There are no excuses for a loss like this. Sure the weather in Chicago is ice cold. But basketball is played inside. Sure the Suns didn’t arrive in Chicago until 12:30 local time. They had plenty of...

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The Suns flight to Chicago was delayed by a polar vortex. Then the Bulls hit the Suns like a frigid twister. The final score of 92-87 in the Bulls win should give you a pretty clear picture of how the game was played.

Recap:

First and foremost, Goran Dragic was sporting a new hairdo.  Of course it's in the cover art, silly.  The Bulls started the game by going at Channing Frye with Taj Gibson and Frye picked up two quick fouls, sending him to the bench early.  Gibson would continue to be a catalyst for the Bulls offense the remainder of the period, scoring nine in the quarter.  Despite the Bulls usual grinding pace the scoring was brisk early as both teams hit 16 points before the 6:00 mark.

Then, Great Odin's Ravens! An Alex Len sighting - though it took him just 34 seconds to pick up a foul... but then a put back follow.  Stay thirsty my friend.  That put back did quash a 9-2 run by the Bulls that saw them push their lead to five (23-18).  The Suns went ahead moments later (24-23) on a jumper by Markieff Morris but Chicago closed the quarter strong to retake the lead.  The scoring was where the Suns would like it but the feeling of the game was a little bit off.

First Quarter Score: Bulls 27, Suns 25

Basketball is ever entertaining and the Bulls brought the mirth early in the second quarter.  Nazr Mohammed made a hilarious "pass" that was intercepted by Miles Plumlee.  Mohammed stared him down, then hesitated, took another dribble, hesitated again, stared him down some more and eventually threw a slow lob pass about a foot over Plumlee's head.  Plumlee miraculously snatched it out of the air.  That might have been one of the easiest steals I've ever seen.

What wasn't quite as jocular was the Bulls moving well in transition and getting easy shots.  That's right, I just used the words Bulls, transition and move in the same sentence.  Chicago used a 15-6 run powered by D.J. Augustin to pull ahead 38-30.  Miles stayed in the mix by denying Joakim Noah's futile attempt at a driving left hand layup and then finishing on a reverse layup of his own on the other end.  The Suns pulled ahead once again (42-41) after Green hit a three (one of only two for the Suns in the first half) and Ish Smith put a teardrop in off the glass, but the Bulls ended up seesawing back into the lead going into halftime as the Suns surrendered some easy looks.

Halftime Score: Bulls 49, Suns 46

The Suns looked like they spent halftime in the parking lot.  They were stuck in a circumpolar whirl. Adding to the Bulls litany of issues, Mike Dunleavy left the game early in the period after sustaining an injury in a collision with a photographer.  Finally Frye snapped the cold spell with the Suns first field goal (and scoring) exactly four minutes into the quarter.  Chicago continued to muck up the game and it started to appear more and more like the morass the Bulls thrived in.  Ugly ball is beautiful to the Bulls.

Dragic sensed the urgency of the moment and began to put his mark on the game.  After a couple of layups, one of the circus variety, Dragic hit a three to give him nine points for the quarter.  It was nine of the team's 13, with less than three minutes to go in the period.  Alas, the three by Goran was the only one of the period, giving the Suns just three for the game, and the Suns only managed 17 points in the quarter on 6-20 shooting.  All in all a pretty damn horrible quarter of basketball.

Third Quarter Score: Bulls 70, Suns 63

The Suns shook off a putrid third quarter by dashing out of the gate in the fourth.  Nah.  I'm just playin'.  That didn't happen.  It would have been nice, but it didn't.  Instead Tony Snell nailed two straight threes, just one less than the Suns had hit all night, and the Bulls were up 13 in a heartbeat.  Speaking of heartbeats, I was wondering if the Suns had one...

The Suns still kept a tenuous grip on the game in spite of their ineptitude, and chipped away at the lead until they found themselves down by just four (84-80) after a layup high off the glass by Goran with 3:56 left.  The Suns were still in it even on a night which it would be a euphemism to call "off".  The teams traded a free throw each before Kirk Hinrich sunk a dagger from deep to make it 88-81 Bulls with 1:55 left.  The Suns cut it to five on a shot by Smith, but squandered an opportunity to pull closer when a pass from Gerald Green slipped out of bounds.  Miles Plumlee fumbled a ball underneath the rim on the following offensive possession and the Bulls made enough free throws to ice the game in the closing seconds.

