What: Phoenix Suns (29-19, 2nd Pacific) vs. Houston Rockets (32-17, 2nd Southwest)

Where: Toyota Center - Houston, TX

When: 6:00PM AZ Time

Watch: FoxSports AZ, NBA League Pass

Read: Check out The Dream Shake for the Houston point of view

No time to mope for the Phoenix Suns after a rough 101-92 loss to the Chicago Bulls. They're hopping on the team plane and looking to gain ground on the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference standings. Houston currently sits 2.5 games ahead of the Suns for the fifth seed. The Suns will look to bounce back hard after getting completely bogged down by Chicago's tar pit of a defense. This game should be a lot more to the Suns' liking as the Rockets play at a similar speed (7th in pace in the NBA to the Suns' 6th) and are similar to the Suns defensively as well (16th in defensive rating to the Suns' 14th).

Previous Meeting

The Suns bested the Rockets in Houston way back on December 4th to kick off their first 5-game winning streak of the season. Maybe this game will prove to be the start of another one! Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragi? led the Suns victory march with 20 and 19 points respectively. You may remember P.J. Tucker's fine defensive performance, limiting James Harden to 14 points on horrendous 3-17 shooting. And in a rare offensive outburst, P.J. dropped 18 points of his own. Aaron Brooks (remember that guy?) was the leading scorer for Houston with 17 points. Defense was the name of the game as the Suns limited the Rockets to 35.2% field goal shooting on the way to a 97-88 victory. The only black mark for the Suns' was a 14-rebound deficit, losing the battle of the glass 54-40.

Of course, the Suns had Eric Bledsoe and Houston was missing Jeremy Lin and Chandler Parsons for that match-up. The line-ups are a little different this time around.

Injury Report

As per usual, Eric Bledsoe (Knee) and Emeka Okafor (Neck) are out for the Suns. For Houston, walking trade rumor and malcontent Omer Asik is out with a right thigh/knee injury. Francisco Garcia (knee) and Greg Smith (knee) are listed as day-to-day and James Harden (thumb) is listed a probable. It's a safe bet Harden will be out there at tip-off.

Suns' Stats

Offensive Rating - 108.9 (8th, NBA), Defensive Rating - 105.4 (13th, NBA)


FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
Goran Dragic 45 34.3 7.2 14.1 50.7 1.4 3.6 39.4 4.4 5.6 77.2 1.0 2.5 3.5 6.0 2.9 1.3 0.2 2.5 20.1
Eric Bledsoe 24 33.5 6.3 13.0 48.6 1.2 3.3 35.0 4.2 5.3 78.9 0.4 3.8 4.3 5.8 3.3 1.5 0.3 2.5 18.0
Gerald Green 48 27.9 4.9 11.2 43.2 2.3 6.2 37.7 1.7 2.0 85.3 0.4 2.7 3.1 1.7 1.6 0.9 0.6 2.8 13.7
Markieff Morris 47 25.0 4.7 9.9 47.1 0.4 1.3 33.9 3.0 3.9 79.0 1.9 4.0 5.8 1.7 1.7 0.9 0.6 2.7 12.8
Channing Frye 48 28.5 4.5 10.0 45.2 2.3 5.5 40.6 1.0 1.3 80.3 1.0 4.4 5.3 1.1 1.1 0.8 0.8 3.0 12.3
Marcus Morris 48 22.3 3.5 8.1 43.6 1.3 3.3 38.1 1.6 2.1 79.0 1.1 3.1 4.2 1.1 1.1 1.0 0.2 2.0 10.0
Miles Plumlee 48 27.4 4.2 8.2 51.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.1 2.1 52.0 2.6 6.0 8.6 0.6 1.5 0.7 1.5 2.6 9.4
P.J. Tucker 48 29.9 3.2 7.6 41.6 0.9 2.2 40.2 1.9 2.4 78.4 2.0 4.1 6.1 1.8 1.3 1.1 0.3 2.3 9.1
Leandro Barbosa 13 20.1 3.2 7.5 41.8 0.2 1.2 20.0 2.0 2.5 81.3 0.4 1.8 2.2 1.9 1.0 0.4 0.2 1.6 8.5
Ish Smith 36 13.4 1.6 4.4 36.7 0.0 0.5 5.3 0.3 0.5 52.9 0.4 1.1 1.5 2.4 0.9 0.8 0.2 0.9 3.5
Archie Goodwin 37 10.5 1.2 3.2 38.1 0.1 0.8 10.7 0.5 0.8 69.0 0.4 1.3 1.7 0.4 0.9 0.4 0.2 0.7 3.1
Dionte Christmas 23 6.8 0.7 2.0 37.8 0.3 1.0 25.0 0.6 0.7 87.5 0.3 0.9 1.2 0.2 0.2 0.1 0.1 0.7 2.3
Alex Len 19 8.9 0.9 2.0 44.7 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.5 0.7 76.9 1.3 1.5 2.8 0.1 0.5 0.2 0.4 1.8 2.3
Viacheslav Kravtsov 18 3.1 0.4 0.8 57.1 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.2 0.4 50.0 0.5 0.4 0.9 0.1 0.3 0.0 0.1 0.4 1.1

