The eight-game homestand for the Phoenix Suns comes to an end tonight when they take on the Chicago Bulls.
In the first seven games of this long stay at home, the Suns are 5-2 with wins over the Cavaliers, Timberwolves, Lakers, Trail Blazers and Wizards and losses to the Rockets and Clippers in back-to-back games. Phoenix is coming off a 106-98 victory over Washington on Wednesday night, a game they pretty much dominated throughout.
Chicago has been up and down as of late. They’ve beaten the likes of the Dallas Mavericks and Golden State Warriors in their last two road games only to lose to the Miami Heat at home and then to the Lakers in double overtime last night.
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Jimmy Butler, the Bulls rising star who is a lock to win the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award, left the game last night due to a left leg contusion. He’s listed as probable for tonight.
Butler has been Chicago’s best player this season. In 44 games this season, Jimmy Buckets is averaging 20.4 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.2 assists, all of which are career highs. The recently announced All-Star is a great defender as well and will more than likely get the task of guarding Eric Bledsoe this evening.
If you take away the Cavs acquiring LeBron James, Pau Gasol was the best pick up of the offseason. Gasol, who the Suns were interested in trading for last season, has been fantastic for the Bulls filling in the role that was previously occupied by Carlos Boozer, now in LA.
Last season with the Lakers, it looked like Gasol’s career was on the decline, but this season has proven otherwise. The seven-footer is averaging 18.3 points, his highest total since the 2011-2012 season, and 11.8 rebounds, the highest total of his career.
Of course, you can’t talk about the Bulls without mentioning Derrick Rose. Heading into this season, the former MVP had played in only 49 games over two years, but he’s stayed healthy for the most part this year with playing in 37 of the Bulls 48 games.
Because of all the injuries he’s had, Rose is not near the player he once was. He’s lost a bit of his explosiveness and athleticism, but he’s still not a guy you can forget about as he’s still the Bulls second leading scorer, averaging 18.5 points a night.
Joakim Noah has always been one of my favorite players in the league. His numbers won’t jump out at you, but he does so many things well. Noah is very good on the defensive end and he is probably the best passing big man in the game.
Suns youngster Alex Len should take notes on Noah’s game. He’s proof that you don’t have to score a ton of points to have a big impact on the game every night.
The Bulls have a couple of role players that the Suns will have to keep an eye on as well in Taj Gibson and former Sun Aaron Brooks. Gibson is one of the better reserve big men in the entire league and Brooks has been a real nice acquisition for Chicago, spelling Rose at the point.
On the injury front for the Bulls, Mike Dunleavy is questionable for tonight’s contest. Having missed 15 straight games with an ankle injury, Chicago could certainly use him as their perimeter defense has not been good this season, which is stunning for a Tom Thibodeau coached team.
The Bulls are one of the best teams in the East and this is a team I could see representing that conference in the Finals come June if everything falls into place, but the Suns should be the favorites to win tonight. Chicago got into Phoenix early this morning and they are going to be a tired bunch after a tough loss in LA.
Expect the Suns to run early and often in this one to try and close out this long homestand on a winning note.