Final Score: Bulls 92, Suns 87

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Player of the Game:

Joakim Noah had 14 points, 16 rebounds and six assists and was the lead tormentor in Chicago's harassing style of play.  Comparatively, the Suns leaders in rebounds and assists had seven and three, respectively.  The fact that he shot poorly seems insignificant, since that's probably part of the secret formula.

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Comments of the Game:

Chicago's playing hard

Considering players and coaches must feel like they just got a middle finger from their front office, bot surprised they came to play

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Len looked like an anteater on that rebound

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The East are like button mashers in fighting games.

They have no idea what they are doing but are somehow hard to deal with.

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Dragon!

It seems like Dragic against the entire Bulls team.  Someone else give him help!

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This is a pretty pathetic performance.

Go ahead and talk about travel and Bledsoe or whatever but this has been pretty damn pathetic.

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I got home late so I've only seen the last few minutes.  Who invited the 2012 squad back for an encore?

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Oh well, just one game

Tomorrow this will all be a Blur.

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The Good:

It was good to see Mike Dunleavy return to the game after a nasty spill.  I'm just about at my stabby rage threshold for injuries this season.

As repugnant as that game was... and as noisome as the Suns looked... they still only lost by five and were in it right to the end.  I'm trying.

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The Bad:

The Suns shot a dismal 6-23 from three point range.  Against a team like Chicago that's especially pernicious because the Suns can be dreadful in their halfcourt offense.  Chicago also took away the Suns other arena for easy scores by limiting them to 10 points off of fastbreaks.  That's the blueprint for beating the Suns.

The Bulls outrebounded Phoenix 50-41 overall and were +5 on the offensive glass.  My memory may betray me, but it seemed like the Bulls were winning a lot of the 50/50 battles.

The Suns had 12 assists and 12 turnovers.  Ism Smith led the team in assists with three.  Dragic has to find a way to create more shots for his teammates.

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The Ugly:

The whole game?  This was Bulls basketball, not Suns basketball.  Chicago imposed their will and style of play.  Phoenix was lured in by the siren.

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Final Thoughts:

That was not the right foot the Suns were supposed to get off on to start this five game road trip.  Not even Goran's new haircut can soothe the sting of this loss...

Time: 6:00 pm MDT TV: FSAZ The Phoenix Suns begin their five-game, week-long road trip tonight with a trip to Chicago to take on a Bulls team that looks like a ruin of its former self. For the second...

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The Suns brave an Arctic cyclone to face a Chicago Bulls team that just traded their best offensive weapon (Luol Deng) and may be without their second leading scorer (Carlos Boozer). Can the Suns take care of business... and can the Bulls score 80?

When: Tuesday January 7, 2014, 6:00 PM local time (8:00 EST)

Where: WGN America United Center, Chicago, Illinois

Watch/Listen: TV: Fox Sports AZ Radio: 620 KTAR

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Last Meeting:

This is the first meeting this season. The Chicago Bulls lead the all-time series 64-63.  A Suns win would knot things up.

The teams last met in Chicago on January 12, 2013. The Suns took a 66-56 lead in the third quarter and the Bulls never pulled back within single digits. The gap reached a fairly chasmic 19 points in the fourth quarter of a 97-81 rout. Luis Scola led the Suns with 22 points and seven rebounds, while former fan favorite Michael Beasley scored 20 points in 21 minutes. Goran Dragic scored seven points on 2-8 shooting. Joakim Noah (10 points/13 rebounds) and Carlos Boozer (15 points/10 rebounds) both recorded double-doubles in the loss.

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Team Bios:

Chicago Bulls: 14-18

Points per game: 91.3 (30)     Points allowed: 92.2 (2)

ORtg: 99.4 (29)     DRtg: 100.3 (2)

Full team statistics.

