[Thanks to BullsFaninNY for today's game preview. Still some spots available in the next week. -yfbb]
Tonight, the Bulls host the Suns for the second match-up of the season season. The Suns come to the United Center reeling having lost four straight and eight out of their last ten to powerhouse teams including the Brooklyn Nets and Pelicans.
The Suns seemed like a much better team the last time the Bulls played them on the November 18th, and with Derrick Rose out of the game, Jimmy Butler put up a vintage MIP Jimmy performance with a season high 32 points on 23 shots including a couple daggers here and here. Rewatching the whole performance really is worth the time.
Despite their slide, the Suns have the 3rd highest scoring offense in the NBA (105.7ppg) and play at the second fastest pace. This is a young and athletic team that can score in bunches with a great back court of Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight.
This takes us to our frustrating and consistently inconsistent Bulls. #AreTheyGood? We really don't know. The team often seems to lack effort, The offense has been bad (27th) and Derrick Rose has been worse. Tony Snell is invisible; Nikola Mirotic has depth perception issues and can't see when he's standing 4 feet beyond the arc; and our backup guard situation involves a 34 year old, a guy whose next contract will be in China, and a fringe NBA talent.
But there is reason for optimism! Jimmy Butler has been very good (and playing on a gimpy foot). Joakim Noah is looking more Noah-esque, Doug McDermott has been playing passable defense, and the defense as a whole has returned to the stout beast it was for most of Tom Thibodeau's tenure(2nd in Opp FG%).
So what can we expect from the showdown tonight? Unfortunately, we don't really know. As they have proven time and time again this season, the Bulls just aren't consistent. Keeping Phoenix out of transition and bogging down the pace of the game will be an important factor in ensuring a Bulls victory. If Butler and Rose can outplay Knight and Bledsoe, the Bulls should be in good shape. With the recent resurgence of Noah, the bench has been playing better, and we can hope that the rest of the bench will step up. Aaron Brooks won't be lighting the Suns on fire like he did last time.
I'm expecting a back-and-forth game that is both close and frustrating with numerous groan-worthy moments like failed dunks, failed 3-on-2 fastbreaks, and head-scratching misses around the rim only to have the Bulls somehow pull it out. In other words, I'm expecting this game to be like every other Bulls game this season.
The Game airs tonight on CSN-Chicago at 7PM Central. Aaron Brooks and Mike Dunleavy are out.