Rockets' Stats

Offensive Rating - 109.3 (7th, NBA) Defensive Rating - 105.6 (16th, NBA)


FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
James Harden 41 38.5 7.2 16.2 44.8 2.0 6.2 32.3 7.3 8.6 84.7 1.0 3.9 4.8 5.5 3.7 1.3 0.5 2.4 23.8
Dwight Howard 49 34.1 6.6 11.4 57.7 0.0 0.1 40.0 5.1 9.5 53.3 3.4 8.9 12.3 1.7 3.2 0.9 1.8 3.6 18.3
Chandler Parsons 44 37.9 6.5 13.0 49.7 1.9 4.8 39.2 2.3 3.2 72.5 0.9 4.7 5.5 3.5 2.0 1.1 0.5 2.3 17.1
Jeremy Lin 39 31.0 4.4 9.6 46.3 1.1 3.3 33.1 3.5 4.4 80.0 0.3 2.3 2.6 4.5 2.7 1.0 0.5 2.3 13.4
Terrence Jones 44 28.2 5.0 9.5 52.4 0.4 1.5 29.2 1.6 2.7 58.0 2.1 5.4 7.5 1.2 1.0 0.6 1.4 1.8 11.9
Patrick Beverley 32 31.9 3.3 8.4 38.9 1.5 4.5 32.6 1.3 1.6 80.4 1.6 2.6 4.1 2.6 1.2 1.3 0.4 2.9 9.3
Omri Casspi 48 19.8 2.9 6.6 44.0 1.0 2.8 35.6 1.2 1.8 67.8 0.9 3.0 3.9 1.3 1.1 0.7 0.2 1.7 8.0
Aaron Brooks 41 17.1 2.5 6.3 40.0 1.3 3.2 41.2 0.9 1.1 84.1 0.6 1.0 1.5 2.0 1.2 0.6 0.1 1.8 7.3
Francisco Garcia 40 20.3 2.1 5.5 38.5 1.3 3.8 34.2 0.3 0.4 58.8 0.4 1.9 2.4 1.1 0.6 0.6 0.7 2.1 5.8
Omer Asik 17 18.2 1.5 3.1 47.2 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.5 2.3 64.1 1.6 5.1 6.8 0.4 1.2 0.2 0.4 2.0 4.4
Donatas Motiejunas 29 12.9 1.7 4.0 41.9 0.2 1.3 18.4 0.7 1.3 55.3 0.9 2.5 3.4 0.4 0.6 0.2 0.4 2.0 4.3
Greg Smith 11 9.1 1.6 2.5 64.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.2 0.5 40.0 1.0 1.5 2.5 0.0 0.5 0.1 0.2 1.5 3.5
Robert Covington 4 4.5 1.0 2.3 44.4 0.8 2.0 37.5 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.3 0.3 0.5 0.0 0.0 0.3 0.0 0.5 2.8
Isaiah Canaan 5 3.8 0.2 0.8 25.0 0.0 0.6 0.0 0.8 0.8 100.0 0.0 0.2 0.2 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.6 1.2
Ronnie Brewer 23 6.9 0.1 0.7 20.0 0.0 0.3 12.5 0.0 0.1 0.0 0.1 0.5 0.6 0.4 0.1 0.3 0.0 0.2 0.3


Numbers in a Nutshell

In terms of overall offense and defense, it's a virtual dead heat between a pair of high scoring and average defending squads. If you think the Suns are in love with the longball... well, meet the Rockets who average 26.1 attempts per game (1st in the league) despite shooting a scant 34.3% from downtown (26th in the league). The Suns for their part are 2nd in 3 point attempts (25.3 per game), but are 10th in the league in 3PT% (36.9%). Given the way the Suns' defense has dropped off since December, this could turn out to be a high-scoring, long-bombing affair. Of course, both teams defend the 3-point line well (Suns are 2nd in opponent 3PT % at 33.2, Rockets are 7th at 34.5) so it could just as easily be long-bricking affair.

