When: 6:00 pm (Phoenix time)
Where: United Center, Chicago, Illinois
TV: Fox Sports Arizona
Radio: 98.7 FM
After losing their first game post All-Star Break, the Phoenix Suns head to Chicago to face the Bulls on a back-to-back, another team trying to avenge a loss. Both teams look to climb out of the hole they created for themselves and though a win here won’t launch them into the playoff picture, it’s a start. Given the explosive talent both teams have at the guard position, this should make for a fun game.
Points: Zach LaVine (25.2)
Rebounds: Lauri Markkanen (6.5)
Assists: Tomas Satoransky (5.4)
After hosting the All-Star Game, the Chicago Bulls lost to the Hornets 103-93 and rumors of an implosion at the top have been leaking since the All-Star Break. According to Chicago Sun-Times’ Joe Cowley, the Bulls executives used the All-Star Weekend to start the process of looking for a new general manager. After all the stories and tension we’ve seen with the Bulls and their head coach Jim Boylen, and the recent failures of general manager Gar Forman, the team looks like it is ready for another clean slate this offseason. However, with the Bulls only 4.5 games out of the eight seed, there’s still a chance this 19-37 team makes the dance.
In order for them to make that dance, guard Zach Lavine has to keep up his play. He’s averaging 25.2 points per game while producing 4.2 assists per game and 4.9 rebounds per game. He had a poor shooting night against the Hornets, going 8-22 for only 19 points and a horrendous 14.3 shooting percentage from three. If the Bulls want any chance to win, they need Lavine to play like he was before the All-Star Break, and even that might not be enough.
The Bulls do have a lot of young talent, from Markkanen to Colby White and etc. The team just hasn’t played well, possessing the third worst offensive rating in the league (105.1). The defensive rating is a respectable 108.2, good enough for 13th in the league but that isn’t enough to lift this team out of the hole they’ve dug for themselves.
Points: Devin Booker (26.3)
Rebounds: Kelly Oubre Jr. (6.5)
Assists: Ricky Rubio (8.6)
Remember when the Suns were in the thick of the playoff race, remember when it looked like this would be the season the Suns would earn a winning record? Well, both those look like fading dreams as the 22-34 Suns head to Chicago to play the second game in a back-to-back. After suffering a crushing 118-101 loss to the Toronto Raptors, the Suns have a chance to fix the ship right now against a poor team.
The man in charge of fixing this ship is the Suns All-Star (well deserved by the way) Devin Booker. Booker has become an elite offensive player and has grown as a defender too, though he had a poor shooting night against Toronto, shooting 8-18 for 21 points, he was able to get eight assists. He’s the guy on this team, the one that can will his team to a victory just from his performance. With the All-Star nod finally in his possession and complement teammates, it’s time for Booker to turn it on during these last 26 games.
Booker wasn’t the only one to shoot poorly against Toronto. The team, specifically Oubre Jr. and Ayton, went a combined 13-29 for 28 points. The team shot 6-34 from three, an awful 17.6 shooting percentage, meanwhile, the Raptors went 14-37 from three. It’s understandable for a team to have a bad shooting night, and the two Suns players leading that way in Oubre and Ayton are still studs in their own right, this can’t happen if the Suns want to win games that are right there for the taking. The team, unlike Chicago, doesn’t possess dramatically different ratings. They’re ranked 17th in offensive rating (109.6) and 19th in defensive rating (110.7), a slightly below average squad looking to return back to the winning ways they had in the start of the season. They have a lot of talent, Ricky Rubio has been a good point guard for the team. Ayton has had an up and down season but is when he’s on, he’s been a monster. Oubre has filled the third option role well, along with being the emotional leader of this team. It’s tough for them to turn it around now because of how crowded the race for the eight seed is but they have the talent to at least make some noise at the end of this season.
Suns desperately need a win, not just to save their sinking playoff hopes, just to chase a .500 record. Booker has no reason to not show up against a dismal Bulls defense and after such a poor shooting night, Suns should have all the motivation they need to succeed. A big night from Booker will be enough for the Suns to win 105-98.