code SUNS the next day.
Guess the Score for Free Pizza!
This is a Bright Side exclusive: free pizza!
Guess the winner, loser and score of tonight's game (or come closest) to win a FREE Large Papa John's pizza! I'll give a promo code for a free pizza (order it online) to tonight's winner of the 'Guess the Score' contest.
(and this time, claim your prize! Email me after I declare you the winner so I can give you the code you need!)