The one number the Suns will need to watch is fouls. Houston leads the league in fouls drawn, averaging 24.8 per game (vs. 21.8 for the Suns). If any of the Suns' starters goes the bench early, it will be up to the Bench Mob to pick up the slack.

Projected Starting Line-ups

Phoenix Suns

F - P.J. Tucker

F - Channing Frye

C - Miles Plumlee

G - Gerald Green

G - Goran Dragi?

Houston Rockets

F - Chandler Parsons

F - Terrence Jones

C - Dwight Howard

G - James Harden

G - Patrick Beverly

Keys to the Game

Padlock it Up - It seems unlikely that James Harden and Dwight Howard (15 points, 4-11 shooting) will have a similarly awful stinkers in this contest. However if the Suns can be even somewhat successful in slowing down the Rockets' leading scorers, it will go a long way towards a needed conference victory.

Rebound - Double meaning here. First the Suns need to demonstrate their league-leading resiliency (source: me) and find their mojo after getting mugged by the Bulls. Second, they got away with one in Houston last time, giving up a staggering 21 offensive rebounds. Phoenix has been better about protecting the glass (they actually out-rebounded Chicago last night) and will need to make sure they get a body on Howard who torched them for 18 boards in their first match-up.

Score Early and Often - We saw last night what happens when the Suns come out sluggish. During their winning streak, they owned the first quarter out scoring opponents by an average margin of 31.6-24. Hot starts beget a hot team and the Suns would like to carry some momentum into the All-Star break 10 days from now.

Key Match-Up

Miles Plumlee, Channing Frye, Markieff Morris, and Alex Len vs. Dwight Howard - I think the Suns' backcourt is capable of hanging with or even out-playing the Rockets' guards. But this game will be won or lost in the paint. Houston scores 50.5 points per game in the paint (3rd in the NBA) and the Suns allow the 4th most at 45.7. In addition to keeping D12 in check, rim defense against easy buckets is a priority.

Prediction

I'm feeling optimistic. Even though the Rockets are coming off of 3 days rest and Phoenix is playing the 2nd game of a back-to-back, I think the Suns show up with something to prove. Lots of shots, some but not a lot of defense. Suns win 113-108.

What: Phoenix Suns (29-19, 2nd Pacific) vs. Houston Rockets (32-17, 2nd Southwest)

Where: Toyota Center - Houston, TX

When: 6:00PM AZ Time

Watch: FoxSports AZ, NBA League Pass

Read: Check out The Dream Shake for the Houston point of view

No time to mope for the Phoenix Suns after a rough 101-92 loss to the Chicago Bulls. They're hopping on the team plane and looking to gain ground on the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference standings. Houston currently sits 2.5 games ahead of the Suns for the fifth seed. The Suns will look to bounce back hard after getting completely bogged down by Chicago's tar pit of a defense. This game should be a lot more to the Suns' liking as the Rockets play at a similar speed (7th in pace in the NBA to the Suns' 6th) and are similar to the Suns defensively as well (16th in defensive rating to the Suns' 14th).

Previous Meeting

The Suns bested the Rockets in Houston way back on December 4th to kick off their first 5-game winning streak of the season. Maybe this game will prove to be the start of another one! Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragi? led the Suns victory march with 20 and 19 points respectively. You may remember P.J. Tucker's fine defensive performance, limiting James Harden to 14 points on horrendous 3-17 shooting. And in a rare offensive outburst, P.J. dropped 18 points of his own. Aaron Brooks (remember that guy?) was the leading scorer for Houston with 17 points. Defense was the name of the game as the Suns limited the Rockets to 35.2% field goal shooting on the way to a 97-88 victory. The only black mark for the Suns' was a 14-rebound deficit, losing the battle of the glass 54-40.

