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Game Preview: Suns take on the Bulls in the Windy City

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Both teams have struggled through disappointing season starts and both badly want a win tonight.

Boston Celtics v Phoenix Suns Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Phoenix Suns (3-13) @ Chicago Bulls (4-13)

Time: 6:00 pm (Phoenix time)

TV: Fox Sports Arizona

Radio: 98.7 FM


The Chicago Bulls are one of the few NBA teams that one could say is basically on the same level as the Suns. They have only four wins vs three for the Suns but, unlike the Suns, the Bulls have won only a single game against a team that currently has a better record than them (Charlotte, 8-8). That doesn’t mean that the Suns are a lock to win this one though.

The Bulls have already had a lot of injury issues this season which have further held back a team that is trying to rebuild after trading unhappy star Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves on draft night in 2017. They weren’t expected to be great this year but they likely would have gotten off to a better start than 4-13 if everyone had stayed healthy. That wasn’t the case though and the Bulls’ early season misfortunes should help the Suns in the search for their 4th win of the season.

Offensively, the Bulls are the worst team in the NBA with a 100.5 offensive rating (30th) and score an average of 103.1 point per game. The Suns aren’t much better though with a 101.7 OffRtg (28th) and their ppg average is only 102.8 (30th). But those are the season numbers and they are deceiving in regard to this game as the Bulls have been dropping as the season progressed while the Suns have been rising. Over the past four games for each team, the Suns’ OffRtg ws 106.7 (15th) while the Bulls’ rating fell to 87.4 (30th).

Defensively, both teams have been bad for the season (Suns 27th, Bulls 24th) and both teams have given up an average of 113.5 points per game so there is no clear advantage for either team on that end. Like the Suns, the Bulls also aren’t a good rebounding team. While the Suns have averaged only 39.9 rebounds per game (29th), Chicago has had it’s own struggles on the boards grabbing only 41.5 rpg (26th).

The Bulls

Probable starting lineup: Ryan Arcidiacono, Zach LaVine, Justin Holiday, Jabari Parker and Wendell Carter Jr.

The Bulls have been playing the entire season without starting power forward Lauri Markkanen who injured his elbow during training camp and fellow starters Kris Dunn (PG) and Bobby Portis (PF) will both miss this game due to injuries as will. Reserve Denzel Valentine is also out for the season pending surgery on his left ankle. Zach LaVine missed their last game due to an illness but should be back on the court tonight.

Where the Suns were at a height disadvantage against Philadelphia, the shoe is on the other foot verses Chicago. Due to injuries, their starting lineup against the Raptors on Saturday night was 6’3”, 6’3”, 6’6”, 6’8” and 6’10”. If, as expected, Zach LaVine plays tonight, exchange one 6’3” for 6’5” and the Suns will still have a height advantage at almost every position, especially if they go with the same starting lineup they used against Philadelphia.

Chicago relies on Zach LaVine as their go-to scorer (25.3 ppg) with Jabari Parker chipping in 14.9 ppg as their #2 scoring option. Second year man Ryan Arcidiacono out of Villanova has been starting at point for them for the past five games and averaged 3.4 assists and 8.2 points over that stretch. You can also expect to see former Sun Shaquille Harrison on the court tonight. Shaq is still playing solid defense and is leading the Bulls in steals with 2 per game while averaging only 17 minutes.

Team Leaders

Points: Zach LaVine (25.3)

Rebounds: Bobbie Portis (10.0) - OUT

Assists: Kris Dunn (7.0) - OUT

The Suns

Probable starting lineup: Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, Trevor Ariza, T.J. Warren and Deandre Ayton.

After a strong outing in Philly against the Sixers, this game looks to be a likely win for the Suns.

But looks can be deceiving.

Igor Kokoskov said that he went with the larger starting lineup to match up better with Philadelphia’s height and length. That’s not really a concern against the Bulls so he could go back to the smaller starting lineup with Isaiah Canaan at point and Mikal Bridges coming off the bench again.

I don’t think there is a good reason for doing this. The starters in Philly came out like gangbusters and ran up a sizable lead. The Sixers were a strong enough team to come back from that (with a little help from the refs) but the Bulls aren’t likely to be able to do that. They don’t currently have the offensive firepower to overcome a large deficit so trying to get them down early - and keep them there - is the best strategy.

Devin Booker and T.J. Warren will need to have good games. Spectacular performances probably aren’t necessary but solid, average games are a must. Deandre Ayton also needs to dominate against fellow rookie Wendell Carter Jr. There’s no reason for him to be starstruck in this game. Carter Jr is off to a good start this season (11.3 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 1.9 bpg) but Deandre should make it a priority to prove which is the better center and have a big game tonight.

Most of all, Bridges needs to spend most of his time making Zach LaVine’s life difficult from the opening tip to the final seconds of the fourth quarter. LaVine has had five 30+ point games this season - one of 41 - and three more scoring over 25. He’s their best offensive weapon and the Suns need their best defender on him from the start to try to keep him from getting his offensive game going early.

The Suns need to go into this game with a big chip on their collective shoulders as they can’t afford to take any game lightly this season.

Team Leaders

Points: Devin Booker (23.8)

Rebounds: Deandre Ayton (10.4)

Assists: Devin Booker (7.4)

Summary

Without all the injuries the Bulls have had to deal with, I think that I might give them the edge in a home game following three days off. That’s not the case though. They will be better rested than the Suns but they’re too under-strength for that to make a real difference. If the Suns play this game with anywhere near the intensity they had against the Sixers, they should come away with a win. If they don’t, this could turn into another messy, ugly game that will be hard to watch whether they win or lose.

Hopefully, the Suns will give fans another reason to give thanks when they wake up on Thanksgiving Day!

Suns 112 - Bulls 93.