The Phoenix Suns play on national television tonight, hosting the contending Chicago Bulls in a good test for the young Suns' progress early in the season. The Suns should be fully healthy, while the Bulls might have to play without their star Derrick Rose (ankle).
Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena: Phoenix, AZ
When: 8:30 PM Arizona Time / 10:30 PM Eastern
Watch: ESPN (Nationally) / Fox Sports AZ (Locally) / League Pass
Listen: 98.7 FM
After posting three consecutive 14+ point wins for the first time since the 2009-10 season, the Suns finish their mini home stand tonight against the Chicago Bulls on ESPN. The 6-4 Suns take on the 7-3 Bulls in a battle of teams currently playing like playoff contenders. Let's see if the Suns can close this one out against a team that actually didn't have to play the night before.
When the Bulls fired head coach Tom Thibodeau and replaced him with Fred Hoiberg, we all thought Hoiberg would turn them into an offensive juggernaut and the D would slip. Early season results are quite the opposite. The Bulls are still a good defensive team (5th in the league, according to b-ref) and bad offensive team (25th). And Jimmy Butler is still playing 36 minutes a game.
Doug McDermott has been an absolute terror from behind the arc, making a gaudy 57% of his threes on 3.7 attempts per night. But Dougie buckets only plays 20 minutes a game because he still can't defend. If the Suns were without Markieff Morris again, you might see Doug matched up against Mirza Teletovic a lot. But with Morris back, the Bulls won't have the luxury of spotting Doug at the PF. You might think he could play SF when Tucker's on the floor, but then Tucker would likely post Doug up enough to get him in foul trouble. The Suns just might have a versatile enough offense to neutralize Doug's minutes.
So Tony Snell will likely be the guy we see often on the wing with Butler, instead of McDermott. Snell is a better defender, and makes 47% of his threes. Still, it's not like the Bulls can put Snell and Butler on Knight and Bledsoe, because then Rose or Brooks would have to defend Tucker and T.J. Warren. No, you're most likely to see the Bulls have to defend the Suns straight up, and one of Bledsoe or Knight will get a smaller defender on them.
At PF, the Bulls play a lot of Nikola Mirotic, who himself is making 34% of his threes on more than 5 attempts a game. While 34% is no great shakes, taking five a game makes him a long-range threat on nearly every possession.
If the Bulls have 47% and 57% three-point shooters in their lineup on the wing, plus Mirotic at PF, how is their offense so bad?
Because as a team they are 29th in the league on 2-point field goal percentage. Get them off the 3P line and they're beatable. They don't rebound well, and they don't get steals, so they can't generate easy offense on breakaways. Bledsoe and Knight won't have to worry about hands in passing lanes.
Defensively, the Bulls do everything well except rebound (18th in the league). They allow only 40.8% field goal percentage, 2nd best in the league and 1st overall on two-pointers allowed. They don't commit fouls, and don't allow fast breaks. They do allow a high rate of 3P makes, so that's the best way to beat them.
Looks like Markieff Morris will be back for the Suns tonight, as will Ronnie Price. Both practiced yesterday and should be good to go.
One of Bledsoe and Knight will get their biggest test in a while tonight, having to perform against a much bigger player in Jimmy Butler (or Tony Snell). The other will have the luxury of going against Rose or Brooks. This is what coach Hornacek means when he says the guy with the better matchup will handle the ball more. The Suns will likely just spend the night picking on Brooks and Rose.
For the Bulls, point guard Derrick Rose is questionable after leaving their game on Monday with a rolled ankle. If he plays, he may suffer from double-vision anyway. If he does not play, Aaron Brooks would take his place for the first time this season. Suns fans know that Aaron Brooks has a thing for getting back at Phoenix (for some stupid reason), so maybe seeing Rose play would be preferable.
The Suns are rebounding juggernauts for the first time in something close to forever. I'm no Elias, no deadpoolio, so I don't know the exact figures. But when was the last time the Suns won the rebounding battle on a nightly basis?
Chandler is 12th in the league in total rebound percentage (19.5%, meaning he grabs almost 20% of available rebounds when on the floor), so if the Suns overall are 4th in the league then Chandler isn't doing it alone. Alex Len has upped his rebound rate every year (17% so far) and Jon Leuer has been a workman at a career high 15.9%.
This will be a tough one, and certainly a good test for the rising Suns.
I predict a win, and the Suns fans will help close out this game with their enthusiasm in the closing minutes.