Of course, the Suns had Eric Bledsoe and Houston was missing Jeremy Lin and Chandler Parsons for that match-up. The line-ups are a little different this time around.

Injury Report

As per usual, Eric Bledsoe (Knee) and Emeka Okafor (Neck) are out for the Suns. For Houston, walking trade rumor and malcontent Omer Asik is out with a right thigh/knee injury. Francisco Garcia (knee) and Greg Smith (knee) are listed as day-to-day and James Harden (thumb) is listed a probable. It's a safe bet Harden will be out there at tip-off.

Suns' Stats

Offensive Rating - 108.9 (8th, NBA), Defensive Rating - 105.4 (13th, NBA)


FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
Goran Dragic 45 34.3 7.2 14.1 50.7 1.4 3.6 39.4 4.4 5.6 77.2 1.0 2.5 3.5 6.0 2.9 1.3 0.2 2.5 20.1
Eric Bledsoe 24 33.5 6.3 13.0 48.6 1.2 3.3 35.0 4.2 5.3 78.9 0.4 3.8 4.3 5.8 3.3 1.5 0.3 2.5 18.0
Gerald Green 48 27.9 4.9 11.2 43.2 2.3 6.2 37.7 1.7 2.0 85.3 0.4 2.7 3.1 1.7 1.6 0.9 0.6 2.8 13.7
Markieff Morris 47 25.0 4.7 9.9 47.1 0.4 1.3 33.9 3.0 3.9 79.0 1.9 4.0 5.8 1.7 1.7 0.9 0.6 2.7 12.8
Channing Frye 48 28.5 4.5 10.0 45.2 2.3 5.5 40.6 1.0 1.3 80.3 1.0 4.4 5.3 1.1 1.1 0.8 0.8 3.0 12.3
Marcus Morris 48 22.3 3.5 8.1 43.6 1.3 3.3 38.1 1.6 2.1 79.0 1.1 3.1 4.2 1.1 1.1 1.0 0.2 2.0 10.0
Miles Plumlee 48 27.4 4.2 8.2 51.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.1 2.1 52.0 2.6 6.0 8.6 0.6 1.5 0.7 1.5 2.6 9.4
P.J. Tucker 48 29.9 3.2 7.6 41.6 0.9 2.2 40.2 1.9 2.4 78.4 2.0 4.1 6.1 1.8 1.3 1.1 0.3 2.3 9.1
Leandro Barbosa 13 20.1 3.2 7.5 41.8 0.2 1.2 20.0 2.0 2.5 81.3 0.4 1.8 2.2 1.9 1.0 0.4 0.2 1.6 8.5
Ish Smith 36 13.4 1.6 4.4 36.7 0.0 0.5 5.3 0.3 0.5 52.9 0.4 1.1 1.5 2.4 0.9 0.8 0.2 0.9 3.5
Archie Goodwin 37 10.5 1.2 3.2 38.1 0.1 0.8 10.7 0.5 0.8 69.0 0.4 1.3 1.7 0.4 0.9 0.4 0.2 0.7 3.1
Dionte Christmas 23 6.8 0.7 2.0 37.8 0.3 1.0 25.0 0.6 0.7 87.5 0.3 0.9 1.2 0.2 0.2 0.1 0.1 0.7 2.3
Alex Len 19 8.9 0.9 2.0 44.7 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.5 0.7 76.9 1.3 1.5 2.8 0.1 0.5 0.2 0.4 1.8 2.3
Viacheslav Kravtsov 18 3.1 0.4 0.8 57.1 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.2 0.4 50.0 0.5 0.4 0.9 0.1 0.3 0.0 0.1 0.4 1.1

Rockets' Stats

Offensive Rating - 109.3 (7th, NBA) Defensive Rating - 105.6 (16th, NBA)


FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
James Harden 41 38.5 7.2 16.2 44.8 2.0 6.2 32.3 7.3 8.6 84.7 1.0 3.9 4.8 5.5 3.7 1.3 0.5 2.4 23.8
Dwight Howard 49 34.1 6.6 11.4 57.7 0.0 0.1 40.0 5.1 9.5 53.3 3.4 8.9 12.3 1.7 3.2 0.9 1.8 3.6 18.3
Chandler Parsons 44 37.9 6.5 13.0 49.7 1.9 4.8 39.2 2.3 3.2 72.5 0.9 4.7 5.5 3.5 2.0 1.1 0.5 2.3 17.1
Jeremy Lin 39 31.0 4.4 9.6 46.3 1.1 3.3 33.1 3.5 4.4 80.0 0.3 2.3 2.6 4.5 2.7 1.0 0.5 2.3 13.4
Terrence Jones 44 28.2 5.0 9.5 52.4 0.4 1.5 29.2 1.6 2.7 58.0 2.1 5.4 7.5 1.2 1.0 0.6 1.4 1.8 11.9
Patrick Beverley 32 31.9 3.3 8.4 38.9 1.5 4.5 32.6 1.3 1.6 80.4 1.6 2.6 4.1 2.6 1.2 1.3 0.4 2.9 9.3
Omri Casspi 48 19.8 2.9 6.6 44.0 1.0 2.8 35.6 1.2 1.8 67.8 0.9 3.0 3.9 1.3 1.1 0.7 0.2 1.7 8.0
Aaron Brooks 41 17.1 2.5 6.3 40.0 1.3 3.2 41.2 0.9 1.1 84.1 0.6 1.0 1.5 2.0 1.2 0.6 0.1 1.8 7.3
Francisco Garcia 40 20.3 2.1 5.5 38.5 1.3 3.8 34.2 0.3 0.4 58.8 0.4 1.9 2.4 1.1 0.6 0.6 0.7 2.1 5.8
Omer Asik 17 18.2 1.5 3.1 47.2 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.5 2.3 64.1 1.6 5.1 6.8 0.4 1.2 0.2 0.4 2.0 4.4
Donatas Motiejunas 29 12.9 1.7 4.0 41.9 0.2 1.3 18.4 0.7 1.3 55.3 0.9 2.5 3.4 0.4 0.6 0.2 0.4 2.0 4.3
Greg Smith 11 9.1 1.6 2.5 64.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.2 0.5 40.0 1.0 1.5 2.5 0.0 0.5 0.1 0.2 1.5 3.5
Robert Covington 4 4.5 1.0 2.3 44.4 0.8 2.0 37.5 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.3 0.3 0.5 0.0 0.0 0.3 0.0 0.5 2.8
Isaiah Canaan 5 3.8 0.2 0.8 25.0 0.0 0.6 0.0 0.8 0.8 100.0 0.0 0.2 0.2 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.6 1.2
Ronnie Brewer 23 6.9 0.1 0.7 20.0 0.0 0.3 12.5 0.0 0.1 0.0 0.1 0.5 0.6 0.4 0.1 0.3 0.0 0.2 0.3


Numbers in a Nutshell

In terms of overall offense and defense, it's a virtual dead heat between a pair of high scoring and average defending squads. If you think the Suns are in love with the longball... well, meet the Rockets who average 26.1 attempts per game (1st in the league) despite shooting a scant 34.3% from downtown (26th in the league). The Suns for their part are 2nd in 3 point attempts (25.3 per game), but are 10th in the league in 3PT% (36.9%). Given the way the Suns' defense has dropped off since December, this could turn out to be a high-scoring, long-bombing affair. Of course, both teams defend the 3-point line well (Suns are 2nd in opponent 3PT % at 33.2, Rockets are 7th at 34.5) so it could just as easily be long-bricking affair.

The one number the Suns will need to watch is fouls. Houston leads the league in fouls drawn, averaging 24.8 per game (vs. 21.8 for the Suns). If any of the Suns' starters goes the bench early, it will be up to the Bench Mob to pick up the slack.

Projected Starting Line-ups

Phoenix Suns

F - P.J. Tucker

F - Channing Frye

C - Miles Plumlee

G - Gerald Green

G - Goran Dragi?

Houston Rockets

F - Chandler Parsons

F - Terrence Jones

C - Dwight Howard

G - James Harden

G - Patrick Beverly

Keys to the Game

Padlock it Up - It seems unlikely that James Harden and Dwight Howard (15 points, 4-11 shooting) will have a similarly awful stinkers in this contest. However if the Suns can be even somewhat successful in slowing down the Rockets' leading scorers, it will go a long way towards a needed conference victory.

Rebound - Double meaning here. First the Suns need to demonstrate their league-leading resiliency (source: me) and find their mojo after getting mugged by the Bulls. Second, they got away with one in Houston last time, giving up a staggering 21 offensive rebounds. Phoenix has been better about protecting the glass (they actually out-rebounded Chicago last night) and will need to make sure they get a body on Howard who torched them for 18 boards in their first match-up.