The Bulls come into this game winners of five of their last seven. During this stretch they have held six of those seven opponents to 91 points or less. Despite their parsimonious defense, the Bulls have struggled to a record four games below .500 due to a lack of offensive punch.  The team has muddled along to shoot a meager 42.2% from the field this season and now they will be without leading scorer Luol Deng, who was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers last night. The team is also dealing with an injury to their second leading scorer Carlos Boozer.  Boozer is questionable for tonight's game with a sore right knee which might sideline him until the Bulls next game Friday night.

Injuries and offense aside, the Bulls still hold the sixth position in the standings of the mighty Eastern Conference. With their recent play they have even climbed to within 2.5 games of the third place Atlanta Hawks. Their last game was a 91-84 victory against that Hawks team as three starters recorded double-doubles in points and rebounds and Mike Dunleavy scored 20 off the bench.  Boozer did not play in the game.

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Phoenix Suns: 20-12

Points per game: 103.7 (8)     Points allowed: 100.5 (15)

ORtg: 108.1 (9)     DRtg: 104.7 (11)

Full team statistics.

The Suns have won three of four, six of eight, and 11 of 14. A scalding offense has scored 100+ points in 11 of the last 13 games and the team has won by double digits in each of their past five victories. Things have been going rather swimmingly. But (there's always a but with me) not everything is butterflies and bumblebees.  The Suns two recent losses have come against a team last in the league in pace (the Memphis Grizzlies at 90.0) and a team that you may be surprised to hear is fourth in the NBA in DRtg (the Golden St. Warriors at 101.0).  The Bulls are like a marriage of these two teams as the have the third lowest pace (90.8) and second best DRtg. Chicago is the peanut butter and chocolate of slow and stingy.

The Suns are dealing with their own injured player, Eric Bledsoe, who may be unavailable for the team's five game road trip with a sprained right knee. Bledsoe will be reevaluated as early as Thursday or Friday. Leandro Barbosa may provide some unexpected relief as he was just inked to a 10 day contract... or the Suns may just want to have an oh sh&^ button handy (just in case). Phoenix won their last game, a scrimmage against the Milwaukee Bucks, 116-100 behind the pyrotechnics of Channing Frye and Gerald Green, who combined for 46 points and 10 three pointers. Ish Smith recorded eight assists (and a thunderous dunk which is now his screensaver) off the bench in Bledsoe's absence.

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What To Watch For:

The Dragon - Goran has averaged 21.3 points and 8.2 assists in the eight games that Bledsoe has missed. On the season he is posting 18.8 points and 5.9 assists. Kirk Hinrich is averaging 7.8 points and 4.7 assists per game. The Suns should win this matchup, right? The Suns have to win this matchup, right?  Well, I guess the Suns did blow out the Bulls with Dragic scoring seven last season... Still, capitalizing on a lopsided mismatch couldn't hurt.

Pace - The Suns are 8th in the league in possessions per game (95.6) while the Bulls are 28th (90.8). The uglier this game gets the more likely the Bulls win. The Suns' goal should be to get this baby to Lawler's Law. They need to force the tempo, especially since they have bogged down in their halfcourt offense at times.  It will really be a battle of teams with antipodean styles.

Travel Plans - The Suns were initially supposed to leave for Chicago yesterday afternoon, but a polar vortex in the midwest (that just sounds colder than a hell made of ice) prevented the team from flying. They should be boarding a plane around the same time I'm posting this (8:30 AM local time). They will still get there in plenty of time for the game, but people are creatures of habit and this deviates from regular travel plans.

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For What it's Worth:

The Chicago Bulls have only had a player score 30+ points in a game twice this season (Boozer [injured] and Deng [traded] once each). Goran Dragic has scored 30+ points four times.

The Bulls are 0-6 this season when their opponent scores 100 points.

The Final Word(s):

The Suns really need to get off on the right foot (or maybe the left foot if it's one of those Euro steps) on this roadie. They will potentially be road weary and fatigued on the back end of this five game, seven day adventure so picking up W's while they are fresh is imperative. Now that I've went to lengths to disparage the Bulls offense they'll probably drop a buck ten.

Also, screw all these damn injuries.  Rose vs. Bledsoe would have been awesome.

It’s been widely misrepresented that the Phoenix Suns have changed their strategy. When general manager Ryan McDonough told NBA.com he would ideally be willing to trade the Suns’ draft...

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