Score Early and Often - We saw last night what happens when the Suns come out sluggish. During their winning streak, they owned the first quarter out scoring opponents by an average margin of 31.6-24. Hot starts beget a hot team and the Suns would like to carry some momentum into the All-Star break 10 days from now.

Key Match-Up

Miles Plumlee, Channing Frye, Markieff Morris, and Alex Len vs. Dwight Howard - I think the Suns' backcourt is capable of hanging with or even out-playing the Rockets' guards. But this game will be won or lost in the paint. Houston scores 50.5 points per game in the paint (3rd in the NBA) and the Suns allow the 4th most at 45.7. In addition to keeping D12 in check, rim defense against easy buckets is a priority.

Prediction

I'm feeling optimistic. Even though the Rockets are coming off of 3 days rest and Phoenix is playing the 2nd game of a back-to-back, I think the Suns show up with something to prove. Lots of shots, some but not a lot of defense. Suns win 113-108.

While the Suns are clearly showing their playoff-contending chops, it is way too early to start scoreboard watching.

Phoenix Suns coach Jeff Hornacek know his team has playoff mettle. The Phoenix Suns are 29-19 overall, sitting in 6th position in the West but just as close to 9th (out of the playoffs) as they are to 4th (home court advantage).

"Why not?" Hornacek says of the playoffs. "We got a good mix of guys who can put the ball in the hole, we got guys who can defend and we got young guys who can use their energy every night."

The Suns have an 18-12 record against the vaunted Western Conference and 11-7 against the East. They have a 27-12 record against teams who play faster than an ice floe. They are 13-11 on the road and 16-8 at home. Every month has been .500 or better.

Just about any split of the Suns season is in the Suns' favor.

"The great thing about our guys is they're not resting on [their record]," Hornacek said. "We lose some games and they're hot and they're ticked off and they're itching to play the next game. That's a great sign to have players that are like that."

But he doesn't want the players to start scoreboard watching, with 34 games still left in the season.

"We have a board in the locker room that lists all the teams for playoffs," Hornacek said. "We don't even put it up. At this point, we're just going from game to game. We have our little sets. I keep telling them if we get this + number, we'll have a chance to be in the playoffs. I think it's a fun run for these guys."

It might seem like an obvious answer, but it really is too early. The Suns don't even know what their team will look like in two weeks.

"So much can happen between now and then," Hornacek said.

It's possible the Suns will make a trade to acquire a bigger star than anyone currently on the roster. Whether that includes losing players in the current rotation in the trade, or simply adding someone from another team, the player will have to fit into their system and style.

But the Suns are happy with the team they have at the moment. The guys are having fun and they're playing a fearless type of basketball. And when Eric Bledsoe gets back healthy, that's an All-Star caliber addition right there.

With only three losses of 10+ points in 48 games, the Suns have suffered the fewest blowouts in the league. They fight every game. Sometimes it works (29 wins) and sometimes it doesn't (19 losses), but it's the same every game.

The losses are developing into a pattern though.

Against the Bulls, the Suns once again showed they can't play well against a slow-paced team. They can beat a defense-first team (Indiana) but the Pacers are mid-pack in the league in pace. It's the slow teams - even the ones who can't beat most of the rest of the league - that give the Suns fits.

"It's kind of a battle of who's going to play their style," Hornacek said. "We have to get out and push the ball."

The Suns have failed to push the ball against the league's five slowest-paced teams: Memphis Grizzlies (0-2), New York Knicks (0-1), Chicago Bulls (0-2), Utah Jazz (2-1) and Brooklyn Nets (0-1). That's a 2-7 record against five losing or .500 teams.

Luckily, the Suns have only four games left against those five slowest teams vs. 30 games against the rest. Against teams ranked 25th or faster in pace, the Suns are 27-12 this season.

That bodes well for the rest of the year.

PHOENIX – These aren’t the lumbering Indiana Pacers. They’re not a Charlotte Bobcats team that slows it down because, as far as talent goes, they don’t have a choice whether or not...

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The Chicago Bulls played hard and won by playing their game. The Suns didn't force the issue for more than a few minutes at a time. Clock minutes, that is.

Teams like the Chicago Bulls give the Phoenix Suns fits. Defend first, rebound second, make shots third. The Suns just don't know how to combat that, unless they are playing the Pacers.

When the Suns tried to push back in the third quarter, they got themselves in trouble with the refs and gave the Bulls a ton of free throws on shooting fouls and techs - 13 free throws in the third quarter alone.

In the fourth, the Bulls made the big shots and the Suns didn't. It was the Bulls night.

When Joakim Noah makes a face up jumper with a man on him, you know it's the Bulls' night.

When Jimmy Butler makes threes, it's the Bulls' night.

When Joakim Noah makes the drive to the left, almost loses the ball, throws up half shot half hook prayer that banks in from 15 feet out, it's the Bulls' night.

Goran Dragic had 21 points but only 1 assist as he was guarded by Kirk Hinrich and Jimmy Butler, with Noah, Boozer and Gibson surrounding him on all drives.

First Quarter

The Phoenix Suns came out playing like they were still in practice, while the Chicago Bulls came out playing like they were embarrassed by a bad team the night before. It was quickly a 17-6 lead for the Bulls before 8 minutes had passed. Yes the Suns only had 6 points in the first 8 minutes of the game, settling for (and missing) jumpers.

Only Goran Dragic was playing with fire - even leading the Suns with 4 rebounds early despite being the smallest player on the court.

The Suns missed 12 of their first 16 shots while the Bulls made 8 of 18. But even worse, the ball was like a hot potato to the Suns, unable to secure it cleanly or take controlled shots.

Somehow, the Suns only scored 13 points in the entire first quarter. Luckily, the Bulls aren't very good on offense or the game would be a lot worse. Some credit has to be given to the Bulls' defense for this lead (21-13) against the league's second best offense in the last 10 games. But really, the Suns were just missing shots by not going up strong.

12-13 Chicago after one.

Second Quarter

The Suns bench got a jump start with Miles Plumlee in for Alex Len's minutes after Plumlee only played 6 ineffective minutes in the first. Nazr Mohammad.

After the Suns cut the lead to three early in the second (21-18), the Bulls went on an 8-1 run behind Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibsn and D.J. Augustin.

The Morrii tried to play a little Bro Ball and got embarrassed. Over and over, Marcus fed the ball in to Markieff, despite Markieff being defended by the Bulls best defender in Gibson. Not a smart play there.

I said before the game that the key would be the Morrii. So far, no good for Suns. The Morris brothers really started poorly, even trying to play brother ball right into the teeth of the Bulls second-unit defense.

Yet the Suns stayed close, and Markieff Morris used all those possessions to help keep the Suns in it with 6 points and 2 rebounds in the early stages of the second Q.

Hey guess what happens when you let a team play their own game? Yeah, you guessed it.

The Suns starters were especially gawd awful in the first half, missing 19 of their 26 shots and committing 7 turnovers. That's 7 scores out of 33 possessions. U.G.L.Y.

Bulls up 44-33 at half.

Second half

The Suns came out firing in the second half - as if they all shared a Red Bull or 10, scoring 13 points on 6 possessions to match their entire first quarter output.

Channing Frye came out firing from outside, a complete reversal of the first quarter. He missed his first four outside shots in the game, but made his first three in the third.

The Suns quickly cut the Bulls lead to 6 and had two chances to cut it to three, but then just couldn't convert. Suddenly, the Bulls lead was back to 11 despite the Suns still playing their butts off.

I'm not someone who calls out the refs, but these refs were really really bad in this quarter. From cheap Ts to no-calls to phantom calls, the refs fought back hard.

At least the crowd really got into it.

Through it all, the Bulls held a 6 point lead despite the Suns best efforts (65-59) and carried that lead into the fourth quarter.

Bulls lead, 69-63 at end of three.

Again, the Suns tried to come back, getting within 5 on a three by Frye, but the Bulls pushed it right back to 9. The Suns missed 3 layups and a putback slam attempt in the process.

The Bulls pushed it to 12 pretty quickly on a shooting foul and three-point field goal while the Suns kept missing shots (and giving up possession).

This just wasn't the Suns game. Every time the Suns pulled the lead down to 4 or 6, the Bulls made a big shot.

Still, the Suns wouldn't go away. They cut it to 4 with 1:46 to play (93-89).

But then Boozer bullied his way to the hoop and the game was basically over.

Not the Suns night.

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